Preamble to PhD, 23 Jun, 11:27

My friend and mentor Doug Engelbart sent me the following email:

Frode,

I honestly think that you are the first person I know that is expressing the kind of appreciation for the special role which IT can (no, will) play in reshaping the way we can symbolize basic concepts to elevate further the power that conditioned humans can derive from their genetic sensory, perceptual and cognitive capabilities.

Engelbart, 2003

My intent with this PhD project is to pursue this legacy by pushing as far as I can beyond what current text interactions are, towards a state of richer text-interaction systems resulting in a deeper literacy for the user. The work will centre around a software system developed quite literally from a blank slate, where a major work output will be the continuous exploration and research being written up and made accessible to others who are also wrestling to get the most out of the written word.

My initial user community will be scholars who are interested in improving their textual document interactions, not simply following the paper-like models we have inherited quite blindly. I have already starting connecting with such individuals and building a nascent community. 

The areas of inquiry will then include areas outside of computer science, since it is of course the user I aim to augment, not the computer systems. There will be limits to the depth of research I can do in the other fields of course, so I will focus primarily on the implementation and testing on the software system, inspired by the insights gleamed from other fields. 

My direction therefore mirrors Doug’s own, though this is a different project and I come at it from my own point of view:

The conceptual framework we seek must orient us toward the real possibilities and problems associated with using modern technology to give direct aid to an individual in:

comprehending complex situations, 

isolating the significant factors, and 

solving problems.

Engelbart, 1962

Liquid View : Where, What & Wonder.

I plan to build a Liquid View addition to the macOS (and later iOS) Liquid | Author word processor I am currently working on, where the author can instantly toggle between the regular word processing view and the Liquid View. The Liquid View is being developed to primarily show the document’s headings in clusters, so that the author may arrange and re-arrange the document in a non-linear fashion, allow new connections to be seen and hints at what might be missing to appear.

The reasons why and the implications are outlined below:

For an author a blank sheet of paper both represents opportunity and a bit of dread; how should I approach removing its pristine whiteness with my marks? The writer Sidney Sheldon put it pithily in a quote I cannot attribute to anything other than quote websites, (which highlights one of the issues to be addressed): “A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” For a software developer a blank ‘sheet’, or a blank screen, similarly presents opportunities and a bit of dread; how can I learn from the history of interactive text and interactivity in general what will be useful to do and what of our current legacy systems should would be best to reject?

Since it is well established that our writing and reading tools are tools to think with (Keith Oatley, Maja Djikic, 2008), the augmentation for how we interact with written information is crucial to support aspects of all other intellectual activity.

With my PhD project Liquid View, I aim to develop a digital blank sheet of paper specifically for; academics to use when authoring scholarly documents. This focus considerably helps constrain what would be useful to provide in the Liquid View.

The reason I am developing a new ‘view’ is that while computer systems are highly flexible, as can be witnessed by modern computer games and highly specific scientific visualisation for example, authoring and reading still works with primarily textual documents within the constraints of the previous technology of print, as black characters in rectangular blocks delineated by ‘pages’, severely under-utilises our powerful visual processing capabilities. I believe that we can move far beyond the current visual paradigms for working with text and the Liquid View project aims to demonstrate this.

The need for more powerful views of our information comes from seeing the ancient, and perhaps humanly inherent phenomena of ‘bias’ which has previously appeared as ‘propaganda’, has now exploded into what is dubbed ‘fake news (James Carson , 2017)’ since the threshold of publishing and propagating partisan information with neutral appearance has become frictionless through low cost and low effort required. It is particularly important in academia and business since there is also a profusion of published papers making it increasingly harder to stay on top of all the relevant publications in ones field (Pietro Della Briotta Parolo, Raj Kumar Pan, Rumi Ghosh, Bernardo A. Huberman, Kimmo Kaski, Santo Fortunato, 2015). The profusion of fake news and the massive rates of publication puts further strains on our abilities to comprehend, question and think honestly and creatively, while also communicating clearly and honestly ourselves – without simply passing on convenient prejudices.

