I am finding this very frustrating as I believe the premise is as obvious as stating that healthier food is healthier, but I am having problems getting this past my friendly academic gate keepers. Maybe this is not for me.
Thinking With Tools
We think with our visual tools, this much has been made clear (Keith Oatley, Maja Djikic, 2008)
Seeing Visually Augments Seeing Mentally
Our brain’s 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).
Digital Text is Different
The alphabet was one thing when applied to clay or stone, and quite another when set down on light papyrus.
It is a very different thing to think while using a substrate which is immediately permanent or hard to change, to thinking with a visual medium which is inherently interactive. We see the most primitive implementations of this with the Undo functionality but incredibly little work on this has made it into the mainstream due to segmented implementations which do not integrate into current workflows.
We Are Stuck In An Analog Metaphor World
The evolution of the written word has always been shaped by its substrate and as a result of the invention of the codex and printing technologies, we live with text optimised for printing as rectangular blocks on rectangular paper, resulting in a uniform visual field of black on white characters with little glanceability to aid the reader outside of the foveal scan of individual words and sentence fragments.
By going past what we inherited from print, such as using more of the computer screen than just the vertical centre which we use for word processing document views, by getting rid of legacy page breaks and by providing rich interactions to allow the reader to fluidly change the presentation view, the user will have a true intellect-augmentation tool to help thoughtful creativity in knowledge work – particularly the knowledge work of authoring academic documents.
The increase in horsepower which is known as Moore’s Law (as resulting from Doug Engelbart’s work°) has given us processing power which has given us many orders of magnitude more computing power than we had in the mid 60s when the law was formulated and when Doug Engelbart carried out his seminal work – and it is quite clear that by no measure have we increased our mental capabilities at anywhere near that rate.
I aim to build what I call a ‘Liquid View’ of an academic word processing document which can be instantly toggled back to a standard word processing view, embedded in my Liquid | Author macOS word processor.
Issues which will need to be tackled through further literature review and prototyping will include the optimal view of Headings (as nodes) and interactions between hidden body text, external resources, glossaries and dynamic visualisations.
The measurable goal is to augment the author’s comprehension of their own material, ability to see insights and notice gaps in their material, thereby reducing Cognitive Rigidity (Coplan, 2016) and increasing Cognitive Fluidity (Mithen, 1998).