Symbol Space Glossary
outline for discussion only (initially by Frode Hegland, to be merged)
Considering the influential, inspiring, oft-quoted line by Leonardo Da Vinci, everything connects to everything else, which, to be honest, is more of a hindrance than an aid when building interactive systems, it is necessary necessary to explicate the differences between links, connections and so on, to provide a citeable reference to how these terms are used.
Hypertext was defined by Ted as simply: Non-sequential writing with free user movement. Isn’t that beautiful? I take this to mean that we should not be tied to non-digital legacy perspectives nor early digital perspectives, we should simply honour the user by providing as much useful interactivity as we possibly can.
Explicit connections are what we generally think of when we talk about Links, in that these connections have been made explicit by an author.
- web links the ‘traditional’ link where an author has entered a single http addressable location the link will jump to when activated
- links to different aspects of same node (relates to granularity and addressing) For example, two people may like each other but each for very different reasons/aspects of the other person
- typed links
- links with directions
- two-way links
- criteria links
- internal/external links
- link databases for back-links and analysis
Implicit connections include any connection where a criteria is used to draw the connection, such as a word's entry in a dictionary.
- Trails & Paths are connections with direction:
- From a Knowledge Garden perspective:
Effectively showing how people travel from one point to another; how two points are connected. In urban planning, this means the sidewalks, roads and trainlines. In a knowledge garden, topic driven connections are the paths. [SQUIDS: A Digital Infrastructure for Information Exchange and Generation. James Prescott, Travis Smith, Jack Park, and Mark Szpakowski]
- From an information storage and retrieval approach, Vannevar Bush discusses libraries and Trails in As We May Think:
The real heart of the matter of selection, however, goes deeper than a lag in the adoption of mechanisms by libraries, or a lack of development of devices for their use. Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.
The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.
- Guided Tours & Levels. Sam Hahn and Mark Anderson presents trails and levels of reveal to target paths through an information space to a specific reader.
- Diachronic Versioning. Documents change over time and Diachronic means taking into the history of a text/language or document.
- Search is a term for submitting keyword text to a ‘search engine’ which will then, through designed algorithms, work to provide the most useful result.
- References is a search performed in an organised corpus.
- Meta-Information for the user to choose how to see something or how to navigate.
Nodes are the things which connected. It's worth considering that nodes should be able to be visualised and thought of as connections and vice-versa. ‘Node’ has the same etymological root as knot which is a useful addition to the poetic evocation of text as texture.
- Symbols in terms of visual and cognitive meaning
- Actions The nodes should also possibly be actions which can be linked to, including specific viewSpecs
- Heading is a visual and semantically useful text describing what body text (with sub-headings and lower level headings, plus other media) refers to.
The spaces where the nodes and connections interact and represents the use-substrate/interaction medium.
This will likely include local spaces and interconnecting spaces including the notion of a document as a framed human perspective and conceptual as well as data spaces.
I have always thought of links as an extension of literature. Their structure would extend the footnote, the parenthetical note, the citation, the marginal note, the parallel element (marginal gloss or caption)– the ways text has always tried to break free.
- High-Resolution Addressing in DougEngelbart terminology meant being able to address a specific section of a document, not just a whole document.
- An address is way to refer to a specific location, which is what Web Links actually are, since there is no link between the link address and what it refers to. There are different levels of addressing, same as in the real world (mention a famous landmark, use post code or GPS).
- Annotations are written comments or highlights/sketches. This may need a separate category away from Spaces.
- Notes are small documents on specific issues, usually written by a reader.
- Comments are interpretations or further elucidations of specific text, usually written by the author/editor.
- Glosses are words inserted as an explanation, translation, or definitions, from Late Latin ‘glossa’ obsolete or foreign word.
- Scholia The Asterisk and the Dagger served similar purposes to annotations, indicating which sections the editor (ad loosely defined as someone who edits/changes the document for someone else’s assumed benefit) felt the text needed clarification.
- Associations are links between attributes already present in the nodes, either through direct ‘association’ or through mutual external ‘association’, such as two people belonging to the same club. This can also be referred to by Vint Cerf’s term ‘binding’.