The Liquid View project addresses this concern through developing a digital system with much higher bandwidth between the user and external information and their own thoughts by taking advantage of the availability of large, portable, high-resolution screens which can take better advantage of our powerful visual-cognitive systems; the processing capacity of the human visual system is about 12 million bits per second while 16 bits per second is the bandwidth of consciousness (Norretranders, 1999). The human visual system is not an objective, neutral image surveillance system, but an active processing system based on the evolution of layers of capability.

Where, What & Wonder. Two primary neuronal pathways are worth highlighting; the ‘where’ and ‘what’ systems (Margaret S. Livingstone, 2014). The ‘where system concerns motion and depth perception as well as spatial organisation and figure/ground segregation. It is colourblind, fast, has low acuity and is high contrast sensitive. The ‘what’ system deals with object recognition, including face recognition and colour perception. It is colour selective, slow, has high acuity and features low contrast sensitivity. Something which has fascinated me since childhood has been what ‘better’ vision would ‘look like’. A basic answer to this can be given by looking at text on a traditional computer monitor and then on a high-resolution ‘retina’ display and it feels like your vision has improved. Digital systems have improved human vision in other ways, such as through thermal imaging and other ‘false’ colour displays. I believe that I have found a way to look at improved human vision when looking at digital worlds and that is by adding to the Where and the What system by adding an interactive dimension and calling it the ‘Wonder’ dimension, since it can produce a sense of wonder if done right and it’s job is to answer the question the user has of ‘I wonder what it will look like if…’ in an effective manner.

There are of course other ‘wonder’ systems, including all interactive computer systems, but I introduce the term here to elevate interaction to a foundational element of how we literally and figuratively see our world.

In order to design, build and test such as system, aspects of human vision along with human thought must be consulted to build a powerfully interactive ‘wonder’ dimension to document authoring, along with a survey of the technological environment in order to design a build a system which can be implemented. Furthermore, a richer view of the history of interactive text and of the deep history of visual communication can help frame constraints, highlight current prejudices and open further inspirations. This will need to incorporate modern information, communication and link theory.

A successful implementation will result in a system which promotes deeper literacy to reduce Cognitive Rigidity (Coplan, 2016) and increase Cognitive Fluidity (Mithen, 1998) to a measurable degree.

A Liquid View (9 month report draft, 13 June)

Please note, this draft does not contain many citations, this I will add when I have the flow and logic working 

A Liquid View

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

Faculty of Physical and Applied Science, School of Electronics and Computer Science

By Frode Hegland

Supervisors: Prof Dame Wendy Hall and Prof Les Carr

Nine month progress report

June 2017

 


1) Context

I assert that we need to develop a deeper literacy in order to equip us to cope with the increasingly complex urgent problems we face. A headline illustration of this is the discourse of recent political events {Trump, Brexit, General Election} where the use of fake news is bad when the opposition does it, but it is considered ‘illustrative’ when our side does it.

Away from politics, in our own profession of academia I can find nothing in the literature to suggest that we ourselves are deeply literate in terms of how deeply we read, write, think and connect the knowledge in our field at a rate fast enough to keep current with new developments, let alone those in adjacent fields. In academic ‘papers’ in the field of knowledge management, such as this 9 month report, it is not novel for the author to state that information is being produced at a prodigious rate and it is also not novel to highlight the effect of Moore’s Law on the advancements of powerful digital devices {I currently have a wireless headphone in my ear which is more powerful than any machine Doug Engelbart developed for, for example} – in fact, it can be argued that digital tool development for academia has stagnated.

Deeper Literacy

What is needed is a defined goal for how we can more efficiently develop computer software for advanced computer systems, beyond vague notions of ‘better’ or ‘easier to use’.  I propose the perspective of deep literacy, which Livia Polanyi has co-defined:

Deep Literacy emerges when cognitive strategies enhanced by powerful computational tools enable knowledge workers to interact effectively with the ever growing inter-connection of digital information needed to carry out their work successfully.

Livia Polanyi 2017

The Elements of Deep Literacy

To be literate originally literally only meant to know the letters. Deep literacy however, is authoring and reading beneath the surface, connecting and collaborating deeply:

•  Deep literacy means means authoring honestly, cleanly and clearly – providing deep citations to increase the credibility and comprehension.

•  Deep literacy equally means that the reader is responsible for active, thoughtful interpretation.

