The Future of Text : A 2020 Vision


Growing out of our annual Symposium (of which all contributors to the book are also invited as speakers), we are putting together a book on the possible futures of text which has turned out to be the largest survey of the future of text ever undertaken, with a wide range of different perspectives and inspirations.


The book is intended to be a collection of dreams for how we want text to evolve as well as how we understand our current textual infrastructures, how we view the history of writing and much more. The aim is to make it inspire a powerfully rich future of text in a multitude of ways today and to still have value in five hundred years and beyond. It should serve as a record for how we saw the medium of text and how it relates to our world, our problems and each other in 2020.








Vint Cerf. Internet Co-Inventor & Pioneer



opening quote


“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…”


“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.”
Douglas C. Engelbart






Frode Hegland. Editor. Truth is not in the written words. But in how they are connected. This is why text-interactions are important. This is why, in an environment of weaponised social media with high-velocity fake news, the way we can address and connect determines what we see and therefore where we stand. Draft Text






Listed alphabetically by first names, some people you will have heard of, others provide more niche perspectives, all are brilliant minds. The contributors are roughly grouped, to make it easier to get an overview, but these are not people you can really put in a box:



authors, artists & publishers



academic, archive & library affiliated
(whether author or other)







Post script


Ismail Serageldin. Founder & Director Emeritus, Library of Alexandria


Editor & Curator


Frode Hegland. Developer of Liquid | Author, Reader & Flow, and Host of the Future of Text Symposium


Frode is passionate about unleashing the potential of the future of text. To this end, he has held the annual Future of Text Symposium since 2011, many of which have been co-hosted by Vint Cerf. He has also designed and built two novel text-interaction systems, the macOS word processor Liquid | Author and the Liquid | Flow utility:


Frode is currently a PhD student at the University of Southampton where he is researching dynamic views in word processors for literature reviews, and developing the Visible-Meta system, as blogged about on This system is being co-developed by this community and will be employed in the book.


His work is greatly influenced by Doug Engelbart whom he worked with at the turn of the millennium. Doug Engelbart sent him this email in 2003: “I honestly think that you are the first person I know that is expressing the kind of appreciation for the special role which IT can (no, will) play in reshaping the way we can symbolize basic concepts to elevate further the power that conditioned humans can derive from their genetic sensory, perceptual and cognitive capabilities.”



Further Contributions


If you feel that you have something compelling to write on the future of text, please send a proposal to If you can think of someone else to add to the list, please send their names and also contact information if you have it.




Humans became behaviourally modern
the moment they committed to storing abstract information outside their brains

Lyn Wadley
as quoted in Mark Moffett's 'The Human Swarm'





Publishing : Paper, Digital & Metal


In order to deliver on the short and long term aims the book we will produce not only a printed (commercial & highly robust) and digital edition but also aim to produce an edition etched in stainless steel, to make it as durable for the long haul as we possibly can.



Guidelines for Authors


For further information, you may want to read the Author's Invitation and the Author's Guide, but the key info is:



Contributors are separately welcome to submit an optional glossary for their writing, of a reasonable length. The format will be determined as a group, to aid reading into the deep future and for people of very different perspectives today.





All of the editions will feature future looking innovations including Visual-Meta to make information about the book readable by humans and machine. This will even enable the metal edition to easily become richly interactive again when scanned in the far future.






Please also note that all contributors are also invited to the 9th annual Future of Text Symposium on the 9th of November 2019 at the University of Southampton, UK.