Post, 21 Nov, 20:30

Augmenting Human Intellect through Rich Document Interaction in a Legacy Context 

In an era of super-high resolution televisions with large numbers of high quality programme available instantly and of highly realistic and immersive computer games – both experiences made possible by high-powered digital devices – academic document discourse is still rooted in the analog era of non-interactive vertical columns of black type on white pieces of paper. 

This presents two areas of research: How to make the documents richly interactive and highly visual while authoring and reading them and how to disseminate the resulting document while retaining the rich interaction opportunities and integrating into the world as it is today. 

More Liquid Views of Word Processor Text 

My proposals for the first area is to build a ‘Liquid View’ as a separate view of text inside a word processor. This would be able to instantly toggle from a traditional word processor view to a more liquid view, by hiding all the body text and turning the headings into nodes which then become manipulatable in a myriad new and powerful ways to better organise the users knowledge – to see relationships, associations and groupings which may not otherwise have become apparent – making the text more liquid and the experience more fluid.  

Initial design walkthrough mockup is available on YouTube and initial design specifications are available at View Description .pdf?dl=0  

Although implemented initially for a single word processor, the techniques and technologies will be made available for the implementations.  

Rich PDF (A ‘Trojan Horse’) 

My proposal for the second research area is to distribute the resulting document as a PDF file, but with the original document zipped and embodied in the document, along with a neutral XML representation of the document. The result would be that a user who only has a legacy PDF reader would be able to open the document and see the basic document, whereas someone who has the creator software will get the native document with full interaction opportunity and other applications which support the XML specification will be able to extract more interactive data than a plain PDF would offer.  

Both of these areas have received considerable attention and thought so there is fruitful opportunities for immediate development with immediately useful systems in return, with more developed iterations progressing as we learn to live in such advanced environments.  

Furthermore, a potential to be looked into is for the documents published will have unique IDs appended, so that if the server location they were originally hosted at becomes unavailable, the document linking to the document will automatically be able to perform a (Google) search for the document and provide the user with a quick dialog stating that the document was not found at the specified location but has been located a this other location and the user can choose whether to open the document or search for it elsewhere, with a quick click. 

A Research Lab for the Future of Text Interaction 

I therefore propose the creation of a research lab, The Future of Text Institute, where progressional programmers will implement the visions as currently understood and work to improve them for the life of the project, with recorded and publicised meetings with different stakeholders and pioneers being hosted on a highly regular basis to inform the development and inspire others working in related areas.  

The work would be continuing the work pioneered by Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, as well as more recent from the first dawn of hypertext in the 1970s and 80s.  

Frequent recorded and publicised dialogue with the pioneers and modern innovators would follow on from the annual Future of Text Symposium series, which have been running annually for 7 years and would form a vital pillar in the development of future text interaction systems.  


I have build a host word processor for such Liquid View explorations called Author, available on the macOS App Store and in early 2018 the iOS App Store and I am available full-time to run this project.  

The programmer Jacob Hazelgrove who built Author is also available to implement the Liquid Views, at a part time of full time basis depending on available funding. Further implementational support will be added as funding allows and needs indicate.  

Colleagues at The University of Southampton and at other locations are also available to become active parts of the institute.  


The goal would be to have an initial demonstration ready for the 50th Anniversary of Doug Engelbart’s Mother of All Demos, on the 9th of December 2018, and continue exploration after that. 

The lab would be hosted at the University of Southampton but would function in a distributed manner with most dialogue and work being conducted online.  


The objective for the institute is to provide support for multiple innovations for the future of text, through dialog and demonstration.