•  Deep literacy is about knowing the tools and techniques of your trade very well, supporting your ability to thrive immersed in your work, while continuously updating your knowledge of new tools, perspectives and developing deeper connections – deep literacy is not something acquired once, like the ability to ride a bike – it comes from skills and perspectives nurtured over a lifetime.

•  You become deeply literate when you no longer just try to stay on top of your information – you become deeply literate you dive in – when you work hard on getting the most out of your  mental and computer tool sets.

Supporting Deep Literacy

Supporting Deep Literacy then becomes a task of developing software solutions and best practices for working to augment dept of reading, thinking, connecting and authoring.

Barriers to Deep Literacy

Barriers to developing ever deeper literacies are largely based on the entrenchment of legacy systems and mindsets, something which will have to be taken into account when developing continuously more deeply literate systems.

Writing & Scholarly Writing

Writing is an act of visually recording a human intention, a human perspective, with a rich history of how things came to be the way they are today and inspirations as to how things can be.

Scholarly Writing is the process of making knowledge conscious, helping to remember facts, to analyze concepts, and to construct new knowledge (Alister H. Cumming, 2006). It is also worth adding the importance of integrating the new work into the academic discourse through citations.

Current State of The Art Scholarly Writing Tools

This is where I will paste in my overview of current writing tools.

Limitations of Current Approaches & Systems

It is no longer controversial to state that we think with our tools, our tools do not simply record our thoughts. I think it’s worth looking at the deep span of time of where we are right now, before we look at our development horizons:

•  It is worth noting however where we are in the development cycle of our species; we are at the very start: Our solar system is about half way through its life, which gives us another 4 or 5 billion years of life on this planet {barring deeply illiterate human behaviour, which is a real threat to our survival}.

•  The first tools which augmented our ancestors physical and mental reach was about 2.5 million years ago. Our own species is 200/300,000 or so years old, depending on the criteria used to define Homo sapiens and cultural artefacts first really bloomed about 40,000 years ago, including cave painting which in important ways represent the start of literacy.

•  Pre-alphabetic writing is something like 5,5000 years old and the alphabet was invented in stages around 3,500 years ago.

•  Printing on paper – our most recent legacy which defines how we see documents even in the digital age, as vertical rectangles, was employed by Johannes Gutenberg to print text about 550 years ago.

•  In terms of digital literacy then, Doug’s demo was just half a century years ago and the web was launched a quarter of a century ago so our digital literacy pales in comparison. We are at the very start of the digital age yet we have fallen into looking at the future through a rear-view mirror, as McLuhan warned us – we are basing our digital technologies primarily on the prior medium of static print.

 


2) The Liquid View Project

Visually Augmented Thinking

My project, the Liquid View, is based on the ancient insight that we can benefit from thinking with visual mental space (writing lists for example) and the ancient insight of the importance of experience/interaction, previously by using the medium of lines in the sand or pieces of paper.

Limitations of such thinking systems have always been the limited opportunity to re-organise and then to integrate with a conventional communications ‘document’. There are two opportunities to overcome these issues today however: Digital technology completely removes the issue of re-organization by making the elements interactive with zero degradation of information quality and I have developed a word processor called Liquid | Author which publishes academic standard formatted .doc and .pdf documents, which the Liquid View will be another view of, so the work done in the Liquid View is not separate from an academic document, it is simply another view of the document.

The Liquid View will be accessed when viewing a regular word processing document, through a user interaction gesture (preferably, since a goal is to make the information feel more tangible than a keyboard short can deliver) which results in all body text being hidden through being collapsed under the headings – it is the headings which the user primarily views and interacts with in the Liquid View.

 

 


3) Future Work

 

Deeper Literature Review

I believe that we can really benefit from looking far back in our evolutionary history, look deeper at our perceptual processes, recorded communications history and examine current and near technological advancements as well as information theory to guide an experimental series of developments to support and encourage deeper literacy, which is why this will be my deeper literature review:

•  Evolutionary history studies can help us understand why we perceive the way we do, from our vision being attuned to the wavelengths our sun proceeds the most of, to how ambient colours change our states of mind. I will be discussing this with Chris Stringer of the Natural History museum as well as continuing with reading.

•  Perceptual processes are based on our evolutionary history and as we learn to better understand what has been coined heuristics and other ‘hardware live’ processes, we can learn to extend and augment them, including taking into account how the capacity of the human visual system is about 12 million bits per second while 16 bits per second is the bandwidth of consciousness (Norretranders, 1999).

