A more Liquid, Post GUI-UI.

How can a more Liquid, Post GUI-UI for authoring and reading textual knowledge contribute to deeper literacy?
• Definition of Liquid UI: A Low Friction, High-Flexibility Interaction ‘UI’ (‘User Interface’) providing High-Speed interaction.

• Definition of Post GUI-UI: GUI’ stands for ‘Graphical User Interface’ which is a paradigm for user interfaces which allows users to interact through graphical icons and visual metaphors primarily through pointing and clicking, while de-prioritising controls which need to be learnt and cannot be seen on the screen. This was a development of XEROX PARC after SRI’s command line interfaces, where the explicit target user was the knowledge worker’s secretary.

I therefore define a ‘Post-GUI UI’ as a User Interface which recapitulates the prominence of textual information on the screen (with an absolute minimum of controls being visible unless summoned for specific, mostly immediate use) and employ modern technologies to provide richer ways to display the text (such as high-resolution screens with high-refresh rates) and interact with the text (such as though commonly used and new keyboard shortcuts, trackpad gestures and methods for bringing up visible controls when needed, including a contextual ctrl-clicking and click-and-hold etc.).

• Definition of Deeper Literacy: Deeply Literate users are those who, to use an analogy, would prefer to learn to drive a car in order to have control over exactly where they go and what they see on the way, rather then just take a bus and end up on predefined stops. The goal is that for such users who put more effort in to learn how best to use powerful tools is that their knowledge becomes a different thing to them, not a superficial substrate for reading across but a deep and immersive space of opportunity to always learn more, question more and develop ever deeper understanding.

(definition of deep literacy added Monday 17th of July 2017)

Deeply Literate Academic Discourse (first version)

It is clear to me that if I want to research and design interactive text systems for deeply literate academic discourse I should define what I mean by that. This is my first version, posted at http://www.deep-literacy.com/academic.html which I will share with friends for comments.

It is not enough to focus on carrying a facsimile of the analogue into the digital, as is done with PDFs. For academic discourse to progress it becomes vital to look at what purpose the discourse should serve, and from that design techniques and technology to support it.

To do this means taking into account the most basic aspect of our minds which is that the human brain works through links in a space of possible connections – to extend our intellect therefore means extending our capacity to deal with connections.

• Document Findability. Finding what is worthwhile reading, both supportive and contradictory to their main thesis, though seeing what is linked and by which criteria.
• Deep Reading. Helping the academic read deeply, meaning to understand the author’s intention and support their ability to question the author’s reasoning and supportive material.
• Deep Citations. Supporting them in integrating previous work into their own, in a manner which allows them flexibility and does not take much time and effort.
• Deeply Connected. It further means supporting the act of seeing and thinking about their researched material and their own ideas, editing their writing and doing further research.
• Which comes together to produce a Rich, Clear & Transparently Cited Presentation. Presenting their work in a format which preserves the richness of their research, thinking and conclusions and insights, while transparently citing sources and allowing the reader rich options for viewing the material.
• Furthermore, the main documents are supported by powerful implementationsof data storage, glossaries, specialised dictionaries, dialogue records and more.

The clear goal then becomes an effort of supporting the production of high-quality academic documents which have been thoroughly thought through and cited, and then supporting the next academic in dealing with the material.


I have had a look at what’s called ‘IText’ in the paper IText, Future Directions for Research on the Relationship between Information Technology and Writing (IText Working Group, 2001) by Cheryl Geisler of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the rest of the working group.

I find their enthusiasm uplifting:

These texts form a new page in the story of the coevolution of humanity, culture, and technology in ways that give them new function and significance. Texts, already technology for communicating at a distance, are deeply embedded in cultural, cognitive, and material arrangements that go back thousands of years. Information technologies with texts at their core—the blend of IT and texts that we call ITexts—are, by contrast, a relatively recent development … In a few short years, however, these ITexts have initiated social and material changes that appear to be altering the very character of texts and the interactions of those who use them.
Geisler, 2001

Their research agenda builds on research activity in the areas of rhetorical theory, activity theory, literacy studies, genre theory, usability research, and workplace writing. Quoting the descriptions from their paper:

•  Rhetorical Theory. Rhetoric is a design art, a goal-directed activity similar to engineering and architecture in its regard for practical effects in the future and in its need to be socially responsible and ethical.
•  Activity Theory. Activity theory, based on the work of Lev Vygotsky and Alexei Leontiev, provides analytic tools for studying how ITexts function within human activity. Activity theory is particularly useful in examining the text-mediated interaction of multiple participants as organized in the patterned social relations of activity systems that vary according to the practices and cultures of social collectivities.
•  Literacy Studies. Literacy studies examine how reading and writing are used and function in the daily mental and material lives of individuals, in the work and interactions of social groups, and throughout large cultural movements.
•  Genre Theory. Texts link readers and writers by using typified generic forms, or genres, that signal texts’ function and meaning.
•  Usability Research. Working with IText requires us to reevaluate and rearticulate our understanding of textuality. Although all texts, strictly speaking, are technological artifacts, ITexts lie on the far end of the technological spectrum—the bleeding edge, where the two ends of the terms technology and communication overlap each other in critical and exciting ways.
•  Workplace Writing. In the workplace, texts are stereotypically treated simply as one of the means by which communication occurs.

Literacy Studies:

  • Literacy studies suggest that to be literate does not mean to possess a set of discrete skills but rather refers to a way of doing, a way of functioning within complex communicative situations. Literacy is in fact a complex of abilities and knowledge that enable individuals to function and contribute in specific situations.
  • The course of literacy development is complex and life- long.


    I am not sure of what the actual work product became from their effort, but I have emailed Cheryl Geisler and told her about The Future of Text Symposium.