A Random Access Reading of Moby Dick

September 2015

Supported by Jerome Foundation

text_ocean is an experiment in random access reading and text visualization, using Herman Melville’s notoriously impenetrable whalefishery epic ‘Moby Dick’ as source material. Selections of the text are blown apart and become a dynamic sea of words, animated according to grammatical function. A new text selection appears each time the browser is refreshed.

The user explores the text by diving into the depths or surfacing, using the up and down arrow keys. The user “reads” the text by clicking to hook an intriguing word as it drifts or darts past. When a word is hooked, the other words belonging to its line are also slowly pulled in, and assemble, if reluctantly, to be read.

Pressing “return” will release the words into the sea, but each time a word is unhooked, its connection to its original line of text may be lost. A wild unhooked word may find another line to swim with; the text is slowly, randomly rewritten by the user, word by word, as it is read.


This project is optimized for Google Chrome, though it works in Firefox, Safari, and Explorer.

If you need to zoom in to read the text, hold down the “command” key and press theĀ  “+” key simultaneously.

Once you’ve caught a word and others swim to join it, move your mouse; the ‘school’ will follow.