•  Recorded communications history is the history of writing which also takes into account pre-alphabetical and pre-grammatical writing, as a source of understanding and inspiration for re-invention of writing for thought and communication.

•  Examine current and near technological advancements of computer platforms, hardware, APIs, libraries and standards to better understand the current technological landscape which we have at our disposal to build upon.

•  Information theory, with a focus on my own Liquid Information perspective, as developed with Sarah Walton, which approaches computer information as interaction and interaction as fluid not simplistically ‘digital’.

•  Investigations into how best to convey ‘human intentions’ via electronic documents, since the measure of an academic document is a combination of the value of the originality and context of what is stated, wrapped in how clearly and understandably it is stated.

Development of Specific Research Questions

Learning from the perspectives outlined above, in the ‘Foundations’ section, it is already clear that several issues will need to be worked out through prototyping and testing, with the ultimate goal of delivering what I like to imagine as being an ‘incredible thinking space’, where users, primarily university students, produce measurably deeper work. The way I propose measuring the depth of their work is aligned with how Craig Tashman developed his iOS product LiquidText (the name has no relationship to my work) and how other work has been developed and tested.

Research Question

How can textual knowledge best be represented in a non-linear format of nodes and connections, incorporating a rich set of data elements to augment the depth of thought when authoring a document?

Visual Display Considerations

This is where I will list what visual issues I can see now

Other Elements in Liquid View

This is where I will list what visual elements need to be considered

Interactions

This is where I will list what interactions need to be catered for

Proposal for Work to Answer the Questions

The work to answer these questions will be to continue with a deeper literature review, dialog with experts in their fields and building prototypes and actual implementation of the Liquid View.

Timetable and Plan

I have currently allocated 1 month of programming time with a maOS expert level coder, who used to work at Nuance, to make the macOS version of Liquid | Author fast and robust enough to ship. Once this is done I will look for money to finance the Liquid View component and work to implement it, while continuing my deeper literature review, which will be posted on my blog as well as in my full paper.

 

Preamble to PhD, 23 Jun, 11:27

My friend and mentor Doug Engelbart sent me the following email:

Frode,

I honestly think that you are the first person I know that is expressing the kind of appreciation for the special role which IT can (no, will) play in reshaping the way we can symbolize basic concepts to elevate further the power that conditioned humans can derive from their genetic sensory, perceptual and cognitive capabilities.

Engelbart, 2003

My intent with this PhD project is to pursue this legacy by pushing as far as I can beyond what current text interactions are, towards a state of richer text-interaction systems resulting in a deeper literacy for the user. The work will centre around a software system developed quite literally from a blank slate, where a major work output will be the continuous exploration and research being written up and made accessible to others who are also wrestling to get the most out of the written word.

My initial user community will be scholars who are interested in improving their textual document interactions, not simply following the paper-like models we have inherited quite blindly. I have already starting connecting with such individuals and building a nascent community. 

The areas of inquiry will then include areas outside of computer science, since it is of course the user I aim to augment, not the computer systems. There will be limits to the depth of research I can do in the other fields of course, so I will focus primarily on the implementation and testing on the software system, inspired by the insights gleamed from other fields. 

My direction therefore mirrors Doug’s own, though this is a different project and I come at it from my own point of view:

The conceptual framework we seek must orient us toward the real possibilities and problems associated with using modern technology to give direct aid to an individual in:

comprehending complex situations, 

isolating the significant factors, and 

solving problems.

Engelbart, 1962

Liquid View : Where, What & Wonder.

I plan to build a Liquid View addition to the macOS (and later iOS) Liquid | Author word processor I am currently working on, where the author can instantly toggle between the regular word processing view and the Liquid View. The Liquid View is being developed to primarily show the document’s headings in clusters, so that the author may arrange and re-arrange the document in a non-linear fashion, allow new connections to be seen and hints at what might be missing to appear.

The reasons why and the implications are outlined below:

For an author a blank sheet of paper both represents opportunity and a bit of dread; how should I approach removing its pristine whiteness with my marks? The writer Sidney Sheldon put it pithily in a quote I cannot attribute to anything other than quote websites, (which highlights one of the issues to be addressed): “A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” For a software developer a blank ‘sheet’, or a blank screen, similarly presents opportunities and a bit of dread; how can I learn from the history of interactive text and interactivity in general what will be useful to do and what of our current legacy systems should would be best to reject?