- Citations/Quotations/Reference To cite originally simply meant to summon, to bring forth and to quote originally meant to to mark (a book) with chapter numbers or marginal references,” from Old French coter, from Medieval Latin quotare “distinguish by numbers, number chapters,” from Latin quotus “which in order?” This is of course poetic in how it tracks to Doug’s notion of High Resolution addressability. “To give as a reference, to cite as an authority” is from the 1570s and to “to copy out or repeat exact words” is as recent as the 1670s. To reference something is from the 1610s. I have been looking at the history of citations, expecting there to be a quite a specific start date and a period when citations were clean and clear and what was being cited/quoted/referred to was explicit and clear, but I have found no such date. What I have found is a messy, very human history of people writing and choosing to add authority or credibility to their work through referring to someone else of prestige. I therefore propose that we take into account exactly this messiness of the human situation when going forward with work on citations, aiming for robustness to the ways citations refer to other work rather than hoping that any single citation schema will work for ever.
- Footnote In 1568 Richard Judge, senior Queen’s Printer, had been put in charge of printing the Bishops’ Bible (so named as it was a response by the Church of England Bishops of London to the Calvinist ‘Geneva’ bible). As the story unfolds in The Devil’s Details (Zerby, 2003), bibles were ‘battlefields’ with margins the trenches from which scriptural annotations and citations were lobbed at previous bibles’s ‘misinterpretations’. In 1528, Queen Elizabeth’s predecessor, Henry The 8th, had ordered that the scripture be allowed to speak for itself, without “any annotations in the margin”. To cut a long story short, this did not go exactly to plan as it resulted in the invention of the footnote and serves as another illustration of the need to contextualise and decontextualise a body of text when circumstances, audiences, times or places change. The ‘ground truth’ is certainly not to be found in any text.
- Glossaries are specific dictionaries for specific use, such as for a document, author or group. Glossary originally meant a collection of glosses but has evolved to mean a list of words with corresponding comments on their specific meaning a specific document or for a specific field. This can also be called ‘terms’ and ‘vocabulary’. The gradation between translations and glossaries is an interesting and worthwhile dimension to consider.
- Underlying this is a Substrate. A physical or digital substrate is the medium though which the information is communicated (medium coming from ‘in-between’ which is why we have small, medium and large and its usage into ‘mass-media’ comes from the advertising world where it was important to be able to talk about where the advertising would be implemented). The fundamental differences between physical substrates, going from animal bones, cuneiform so on to paper via papyrus, changed the way the author could mark meaning (time and effort, complexity, durability, reproducibility, transportability and so on) but not as much as the mechanical re-productive means of writing and the current digital revolution changes the inherent nature of text yet again, along dimensions we are only beginning to grasp. “In order to depict something you must depict it on a medium” (Sternberg, 1985)
Interactions is the very human's way of choosing what to see and hide, how to see, how to compare and more.
- Translations, in the language sense, is easily thought of as taking one ‘language (tongue)’ and ‘translating (moving from one place to another place) into another language. The notion of national languages are a recent invention however, (Bellos, 2012) with prior history having seen language shifts gradually from one village to the next, which should inspire us to develop new and powerful means of ‘translating’ text.
The views through which the symbol space is visualised is not neutral.
- Views/ViewSpecs One of Doug Engelbart’s powerful notions, which he implemented in NLS/Augment, is the idea that the user should have active control over how the information on the screen is portrayed.
- Outline A view where only the headings in a document are shown.
- Document Search Results shows only what the user searched for, optionally in full sentences of paragraphs.
- Visual Aids such as boxes and annotations.
- Hypertext Views Mark Bernstein proposes an ontology of Hypertext connections (Bernstein, 2003), where he writes:
- Montage We may follow links that move from one thing to another, where the meaning resides neither in the place of departure or the point of arrival, but in the gap between, referencing the work of Adrian Miles.
- Transformation Alternatively, we may transform one thing to another, either through a stretchtext (as coined by Ted Nelson) system, or an outline processor, or by animating the text itself (Mackinlay, 1998)
- Collage Finally, we may establish connection by placing one item near another and we find that meaning is made between items: the juxtaposition of items can create, express, and qualify meanings (Mccloud, 1994)
- Interaction, Information and Exformation. I posit that interaction is the most basic aspect of existence since there can be no information within a comparison or relation, which is an information interaction: What is heat but information about movement? Similarly, and more prosaically, information which is no longer interactable, such as no longer being legible or all those who could read a specific script are all dead, this information is no longer information since it can no longer inform. Following this, my long term definition of information is simply something which is useful to someone or something at some point in some way. Exformation is Tor Nørretranders term for the information explicitly not communicated because it is assumed to be shared context, it is what makes the information useful and needs to be considered in terms of how we deal with the tenuous ‘frame’ of the document.
- Digital The term originates with fingers and for a time meant that which is discrete and non-continuous (which is analog) but has become synonymous with ‘digital data’ which, when in very large volumes, cease to be discrete and rough and gains the potential to become what I call Liquid, meaning highly interactive and highly graded.