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Category: Why?

Collection of posts over the years as to why the work to make digital systems more richly interactive for knowledge work.

Preamble (large edit)

When text is no longer made public through a fixed and frozen medium, the fiction of authorship and readership being distinct recedes, allowing the clearer understanding that authorship and the authority thereby generated is a dynamic process generated between writer and reader.

Through being frozen and fixed, though never having any privileged access to any ground truth, the written word has had a great cultural power, as can be found in the very word ‘authority’.

A deep literacy needs to be fostered to deal with the challenge with the digital word has laid bare through its refusal to fix or freeze and its use and ‘abuse’ to the point where its speedy dissemination through social media has become hijacked by the term ‘fake news’ which is used to completely dismiss information which is not agreed with, while at the same time not allowing an interrogation of the bias of information being presented in its stead.

The cost of time and money to produce a printed document and then to disseminate the document created a world of professions where to know what you were doing meant doing it by ‘the book’. The democratisation of production and dissemination of text today removes this filter, which – depending on your philosophical perspective – was a good or a bad thing.

The collaborative process of the medium of text taking place in the minds of the writer and the reader has always existed – “All Writing depends on the generosity of the reader” (Manguel, 2014). There has always been accusations of those who read without intelligence, going back at least as far as Socrates. What the digital text does is lay naked and bare the desperate need for the readers literacy to graduate to active reading while graduating the writers efforts towards clear prose and clear citations to enhanced credibility and transparency.

We can take this old truth and put it front and centre now that the medium of text has become substrates in a liquid form and make the process of reading as active as the process of writing. We can produce mental and technological tools for deeper literacies. That is what the Author project with liquid views is about.

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Thought from working on my book on deep literacy:

We are back at the foothills of the Zagros mountains. Those of us with access to technology are living at a time of plenty when it’s easy to get what we want, as easy as picking a fig or picking off an animal unaccustomed to human hunters, as it was all those thousands of years ago.

We have little incentive to venture away from our cosy settlement. Why should we leave? Why did our ancient relatives leave the comfort of the mountainside for the harder work further south?

I don’t know.

But look what happened to them, they changed humanity as a result of their co-operation.

What can happen for us to make a similar move, away from the comfort zone of the tech-enabled rich to create a world of abundance, peace and harmony? How can we move to a focus on collaboration, like they did to irrigate the land, to move life giving liquid around to be more useful and to produce abundance?

How can we similarly work to move the potentially liquid information around between us to similarly create abundance?

If we leave it all up to Charles and don’t listen to Doug to try to put a rudder in the slippery waters of progress, with even a vague shared goal, we will amuse ourselves to death:

Roger Waters : Amused to Death 

Doctor Doctor, what is wrong with me – This supermarket life is getting long – What is the half life of a colour TV – What is the shelf life of a teenage queen – Ooh western woman – Ooh western girl – News hound sniffs the air – When Jessica Hahn goes down – He latches on to that symbol of detachment – Attracted by the peeling away of feeling – The celebrity of the abused shell, the belle – Ooh western woman – Ooh western girl – Ooh western woman – Ooh western girl – And the children on Melrose – Strut their stuff – Is absolute zero cold enough – And out in the valley, warm and clean – The little ones sit by their TV screens – No thoughts to think – No tears to cry – All sucked dry – Down to the very last breath – Bartender what is wrong with me? – Why am I so out of breath? – The captain said excuse me ma’am – This species has amused itself to death – Amused itself to death – It has amused itself to death – Amused itself to death – We watched the tragedy unfold – We did as we were told – We bought and sold – It was the greatest show on earth – But then it was over – We ohhed and aahed – We drove our racing cars – We ate our last few jars of caviar – And somewhere out there in the stars – A keen-eyed look-out – Spied a flickering light – Our last hurrah – Our last hurrah – And when they found our shadows – Grouped ’round the TV sets – They ran down every lead – They repeated every test – They checked out all the data on their lists – And then, the alien anthropologists – Admitted they were still perplexed – But on eliminating every other reason – For our sad demise – They logged the only explanation left – This species has amused itself to death – No tears to cry, no feelings left – This species has amused itself to death – Amused itself to death
Roger Waters

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“Wanted: Toolsmiths” & The Future of Text

Email to William Regli at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), currently serve as the Acting Deputy Director of the Defense Sciences Office (DSO)


I read with great enthusiasm your article in Communications of the ACM today, where you call attention to the continued development of tools for science. I am particularly impressed with your reference to Licklider’s classic  though rarely hear about these days – notion of man-computer symbiosis.

I had the pleasure and honour of working with one of his chief ‘investments’ if you will; Doug Engelbart, who very much became my mentor. We put together a brief web-documentary quite a while ago, which I’m afraid has suffered from the digital ravages of time making much of the video non-playable – I really need to update the site at some point, but some contents is still live:

I am contacting you about what may be a bit below your radar, the notion of improving text for serious communication in order to allow for the development of deeper literacy:

In support of this I host an annual Symposium on the Future of Text, where people who are passionate about the powerful augmentations future text developments can provide, if we invest in making it come about:

This year will be the 7th annual event, which will be attended by Vint Cerf (who co-hosts when we do the event in California) as well as people from industry and my host university – I am currently a mature PhD student at the University of Southampton supervised by Dame Wendy Hall.

I would finally like to let you know of how I am personally ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ so to speak, with the development of a word processor for academic use which will feature a very rich thinking space called Liquid Views:

I thank you again for the inspirational article, you have brightened my weekend and if you are at all all interest in any of the activities, including joining us at the Future of Text September 11th and 12th, or if you feel someone else at ARPA would be interested, that would be great also.


Frode Hegland
The Liquid Information Company





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