Since it is well established that our writing and reading tools are tools to think with (Keith Oatley, Maja Djikic, 2008), the augmentation for how we interact with written information is crucial to support aspects of all other intellectual activity.

With my PhD project Liquid View, I aim to develop a digital blank sheet of paper specifically for; academics to use when authoring scholarly documents. This focus considerably helps constrain what would be useful to provide in the Liquid View.

The reason I am developing a new ‘view’ is that while computer systems are highly flexible, as can be witnessed by modern computer games and highly specific scientific visualisation for example, authoring and reading still works with primarily textual documents within the constraints of the previous technology of print, as black characters in rectangular blocks delineated by ‘pages’, severely under-utilises our powerful visual processing capabilities. I believe that we can move far beyond the current visual paradigms for working with text and the Liquid View project aims to demonstrate this.

The need for more powerful views of our information comes from seeing the ancient, and perhaps humanly inherent phenomena of ‘bias’ which has previously appeared as ‘propaganda’, has now exploded into what is dubbed ‘fake news (James Carson , 2017)’ since the threshold of publishing and propagating partisan information with neutral appearance has become frictionless through low cost and low effort required. It is particularly important in academia and business since there is also a profusion of published papers making it increasingly harder to stay on top of all the relevant publications in ones field (Pietro Della Briotta Parolo, Raj Kumar Pan, Rumi Ghosh, Bernardo A. Huberman, Kimmo Kaski, Santo Fortunato, 2015). The profusion of fake news and the massive rates of publication puts further strains on our abilities to comprehend, question and think honestly and creatively, while also communicating clearly and honestly ourselves – without simply passing on convenient prejudices.

The Liquid View project addresses this concern through developing a digital system with much higher bandwidth between the user and external information and their own thoughts by taking advantage of the availability of large, portable, high-resolution screens which can take better advantage of our powerful visual-cognitive systems; the processing capacity of the human visual system is about 12 million bits per second while 16 bits per second is the bandwidth of consciousness (Norretranders, 1999). The human visual system is not an objective, neutral image surveillance system, but an active processing system based on the evolution of layers of capability.

Where, What & Wonder. Two primary neuronal pathways are worth highlighting; the ‘where’ and ‘what’ systems (Margaret S. Livingstone, 2014). The ‘where system concerns motion and depth perception as well as spatial organisation and figure/ground segregation. It is colourblind, fast, has low acuity and is high contrast sensitive. The ‘what’ system deals with object recognition, including face recognition and colour perception. It is colour selective, slow, has high acuity and features low contrast sensitivity. Something which has fascinated me since childhood has been what ‘better’ vision would ‘look like’. A basic answer to this can be given by looking at text on a traditional computer monitor and then on a high-resolution ‘retina’ display and it feels like your vision has improved. Digital systems have improved human vision in other ways, such as through thermal imaging and other ‘false’ colour displays. I believe that I have found a way to look at improved human vision when looking at digital worlds and that is by adding to the Where and the What system by adding an interactive dimension and calling it the ‘Wonder’ dimension, since it can produce a sense of wonder if done right and it’s job is to answer the question the user has of ‘I wonder what it will look like if…’ in an effective manner.

There are of course other ‘wonder’ systems, including all interactive computer systems, but I introduce the term here to elevate interaction to a foundational element of how we literally and figuratively see our world.

In order to design, build and test such as system, aspects of human vision along with human thought must be consulted to build a powerfully interactive ‘wonder’ dimension to document authoring, along with a survey of the technological environment in order to design a build a system which can be implemented. Furthermore, a richer view of the history of interactive text and of the deep history of visual communication can help frame constraints, highlight current prejudices and open further inspirations. This will need to incorporate modern information, communication and link theory.

A successful implementation will result in a system which promotes deeper literacy to reduce Cognitive Rigidity (Coplan, 2016) and increase Cognitive Fluidity (Mithen, 1998) to a measurable degree.

