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Connecting Texts

The space in which connections can be made is an addressing space. To be able to do anything with something we need to be able to address it, even in the simplest meaning of the word. Addressing can be based on direct references (through implicit or explicit links or citations), indirect (the book on the second shelf, third from the left) or attributes (all the books written by Shakespeare).

For our purposes to augment a reader who is studying the document to critically learn what the intention of the author was and how the text fits in the intellectual space it inhabits, what really matters is that the connections will be reasonably effortless to create, and that they will be robust (survive document format changes and/or being stored on a different substrate and not only relying on locations but also other attributes of the cited material to make it locatable, such as a combination of the document name etc.), high resolution (specify at least a page or a paragraph), can support being labelled (as in typed links, to be able to connect to text the author disagrees with, without giving that text a higher positive ranking) and are highly interactable (it is worth noting that the word ‘interactable’ is not in the dictionary of the computer used to type this text) both for manual use by the reader to see different relationships, but also for a server/system to do large scale analysis of document connections.

Implicit Links

Implicit links include such cases as a word and its entry in a dictionary. My tool Liquid Flow takes care of this type of link following. This can be expanded of course, to include other means to view and access contextual information.

Explicit Links : Links, Citations & Quotes

There is a big difference between links and citations and we should use the best attribute of both since they share the purpose of bringing forth a source mentioned in the text. A digital ‘hyper’ link is an address to a location which can be a very efficient way to connect documents but the link can ‘rot’ and the source can go missing. A citation is a description of the document to be used to locate it through other means. Before digital environments this simply meant the basic identifying meta information of the document including its title, the name(s) of the author(s), place and time published and so on, which the reader could use to go to a library to find the text. It also could include page numbers if quoting a specific section, which is generally lost today when citing books but available for PDF documents though not in an automatic way to click to open a document to a specific page.

Terminology Used

A word on the terminology: To ‘cite’ means to bring forth, to specify a document ‘referred’ to in the document, which is listed in a ‘references’ section at the end of the document. A ‘quote’ is a specific piece of text in a document (or which was spoken), rather than the document as a whole.

In collaboration with Phil Gooch of Scholarcy, we will provide the means for the reader to click on a citation in the body of the document to produce a large pop-up window with information about that source, including the abstract, rankings and so forth, plus the means to open the document if the user has the document on their system (document name addressability) or to locate it online, and for the reader to specify whether the document is salient or not. When interacting with sources in the References section the user can do the same, plus view where the citation is in the body of the document.

Title Page

A title page may do the opposite by listing what other documents refer to the document at hand and any other useful server based analysis to help the reader judge the salience of the document. The term ’salience’ is used here since its the term used in neuroscience, as highlighted in the brilliant and relevant book ‘The new executive brain’ by Elkhonon Goldberg (cited here simply as plain text, since a search via Liquid Flow would show this up in Amazon or other as quick as a link without the link rot or single destination of a link), meaning a combination of importance and relevance for the user.

The goal is for the user to be able to get a handle on the connections the document is part of, to better understand the intellectual space it inhabits.

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