Posts filed under 'Isle-to-Isle'

From the Orbital Library: Isle-to-Isle

Interviewing project collaborators Berny Tan and Sher Chew on the intersections of design, literature, and data visualization

Isle-to-Isle is a collaborative data visualization project by Sher Chew and Berny Tan. Each week, the two read 10 pages from Jules Verne’s classic “scientific romance,” The Mysterious Island, and seperately make a graph representing the book’s content. Their work is published on the project’s website, alongside the corresponding passage by Verne.

In the novel, a group of Americans, led by the railroad engineer Cyrus Harding, hijack a balloon to escape imprisonment by the South during the American Civil War. The balloon drifts to an uncharted island in the South Pacific, where the men create their own microcosm of 19th century civilization. A century and a half after its publication, The Mysterious Island continues to influence literature and popular culture, with numerous adaptations and spin-offs in print, movies, and television, including the computer game Myst.

Isle-to-Isle evolved out of a shared interest in design and a desire to explore different ways reading and interpreting text. In that sense, the project’s inception resembled Verne’s fictive voyage into unknown territory. Neither Sher Chew nor Berny Tan had read the book before. The novel was chosen at random, based on its length and conventional narrative structure. Other parallels emerged. The two designers moved from Singapore to that other insular powerhouse of commerce, Manhattan. Isles to isles—the homophonic word pair also reflected the search for suitable material. The Mysterious Island was discovered, so to speak, by browsing New York’s famous Strand bookstore, the name itself being another name for level, sandy shore.

As of this writing, Isle-to-Isle is halfway finished. I corresponded with Sher Chew and Berny Tan to find out more about the project and get their take on recent developments in the technology of reading, writing, and designing. 


The Latest from Asymptote’s Contributors and Editors

It's that time: essays, interviews, stories, and poems from those who make Asymptote happen

Aditi Machado, Asymptote poetry editor, saw her poems appear in the April issue of MiPOesias and the new issue of Transom. To read her poetry is a pleasure; to hear it a delight – so check out a video of her reading at Counterpath, Denver.

Asymptote’s chief executive assistant Berny Tan and Sher Chew launched Isle-to-Isle, a collaborative data visualization and experimental reading project based on Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. Pictured above, it’s a yearlong project with weekly updates – an exciting endeavor that will ultimately become “a mammoth illustration of Verne’s adventure classic.”

Is foreignness an inherently fertile imaginative/observational state for you? contributor Brittani Sonnenberg asks in an interview-essay published in The Millions. Deeply related to notions of diaspora raised in Asymptote’s April 2014 issue, the interview is in depth and worth reading. To her question, past contributor Jeremy Tiang answers that he thrives on dislocation, so maybe now is the time to take that trip you’ve been putting off (it’s for your writing, after all).