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CommentPress was developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book as part of their ongoing experiments with “networked books”. First instituted in 2006 as part of McKenzie Wark’s GAM3R 7H3ORY 1.1 publication, the software was developed to work with WordPress and intended to reconfigure the nature of blog discussions. CommentPress allows respondents to post comments in the margin of the text, on a paragraph-by-paragraph or “whole page” basis. This breaks down the top-down hieararchy typical of blogs whereby a main post is positioned vertically above any commentary. Instead a reader may view the text and commentary at the same time.

Version 1.0 of CommentPress was released to the general public in July 2007 and the software has been used to generate discussion around Master’s Theses, scholarly articles, and books. (more…)

Google Notebook

Google Notebook is an annotation tool that allows users to clip excerpts of text or image from the web, comment upon them, tag them, and organize them into notebooks. Notebooks can be shared with other users or published as public web pages. The user may also use the notebook to type in their own notes.

Text in notebooks can be formatted using a rich-text editor, allowing the easy addition of links, formatting, etc. Notes can be re-organized via drag-and-drop and can be sorted according to tags. Browser extensions for Internet Explorer and Firefox allow access to notebooks from a corner of the browser window and allow the user to add content to a notebook with just a right mouse-click.

Starter Links: Google Notebook Tour | Announcement on Google Blog

CommentPress Transliteracies Research Report

Developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, CommentPress “is an open source theme for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text. Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with CommentPress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog.” (CommentPress home page)

Starter Links: CommentPress home page | Institute for the Future of the Book | Examples of CommentPress in action

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight

Google’s OpenSocial

“The web is more interesting when you can build apps that easily interact with your friends and colleagues. But with the trend towards more social applications also comes a growing list of site-specific APIs that developers must learn.

OpenSocial provides a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds.

Common APIs mean you have less to learn to build for multiple websites. OpenSocial is currently being developed by Google in conjunction with members of the web community. The ultimate goal is for any social website to be able to implement the APIs and host 3rd party social applications. There are many websites implementing OpenSocial, including Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.” (OpenSocial home page)

Starter Links: Video of highlights from the OpenSocial rollout event: Google Campfire One | OpenSocial home page | OpenSocial Getting Started Guide | Sample applications developed with the OpenSocial APIs

KNFB Readers for the Visually Impaired

The KNFB Classic Reader was developed by Ray Kurzweil in association with the National Federation of the Blind and Envision Technology. About the size of a PDA, the reader uses a camera to take pictures of text and and using text-to-speech technology, reads the content aloud. The user can store information for future reference and transfer the information to a computer.

The company also offers a mobile reader for the Nokia N82 phone. In addition to the reader functions, users can access the phone and PDA functions of the device.

Starter Links: KNFB Announcement on Envision’s web site | A Washington Business Journal article detailing plans to release a cell-phone based reader | KNFB Reading Technology Inc. home page | Classic Reader page on KNFB web site | Mobile Reader on KNFB web site

History of Reading Annotated Bibliography

Partially annotated bibliography of the Transliteracies History of Reading research group. This bibliography was created by research assistants in the History of Reading working group, and will be expanded as the Transliteracies project continues. See also the Online Literacy Skills Bibliography and the Social Computing Bibliography. Objects for Study in the project’s Research Clearinghouse contains annotated citations of a wider range of related materials (including web, hardware, software, historical, and artistic resources as well as selected items from this bibliography).

History of Reading Annotated Bibliography

Google’s Knol

Knol is a new publishing platform in testing by Google. Compared to Wikipedia, Knol differs in one crucial aspect: authorial transparency. “Knols,” or pages, are created by one author who then has editorial control over the article. Other users may submit revisions to the author, but they may not edit the page on their own. Knol will include multiple pages on the same topic and will allow users to rate and comment upon individual “knols.” As of this writing, Knol is in a preliminary testing phase and there is no projected public release date.

