“The Future of Text” hits the streets

Congratulations to Frode Heglund, convenor for 9 years of the widely respected Future of Text Symposium, who has just edited and published The Future of Text book! The book is “a letter to the distant future”, in which an astonishingly diverse group of people share perspectives on where humanity has got to with the symbol systems we use to codify and share ideas — “Text” — and where we might be going.

From the introduction:

“I have invited some truly phenomenal people to contribute to this work, and against all odds, they said yes. There are eminent representatives from the worlds of art, typography, science, software development, academia and more. Text writes our history, and text guides our future, but text itself is not often reflected on, let alone written about.”

You can replay videos from the launch event, which was introduced by no less than Vint Cerf who has supported this work from its early days:

Well it’s been a hell of a year, so here’s a book to settle down with over Christmas and New Year, accompanied by your favourite brew, to dip into at random and make some space for reflection. Give it to all your friends and family! The pieces are short (some only a page), and a mind-stretching joy to browse.

I’m old enough to still love the weighty-tome gravitas of the printed volume in the above photo, but of course, most of us will read this digitally. It’s freely available as PDF | EPUB, and the PDF takes on greater interactive qualities when viewed in Frode’s Reader hypertext tool. Here’s his demo of this and the other tools he’s been inventing…

Alert to the challenge of digital preservation (“we’re writing in sand” as Frode memorably states about digital texts) — they’re working on a physical edition with the entire text micro-engraved into plastic and metal for longevity.

Frode kindly invited me to contribute a chapter, which gave me a much appreciated pause for thought on the 30 years I’ve spent using hypertext to create interactive visualisations of dialogue and arguments, and in the last decade or so, learning from my NLP and machine learning colleagues. So, here’s my letter to the future: The Future of Text in Three Moves.

Many congratulations also to Niko Grupen, whose piece From Author to Editor: Our Place Alongside the New Life Cycle of Text (p.148) scooped first prize in the Student Competition! His punishment is to read a signed Visualizing Argumentation e-book cover-to-cover over Christmas 😉

Doug Engelbart (RIP) is the fire driving both Frode and me (his influence on my career) — so for old time’s sake, here’s when Doug and Frode Heglund visited me in 2004 🙂

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