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Student Competition

You are invited to be a part of ‘The Future of Text’ book. Write an article on your perspective of the future of text, submit it to us and you could end up featured alongside some of the most brilliant minds of our generation and you will have an opportunity to meet Vint Cerf.

The Book is the widest survey of the potential futures of text, a project coming out of 10 years of annual Symposium:

Contributors to the book include the inventors of hypertext, Siri, the hashtag, LaTeX, JSON, Wikis, WordPress as well as academics from leading universities and more, plus authors and thinkers in diverse fields:


The competition is open to all students of all levels, in any location, after all, you are the future.

You may submit only one entry and your entry must have a title which clearly presents the article (not just ‘The Future of Text’). Email your 1,000 words or less contribution to

For guidance, first follow your own heart and your own passion: What do YOU feel the future of text will be or can be? We are not looking for research or journalistic perspectives, we are looking for personal passions, whether it be for text on screens or text on paper, whether it be for typefaces, hypertext linking, libraries, neuroscience, books or social media–whatever you feel is important to write about and think about.


Judging criteria will be on the originality of vision and clarity of presentation, either as a philosophical piece, artistic or technical. Above all, we are looking for a thoughtful piece.

Please remember that this is about analog or digital text in written form composed of words (logographic, syllabaric, or in segmental scripts), not in the looser sense of anything which can be ‘read’. Since it is surprisingly difficult to define text in this context we will give you quite a bit of leeway to let your imagination run free, but we are not looking at pictures, video or sound, we are concerned with visual marks which have symbolic meaning and can be combined in a grammatical order.

The judging panel will be led by the Editor of the book, Frode Hegland.


1st of May: Competition Starts
20th of October: Competition Closes [+add to your calendar+]
20th of November: The winner will be announced and the book will be Published at the 10th annual Future of Text Symposium


The competition is to submit an article for inclusion in the book, so the inclusion is the main prize. Additionally, the contributors to the book have decided to add to the prize:

Co-inventor of the Internet Vint Cerf will meet with the winner (virtually or in person as the situation allows) and many of the authors are contributing signed books and other access to their work, including:

Ted Nelson, Amaranth Borsuk, Don Norman, Bob Horn, Nick Montfort, Keith Houston, Simon Buckingham Shum, Johanna Drucker, Tom Standage, Harold Thimbleby, JP Davidson, David Weinberger, Michael Joyce, John Cayley, Garrett Stewart, Teodora Petkova, Naomi S. Baron, Paul Smart, Howard Rheingold, Sarah Walton, Johannah Rodgers, Maryanne Wolf, Scott Rettberg, Yellowlees Douglas, Tiago Forte, Ewan Clayton, Tim Ingold, Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Jay David Bolter, Martin Tiefenthaler, Esther Wojcicki and a Smart Writing System from Moleskine.

Please note that apart from inclusion of the winning article into the book, none of the other prizes can be guaranteed. While we have confirmation from the generous contributors that they will be able to provide the signed book or other prizes, practical and other issues may get in the way of this happening and we cannot accept any responsibility for this. This competition is to be a part of a non-profit, non-commercial book project and we hope you understand we are all doing our best without commercial gain so therefore cannot be liable for any changes or missing prizes.


You will retain the copyright, but you agree we (as represented by Editor Frode Hegland) can use your article in all versions of the book in any form of media.

Runners Up

At the discretion of the judging panel, the best runner up contributions will be linked to from the official web page.


A major step in the story of our evolution was when we gained the ability to point out to each other what we could see. A further major step was when we gained the ability to point out what could not be seen and to interact with what could not be touched, through language and symbols.

As we stepped into the digital age our ability to point and interact rapidly increased by letting us point to documents for near-instant access from anywhere on the globe. We could interact with images to produce photograph-realistic portrayals of impossible scenes fed by our fertile imaginations for passive movie entertainment or active computer-game first person shooter experiences.

The promise of vastly increasing our ability to interact with what had through millennia given us mental powers to see further and understand deeper–our symbols in the form of text–received very little augmentation beyond spell check, copy and paste and the ability to link to documents.

Though digital text can be produced and transmitted at great speed, digital text is in most ways flat–disconnected with the contexts which created it and un-graspable by the receiver to manipulate it.

If we do not vastly improve our capacity to point to and interact with our digital information, we will decrease our reach and narrow our opportunities in ways which will continue to have drastic impacts on how we deal with our information, our world–and each other.


In 2020 we are only half-way through our sun’s lifecycle, living on a planet roughly a third as old as the universe itself, having developed into humans only 100-200,000 years ago as part of a direct lineage going back over 4 billion years.

This is an amazing time. 

Humans are not a sedentary species, we are the only species to explore even when we have resources to survive, owing perhaps to changes in our environment 135,000 years ago.

We are now entering a digital habitat, much like when we first stepped out of the oceans partly as amphibians who needed access to water and then later as dry-natives who only dipped in for food or fun. We are now stepping into what I like to call another liquid environment–an environment where the potential for rich and smooth interactions are immense. But instead of thawing the information previously stored on paper substrate, we have only broken it into chunks with the most tenuous connections, ice-cubes in a glass of water if I may be poetic about it.

We are clearly not at the pinnacle of what being human is, nor have we developed our last bit of technology.

However, it is very hard to see ourselves as part of a continuity which will hopefully stretch even further into the future. 

Most of the attention for how we can improve our communication and interactions center on technologies which mimic immediateness with our experiences, such as the amazing VR ability to look like you are somewhere where you are not, and layers on top of the world through AR.

Not much attention goes to the medium which took us out of what is visually present and allowed us to record and communicate ideas and thoughts beyond objects: Text.

We need to become better at being humans. Learning to use symbols and knowledge in new ways, across groups, across cultures, is a powerful, valuable, and very human goal. And it is also one that is obtainable, if we only begin to open our minds to full, complete use of computers to augment our most human of capabilities.

Douglas C. Engelbart

Note to Teachers

We would love for you to get involved. This is a long term project and we are therefore very interested in working with you on building awareness around the opportunities for the futures of text. Please email Frode Hegland for more information.

Help Us Spread the Word!

The invitation announcement in the size of a tweet:

Be part of ‘The Future of Text’: Write an article on your perspective of the future of text of around 1000 words and you could be featured alongside some of the most brilliant minds of our generation, get a hoard of signed books & meet Vint Cerf @vgcerf.

Or re-tweet our tweet:

Or maybe even re-tweet Stephen Fry’s tweet: