I am passionate about the potential for the future of text to augment how we think and communicate. This page lays out what I am doing about it and is an open invitation for you to join any of the efforts which you may be interested in:
I run a small Research Lab to explore possible futures. We host twice-weekly open meetings and a monthly Guest Speaker series which is available to watch online and read transcripts of in our Journal.
My independent software development company, The Augmented Text Company, produces ‘Author’ & ‘Reader’, which is available from the macOS App Store. The design goal is to provide you with powerful tools for writing and reading, in a minimalist environment. “Tools for thoughtful writing”.
I host the annual Future of Text Symposium to foster and support dialogue from a wide range of perspectives.
To disseminate what we learn, I publish the results in a Journal and a series of books on The Future of Text.
Contributors to the Symposium and Books includes Vint Cerf (co-inventor of the Internet), Ismail Serageldin (founder of the Modern Library of Alexandria), Tom Standage (deputy editor of The Economist), Stephen Fry (writer and actor), Adam Cheyer (inventor of Siri), Barbara Tversky (author of Mind in Motion), Ted Nelson (coined the term ‘Hypertext’), Alan Kay (Apple & PARC pioneer) and a host ofartists, academics technologist and thinkers.
I believe that when we develop the means through which we can interact with text in richer ways, we develop the means through which we can interact with our knowledge, and each other, in richer ways. This will not be done through technique or tool alone, it will need to be done by building more powerful tools to support more techniques, unceasing a deeper literacy.
Underpinning this is the infrastructures which enables or restricts the opportunities for how we can interact with text. My PhD was a on enabling cheap, rich and robust Metadata across the domains of analog text, traditional digital text, AI augmented text and VR experienced text. I call the approach Visual-Meta and the approach is simple: Write at the end of a document, in a human and computer readable way, what the document is–who authored it so it can be cited, who the document cites, what its structure is and so on. This enables the author to easily embed a richer representation of their work and the reader can interrogate the text far beyond what can be done with plain text alone.
It is all too easy to think that we know what text is, yet the way we interact with text has changed beyond recognition from analog to digital text. Tom Lombardo wrote† that “truth kills creativity”. We think, from our everyday experience, that the truth of what text is what text does for us today. This ignores the long history of experimentation with what text can be, such as by the great pioneer thinkers of early digital text, such as Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson.
Alan Kay famously said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. The future of text is too important to leave to chance. Join us as we work on a future of text which can support a truly deep literacy, where we can write a brighter history.
Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in any aspect of this work. Thank you for your time looking through this.
Frode Alexander Hegland