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Category: Liquid | Projects

Liquid Information Projects.


I attended as a sponsor for Liquid | Author and to promote and get feedback for the Visual-Meta proposal.

A short flight from Heathrow and a brief taxi ride (cash, much of Cork was cash so had to stop at a gas station to get some Euros) and quite a bit of walking back and forth between the charming B&B and downtown, resulting in some serious blisters, and I was settled for the three days of the Electronic Literature Organisation Festival.

Emily & Edgar did not join me so I felt I was in a TV commercial for video communication when we used FaceTime since it was just so immersive since I missed them so much. Here is a FaceTime screenshot:

The campus was beautiful and the people charming.

My host James Sullivan gave me 5 mins to present Liquid during the opening ceremony, which I pre-made with two edited videos to make sure I didn’t waffle on:

My view:

And the view of us:

I felt the reception to the presentation and the software was good and there were three days of inspirational presentations on both theory and artistic practice. To see so many experimentations with the medium of text was exhilarating.

I invited a few people to contribute to The Future of Text book.

There was even a fantastic coffee shop in the art gallery, which I discovered a bit late:

And then it was all over, and back to London.

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Liquid | Reader is finally live


What this means is initially that when someone copies text from a PDF and pastes into Liquid | Author the text will automatically be a citation.

What it means for the future, if this approach is taken up, is that context, which is crucial for any information, will no longer be buried inside the document with all the fragility that entails, but surfaced for access by the human reader to ‘manually’ interact with, software to parse and servers to analyse.

It means that archiving becomes one step less frail, with all the contextual metainformation kept on the same level as the actual body of the document. A Visual-Meta document can change formats, be printed, scanned and OCR’d and it makes no difference for future metainformation extraction.

I am not one for blowing my own trumpet, I have barely been able to ‘sell’ Liquid | Flow (which gives the user a myriad of useful commands instantly responsive) and Liquid | Author (which provides a unique dynamic view of the users text) but I feel strongly that the Visual-Meta approach is important and needs to be taken forward by the community.

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ELO 2019

flier for sponsorship of

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: (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 

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: 

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:


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. 

Frode Hegland

London 2019

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