Last updated on July 8, 2019
flier for sponsorship of elo2019.ucc.ie
The premise of my work is that the written word is a fundamental unit of knowledge and therefore the richer we can interact with our text, the richer we can interact with our knowledge. This is why I host the annual Future of Text Symposium and curate the largest collection of perspectives on the future of text ever undertaken in the book: ‘The Future of Text : A 2020 Vision’, due out next year: futureoftext.org (and for which I would greatly appreciate suggestions for further contributions).
Liquid | Author
This is also why I produce software to learn what the possibilities actually are, rather than only what they might be. All the software is for macOS (with iOS versions planned), available from www.liquid.info
Liquid | Author is a minimalist workspace word processor with powerful gestures and commands, such as the ability to pinch the document into an outline, a Find command which shows you the full sentences of the text you search for instead of yellow dots out of view, quickly accessible full screen mode (ESC to enter and leave), Cuttings which stores everything you cut, and more. Your final work can be exported with academic formatting of citations including appending a References section or posted to WordPress.
Author also features a Dynamic View, which is similar to a mind map or concept map but remains part–of and connected to–the text in the word processing view: youtu.be/bCpJTRd0hrE
Liquid | Flow (universal text tool companion)
Liquid | Flow is a companion to Author which allows you to select text and search, look up references, translate, convert and more, in less than a second once you are familiar with it.
Liquid | Reader (supporting Visual-Meta from Author)
Liquid | Reader is a visually lightweight PDF reader which supports the Visual-Meta system, where citation information is visually ‘printed’ at the end of the document, in the last appendix automatically added by software, such as Liquid | Author, or which you can add manually for downloaded documents by pasting its BibTeX export format text.
The Liquid | Reader ‘reads’ the Visual-Meta in the document so that when you copy text from the PDF and paste it, the citation will be pasted as a citation, not just as text. This means that even if the document changes format or is printed out and scanned with OCR again, it will still retain its metadata, including citation information but also information about the document in general, such as the contents of tables, glossaries and more: wordpress.liquid.info/printed-meta
My friend and mentor Doug Engelbart presented the vision and mission in his 2002 address ‘Improving Our Ability To Improve’:
The thing that amazed me – even humbled me – about the digital computer when I first encountered it over fifty years ago – was that, in the computer, I saw that we have a tool that does not just move earth or bend steel, but we have a tool that actually can manipulate symbols and, even more importantly, portray symbols in new ways, so that we can interact with them and learn. We have a tool that radically extends our capabilities in the very area that makes us most human, and most powerful.
There is a native American myth about the coyote, a native dog of the American prairies – how the coyote incurred the wrath of the gods by bringing fire down from heaven for the use of mankind, making man more powerful than the gods ever intended. My sense is that computer science has brought us a gift of even greater power, the ability to amplify and extend our ability to manipulate symbols.
It seems to me that the established sources of power and wealth understand, in some dim way, that the new power that the computer has brought from the heavens is dangerous to the existing structure of ownership and wealth in that, like fire, it has the power to transform and to make things new.
I must say that, despite the cynicism that comes with fifty years of professional life as a computer scientist, inventor, and observer of the ways of power, I am absolutely stunned at the ferocious strength of the efforts of the American music industry, entertainment industry, and other established interests to resist the new ability that the coyote in the computer has brought from the heavens. I am even more surprised by the ability of these established interests to pass laws that promise punishment to those who would experiment and learn to use the new fire.
As the recipient of my country’s National Medal of Technology, I am committed to raising these issues and questions within my own country, but I am also canny enough to understand that, in the short term, it is the nations with emerging economies that are most likely to understand the critical importance and enormous value in learning to use this new kind of fire.
We need to become better at being humans. Learning to use symbols and knowledge in new ways, across groups, across cultures, is a powerful, valuable, and very human goal. And it is also one that is obtainable, if we only begin to open our minds to full, complete use of computers to augment our most human of capabilities.
I would greatly appreciate your perspective and feedback, which is why I am here at this festival and proud to play a very small role in it by being a sponsor.