Starter Links: Google Blog announcing Knol | C|Net Article |

History Flow

History Flow is a tool created by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenburg as part of the IBM Collaborative User Experience Research Group. Viegas’ and Wattenburg’s creation visualizes “dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors. In its current implementation, history flow is being used to visualize the evolutionary history of wiki* pages on Wikipedia” (history flow home page). The tool works by color coding edits according to the user who makes the changes. The result is a richly detailed visual overview of the life of a page. History Flow’s outputs allow visual analysis of issues critical to the credibility of Wikipedia, such as collaboration, vandalism, edit wars, etc.

Starter Links: History Flow home page | IBM Collaborative User Experience home page | Wikipedia

El Muro

Research Report by Kate Marshall
(created 6/01/07; version 1.0)

Related Categories: Alternative Interfaces | Art Installations

Original Object for Study description

A self-inscribing wall, El Muro is an installation piece designed by Willy Sengewald and Richard The in 2004 as part of the “Sensitive Skin” project at the Berlin University of the Arts Digital Media course. The large monolith of El Muro stands alone in a darkened room, and produces graffiti on its surface that appears to write itself. The project calls for the dividing lines of urban and architectural space to be read — and re-read — as built expressions of political reality and as communications media. The walls to which El Muro refers not only include the borders of Berlin, Israel-Palestine, and US-Mexico, but also the anonymous urban walls that become advertising and graffiti canvases, as well as the wall as an abstract architectural element. In each case, the support structures of the built world become self-reflexive reading interfaces. (more…)

Moving Canvas

Research Report by Kate Marshall
(created 06/01/07; version 1.0)

Related Categories: Alternative Interfaces | Art Installations

Original Object for Study description

Moving Canvas, a combination of technologies and installations designed by Frédéric Eyl, Gunnar Green, and Richard The, involves the placement of an LED projection device (“Parasite”) on the side of a commuter subway train. The device is enclosed in a suitcase equipped with suction cups, and its projection aligned with the subway walls. The ensuing display projects words and images on the tunnel walls, viewable through the train windows. Cinematic time and commuter time combine radically as bodies and messages literally communicate through the subway tunnels.

The project was developed in 2005 as part of a digital media class at the Berlin University of the Arts, and exhibited with the university’s “Here/There” project. Moving Canvas takes another look at the problem of here and there by asking what lies between. (more…)

Online Literacy Skills Bibliography

Suggested scholarly books and articles related to research into online reading. This bibliography was created by Monica Bulger, and will be expanded as the Transliteracies project continues. See also the History of Reading group’s bibliography and the Social Computing group’s bibliography. Objects for Study in the project’s Research Clearinghouse contains annotated citations of a wider range of related materials (including web, hardware, software, historical, and artistic resources as well as selected items from this bibliography).

A master list of this bibliography, alphabetized by author, is also available in .pdf and .doc formats.

Online Literacy Skills Bibliography

Social Computing Bibliography

Working bibliography of the Transliteracies Social Computing research group. This bibliography was created by research assistants Monica Bulger and Katrina Kimport, and will be expanded as the Transliteracies project continues. See also the Online Literacy Skills Bibliography and the History of Reading group’s bibliography. Objects for Study in the project’s Research Clearinghouse contains annotated citations of a wider range of related materials (including web, hardware, software, historical, and artistic resources as well as selected items from this bibliography).

Social Computing Bibliography

Media Archaeology

“This dossier on Media Archaeology provides further reading around the mini-festival An Archaeology of Imaginary Media, which was held at De Balie, February 5 – 8, 2004. The dossier contains a number of key-texts on Media Archaeology, a relatively new approach to writing media history. The dossier also provides links to key-thinkers in the field, most of whom participated in our project on imaginary media.”
Media Archaeology


Accessed online or in downloadable form, WordNet allows users to tap intelligently into “a large lexical database of English” for the purpose of exploring concepts and their interrelations.

“Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms (synsets), each expressing a distinct concept. Synsets are interlinked by means of conceptual-semantic and lexical relations. The resulting network of meaningfully related words and concepts can be navigated…. WordNet’s structure makes it a useful tool for computational linguistics and natural language processing.” In essence, WordNet can be conceived of as an extremely high-powered, interactive thesaurus that facilitates the rapid pursuit of conceptual relations and affiliations—a kind of “rapid prototyping” of language-based concepts. While reading a poem, for instance, one might use WordNet to explore the author’s choice of a particular word by seeing the word cocooned within a structured universe of alternative and related “synsets.” Developed by a team led by George A. Miller, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Princeton University.

