Why Text?

Why a symposium on text? To be more effective at our work we need more effective ways to interact with the masses of text we come across in our work every day. Very little has improved since the first graphical word processor of the Macintosh in 1984 – let alone Doug Engelbart’s Augment of the 1970s – though we have vastly more text to deal with.

This is why we convene for The Future of Text, because the history of text is not over and the future of text has not yet been written.

We don’t define text rigidly as this would artificially constrain this future. The essential element of text is its symbolic meaning, which even the first red dot in the cave provided – giving it the property of communication over time. Further is the grammar which connects pieces into greater wholes. As for the rest, let’s look into that together.

While face to face discussion, getting to know people and learning how to be great collaborators are supremely important (hence the symposium’s very existence to start with), we feel that the documents we communicate through for the day to day business of knowledge work needs to massively improve – it’s simply not enough to try to stay on top of information, it can no longer be a valid excuse that there is too much information – we must develop more powerful ways to interact with, and through the information, allowing the information to be a resource, not a drag on our abilities to think and communicate. We need to dive into the pool of meaning to collaborate effectively to improve the world we live in and which we want to present to future generations.

The focus is by no means about text in isolation, in a column, on a page. The focus is on expanding the usefulness of text as symbol manipulation and communication, with rich interactivity and high levels of visual control and use of the high-bandwidth human visual field. In other words, let’s keep the core notion of the power behind the symbols but let’s blow the doors away with what that might actually mean.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” Eleanor Roosevelt

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