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The Future of Text

The potential of richly interactive text to truly augment how we think & communicate is massive. Text after all, is externalised symbols we can interact with to extend our mind’s reach.

A group of us have therefore been working on improving how we interact with text and widening a discussion of what that might be, hosting an annual symposium for over a decade, publishing 3 compendium Books, a Journal, producing software for authorship & readership to experiment so that we can experience different futures of text and building infrastructures for increasingly rich interactions.

The basic notion is that if we truly value knowledge, we must also value how knowledge is created, stored, shared, accessed & interacted with.

Our approach is to focus on Intelligence Augmentation (IA), rather than outsourcing to Artificial Intelligence (AI). We need to augment how we think, not hope an external system will do that for us. After all, this flows from my mentor Doug Engelbart’s perspective, as captured by this apocryphal exchange (though he agreed it was representative of their discussion):

Marvin Minsky: “We are going to make machines intelligent!”
Doug Engelbart: “What are you going to do for people?”

There is no question that there is room for AI and XR can become components of how futures of text can evolve to truly augment us however. This is why I have integrated ‘Ask AI’ in my software Reader and why I’m working with a Lab on XR experiment so that we can experiment richly interactive futures.

To truly support a vibrant future of text we need to look beyond the surface of text and improve the infrastructures of text, including how we can embed rich data robustly in documents, which led to the development of Visual-Meta.

The specific aim of the work is to make text better connected and more interactive to support our augmentation. A visual illustration of this is the integrated Concept Map in my macOS software ‘Author’:


Some of this work was covered in a recent BBC interview.


Future of Text 2018, including Frode Hegland top left and Vint Cerf seated, centre, at the location where Vint & Bob Kahn finalised the TCP-IP protocol


New Work
A new approach to finding what to Read in a large document or collection of documents. (May 2023)


frode Alexander hegland & team
London, 2023


a word has never just one meaning