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The Future of Text : A Second Look

Having enjoyed a successful launch of the first edition of The Future of Text, we aim to go explore even more diverse perspectives for the second edition.

Technologies

This means looking further into the idea of what the book itself can be, the technology. There will be a printed version using Visual-Meta, but we will also look to build and support alternative digital editions, including ongoing our own work on the Augmented Text Tools for experimental ways for reading the text. We simply need to act on what we preach–not just write about text but interact with different futures. We need to build and ‘live in’ what we currently believe the future should be, then see how it feels and adjust our rudders.

Technologies for Minds

What we read shapes how we think–that much is not controversial. How we read and how we write also has an impact on our thinking.

We must never forget that text is a human media which is always mediated by a technology, be that something as simple as learning the shapes of letterforms to imprint them on clay, papyrus or on bus shelters with a spray can, or even traced in sand. It can be as high tech as what many of us use everyday without thinking; a social media comment transmitted to millions at a simple tap of a finger, displayed in high-resolution on brilliant screens. It can even be ‘written’ by a piece of technology, such at GPT-3, but still, it is a human medium. Computers fare well with just zeros and ones, they encode in letters to communicate with us.

Diversity Of Texts

The future of text does not have a single vector, it includes text drawn by graphite on hand made paper, text printed on paper, metal and textiles, as well as digital text on substrates mimicking paper and text liberated by digital opportunities. Digital text will also include computational text which actively changes depending on contexts, augmented text the user can interact with and other types of text we don’t have the imaginations to think of quite yet.

Diversity Of Minds In Texts

‘Diversity’ is a word loaded with different meanings for different people but just like we have to look beyond the first-impression reading of the word ‘text’ we must look beyond superficial aspects of diversity.

The diversity of perspectives in the first edition covered wide areas, but text is for everyone and so must be co-designed as widely as possible. We must all write the future of text, to some degree, otherwise our future will be shallow indeed.

Kicking off the effort for not only the widest review of the future of text ever undertaken (that was accomplished in the first edition, which speaks more to the lack of general interest in text, than it does to our own effort), we are kicking off to make the second edition substantially more diverse, with a meeting online on the 25th of February. Please feel free to join us, just email notify@futuretextpublishing.com for the Zoom details.

It is important to anchor the discourse in text and not lose focus on this while we explore and introduce ourselves to wider communities. The book has come out of the decade long Future of Text Symposium and experience shows that there are not that many people out there who are interested in text. This leads to an initial question of how can we evangelise the importance of the further development of text? How can we make people care and how can we involve them?

Further questions include: How can we increase our geographic, cultural, gender, professional and cognitive range to a wide range of thinkers to really look at what text is, and how can future interactions with text augment our ability to communicate and understand actual intent, not just surface level marks? How can text use emerging powerful technology to spark imaginations and help us look beyond our own opinions? How can we look at texts together and how can we organise ourselves to discuss our world and our understanding of it?

The arts, academia and research has built in areas to spread into. We need to go wider: How can we better understand text if we look at it from the perspective of those whose use of text is a matter of life and death–text in the military. How can we deepen our understanding by cultivating a dialogue with successful tech companies for whom financial margins determine what gets implemented and what gets left by the wayside? And how can the world shift if we engage politicians to be more involved in how they read and how they author? What about from an architect’s perspective? Or a gardener?

These are some initial questions. What further questions can a more diverse group generate? Good answers are not as hard as good questions.

Aim

In the end, as the Editor, I am responsible for the direction of the book and I reiterate the necessity to focus on actual text, otherwise we lose the core area we are looking at, and to look at different people to include in the dialogue. However, let me make it crystal clear what the real and deep goal is: It is simply to spread love. If we do not tweak our communications around love, then our species will have little chance to overcome social disparities and climate change, to mention only two serious issues at the time of writing.

No technology is passive.

We can make tools and infrastructures to continue to make it easier to send fake news and emotionally laden perspectives without context around the world to maximise emotional distance, or we can work on tools and infrastructures to augment how we read and understand, and how we write and communicate to maximise empathy and understanding. We must evolve love. In all media. This project is about text. Love in text.

Let me define love: By love I mean listening, connecting and caring. Love means being able to reach in and grab the communication in such a way that understanding is increased and connections felt. A political document or dialogue, or even a scientific paper on climate change needs to allow the reader to really get to grips with what the author’s intent was and what they have to back up their assertions. If we can provide the means, the tools–the interactions–where the reader is fully augmented and ‘feels’ powerfully able to interact with the material, so that they become more connected and can take ownership of the dialogue, not to be brainwashed but to have a clean mind to evaluate and truly ‘listen’ with an open mind.

Karen Armstrong says that religion is a behaviour, it’s not a passive belief, something a religious and non-religious person can relate to. Similarly, love is also not simply an emotion, it is also a behaviour. We can act with love towards someone we completely disagree with and we can, as a community, work with the underlying issues and contexts which has created such a situation, whereas hate will only ever blind us and close down opportunities for building, for constructing, for connecting.

Picture loving your work and loving the tools you work with. Picture loving the information you deal with allowing this to let you love more of humanity, by reducing misunderstanding, superficial prejudicial understanding and giving you greater ownership of your understanding and your place in the world.

Love matters, it’s not just a private emotion. Only love can save the world but we have to build the means through which love can flow.

Practical Steps

Meeting Notes from the launch on the 25th of February.

We have a shared Google Doc we discuss who to invite for the second edition. Please contact the editor for access should you be interested: frode@liquid.info

Submission Guidelines.