A Liquid View (9 month report draft, 13 June)

Please note, this draft does not contain many citations, this I will add when I have the flow and logic working 

A Liquid View

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

Faculty of Physical and Applied Science, School of Electronics and Computer Science

By Frode Hegland

Supervisors: Prof Dame Wendy Hall and Prof Les Carr

Nine month progress report

June 2017

 


1) Context

I assert that we need to develop a deeper literacy in order to equip us to cope with the increasingly complex urgent problems we face. A headline illustration of this is the discourse of recent political events {Trump, Brexit, General Election} where the use of fake news is bad when the opposition does it, but it is considered ‘illustrative’ when our side does it.

Away from politics, in our own profession of academia I can find nothing in the literature to suggest that we ourselves are deeply literate in terms of how deeply we read, write, think and connect the knowledge in our field at a rate fast enough to keep current with new developments, let alone those in adjacent fields. In academic ‘papers’ in the field of knowledge management, such as this 9 month report, it is not novel for the author to state that information is being produced at a prodigious rate and it is also not novel to highlight the effect of Moore’s Law on the advancements of powerful digital devices {I currently have a wireless headphone in my ear which is more powerful than any machine Doug Engelbart developed for, for example} – in fact, it can be argued that digital tool development for academia has stagnated.

Deeper Literacy

What is needed is a defined goal for how we can more efficiently develop computer software for advanced computer systems, beyond vague notions of ‘better’ or ‘easier to use’.  I propose the perspective of deep literacy, which Livia Polanyi has co-defined:

Deep Literacy emerges when cognitive strategies enhanced by powerful computational tools enable knowledge workers to interact effectively with the ever growing inter-connection of digital information needed to carry out their work successfully.

Livia Polanyi 2017

The Elements of Deep Literacy

To be literate originally literally only meant to know the letters. Deep literacy however, is authoring and reading beneath the surface, connecting and collaborating deeply:

•  Deep literacy means means authoring honestly, cleanly and clearly – providing deep citations to increase the credibility and comprehension.

•  Deep literacy equally means that the reader is responsible for active, thoughtful interpretation.

•  Deep literacy is about knowing the tools and techniques of your trade very well, supporting your ability to thrive immersed in your work, while continuously updating your knowledge of new tools, perspectives and developing deeper connections – deep literacy is not something acquired once, like the ability to ride a bike – it comes from skills and perspectives nurtured over a lifetime.

•  You become deeply literate when you no longer just try to stay on top of your information – you become deeply literate you dive in – when you work hard on getting the most out of your  mental and computer tool sets.

Supporting Deep Literacy

Supporting Deep Literacy then becomes a task of developing software solutions and best practices for working to augment dept of reading, thinking, connecting and authoring.

Barriers to Deep Literacy

Barriers to developing ever deeper literacies are largely based on the entrenchment of legacy systems and mindsets, something which will have to be taken into account when developing continuously more deeply literate systems.

Writing & Scholarly Writing

Writing is an act of visually recording a human intention, a human perspective, with a rich history of how things came to be the way they are today and inspirations as to how things can be.

Scholarly Writing is the process of making knowledge conscious, helping to remember facts, to analyze concepts, and to construct new knowledge (Alister H. Cumming, 2006). It is also worth adding the importance of integrating the new work into the academic discourse through citations.

Current State of The Art Scholarly Writing Tools

This is where I will paste in my overview of current writing tools.

Limitations of Current Approaches & Systems

It is no longer controversial to state that we think with our tools, our tools do not simply record our thoughts. I think it’s worth looking at the deep span of time of where we are right now, before we look at our development horizons:

•  It is worth noting however where we are in the development cycle of our species; we are at the very start: Our solar system is about half way through its life, which gives us another 4 or 5 billion years of life on this planet {barring deeply illiterate human behaviour, which is a real threat to our survival}.

•  The first tools which augmented our ancestors physical and mental reach was about 2.5 million years ago. Our own species is 200/300,000 or so years old, depending on the criteria used to define Homo sapiens and cultural artefacts first really bloomed about 40,000 years ago, including cave painting which in important ways represent the start of literacy.

•  Pre-alphabetic writing is something like 5,5000 years old and the alphabet was invented in stages around 3,500 years ago.

•  Printing on paper – our most recent legacy which defines how we see documents even in the digital age, as vertical rectangles, was employed by Johannes Gutenberg to print text about 550 years ago.

•  In terms of digital literacy then, Doug’s demo was just half a century years ago and the web was launched a quarter of a century ago so our digital literacy pales in comparison. We are at the very start of the digital age yet we have fallen into looking at the future through a rear-view mirror, as McLuhan warned us – we are basing our digital technologies primarily on the prior medium of static print.

 


2) The Liquid View Project

Visually Augmented Thinking

My project, the Liquid View, is based on the ancient insight that we can benefit from thinking with visual mental space (writing lists for example) and the ancient insight of the importance of experience/interaction, previously by using the medium of lines in the sand or pieces of paper.

Limitations of such thinking systems have always been the limited opportunity to re-organise and then to integrate with a conventional communications ‘document’. There are two opportunities to overcome these issues today however: Digital technology completely removes the issue of re-organization by making the elements interactive with zero degradation of information quality and I have developed a word processor called Liquid | Author which publishes academic standard formatted .doc and .pdf documents, which the Liquid View will be another view of, so the work done in the Liquid View is not separate from an academic document, it is simply another view of the document.

The Liquid View will be accessed when viewing a regular word processing document, through a user interaction gesture (preferably, since a goal is to make the information feel more tangible than a keyboard short can deliver) which results in all body text being hidden through being collapsed under the headings – it is the headings which the user primarily views and interacts with in the Liquid View.

 

 


3) Future Work

 

Deeper Literature Review

I believe that we can really benefit from looking far back in our evolutionary history, look deeper at our perceptual processes, recorded communications history and examine current and near technological advancements as well as information theory to guide an experimental series of developments to support and encourage deeper literacy, which is why this will be my deeper literature review:

•  Evolutionary history studies can help us understand why we perceive the way we do, from our vision being attuned to the wavelengths our sun proceeds the most of, to how ambient colours change our states of mind. I will be discussing this with Chris Stringer of the Natural History museum as well as continuing with reading.

•  Perceptual processes are based on our evolutionary history and as we learn to better understand what has been coined heuristics and other ‘hardware live’ processes, we can learn to extend and augment them, including taking into account how the capacity of the human visual system is about 12 million bits per second while 16 bits per second is the bandwidth of consciousness (Norretranders, 1999).

•  Recorded communications history is the history of writing which also takes into account pre-alphabetical and pre-grammatical writing, as a source of understanding and inspiration for re-invention of writing for thought and communication.

•  Examine current and near technological advancements of computer platforms, hardware, APIs, libraries and standards to better understand the current technological landscape which we have at our disposal to build upon.

•  Information theory, with a focus on my own Liquid Information perspective, as developed with Sarah Walton, which approaches computer information as interaction and interaction as fluid not simplistically ‘digital’.

•  Investigations into how best to convey ‘human intentions’ via electronic documents, since the measure of an academic document is a combination of the value of the originality and context of what is stated, wrapped in how clearly and understandably it is stated.

Development of Specific Research Questions

Learning from the perspectives outlined above, in the ‘Foundations’ section, it is already clear that several issues will need to be worked out through prototyping and testing, with the ultimate goal of delivering what I like to imagine as being an ‘incredible thinking space’, where users, primarily university students, produce measurably deeper work. The way I propose measuring the depth of their work is aligned with how Craig Tashman developed his iOS product LiquidText (the name has no relationship to my work) and how other work has been developed and tested.

Research Question

How can textual knowledge best be represented in a non-linear format of nodes and connections, incorporating a rich set of data elements to augment the depth of thought when authoring a document?

Visual Display Considerations

This is where I will list what visual issues I can see now

Other Elements in Liquid View

This is where I will list what visual elements need to be considered

Interactions

This is where I will list what interactions need to be catered for

Proposal for Work to Answer the Questions

The work to answer these questions will be to continue with a deeper literature review, dialog with experts in their fields and building prototypes and actual implementation of the Liquid View.

Timetable and Plan

I have currently allocated 1 month of programming time with a maOS expert level coder, who used to work at Nuance, to make the macOS version of Liquid | Author fast and robust enough to ship. Once this is done I will look for money to finance the Liquid View component and work to implement it, while continuing my deeper literature review, which will be posted on my blog as well as in my full paper.

 

Liquid Information
thoughts

by frode hegland

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011