Starter Links: WordNet | George A. Miller’s home page

Zoomable Map Image Collection Sensemaking System (ZooMICSS): The Katrina/Rita Context

Zoomable Map Image Collection Sensemaking System (ZooMICSS), recombines and organizes photos of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

Developed by the Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M, the Zoomable Map Image Collection Sensemaking System (ZooMICSS) enacts Participant Action Research (the development of technology with rather than for the New Orleans community) to visualize user photos of the hurricane’s effects. The project was conceived in response to the drastic growth of locative multimedia. Photographs are organized both geographically and according to different visual and semantic connections between them. Users of the ZooMICSS system are able to compare destruction and rebuilding across the city and to browse the images in a meaningful way. The creators conceptualize the project as a collective visual history and a tool for residents to retell the stories of the event.

Starter Links: ZooMICSS Project Site | combinFormation | Interface Ecology Website (Texase A&M)

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nicole Satrosielski


Web-recombiner program that applies Andruid Kerne’s theory of “interface ecology.”

Created by Andruid Kerne and the Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M, CollageMachine allows users to explore a recombinant information space, where different web elements surface, blend, and adapt to their browsing. The program automatically seeks out and imports media elements of interest and continuously streams these elements into the user’s field of view. Thus, the user is able to locate information and to generate conceptual links that may not have been possible with a traditional web browser. CollageMachine has been further developed in the Interface Ecology Lab as combinFormation, an agent-driven tool that can be used online to build collage-style combinations of visual and textual scraps from web sites, allowing the user then rearrange and reprioritize the found-data to facilitate the discovery of relations.

Starter Links: Andruid Kerne’s home page | combinFormation | Interface Ecology Website (Texase A&M)

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nicole Satrosielski

Interface Ecology

Interface ecology is a theoretical framework for the study of relationships between interfaces; its objects range from social to computer interfaces. The practice of interface ecology is characterized by three intertwined objectives: the analysis of interfaces as cultural artifacts from an ecosystems approach, the production of systems and interfaces that elevate the role of human expression, and the translation between disparate cultures and disciplines. This approach was first theorized by Andruid Kerne through his own interdisciplinary work in performance art and computer science at New York University (1997-2001). He has published on interface ecology primarily within computer science and digital art forums from this period to the present. Five years ago, Kerne established the Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M University. (more…)

Thinking at the Interface: A Review of the 2007 HASTAC Electronic Techtonics Conference

“Thinking at the Interface: A Review of the 2007 HASTAC Electronic Techtonics Conference” by Nicole Starosielski.
(version 1.0; created 6/5/07)

About the Author: Nicole Starosielski is a PhD student in Film and Media Studies at UCSB. Her current research interests include media historiography, perception and affect of digital media, and 3-D animation environments. She is also a media artist working in the integration of theory and production at the intersection of the humanities, sciences and arts. She has participated in the UCSB IGERT program in Interactive Digital Multimedia and is currently the research assistant for UCSB’s Center for Film, Television and New Media. Her recent projects include TechConnect (a mockumentary about technology and community), Bleach (an experimental ethnography on race, gender and family) and Minotour (a location-aware mobile tour application that weaves a spatial tale from Wikipedia). Read more about the author.

Transliteracies Research Paper PDF Version PDF version of the research report.

Thinking at the Interface: A Review of the 2007 HASTAC Electronic Techtonics Conference


From April 19th-21st, 2007, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) held the “Electronic Techtonics: Thinking at the Interface” conference at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. It marked the culmination of the In|Formation Year, a year long mashup of public programming, technological innovation, and interdisciplinary discussion on the humanistic dimensions of technology. “Electronic Techtonics” brought together a variety of perspectives on the material interface and itself served as an interface, in the broader sense of the word, between a broad range of disciplinary approaches. The concepts in circulation ranged from newly proposed theories for the interface, to the exploration of new interfaces, to a critical cultural analysis of how interfaces are emerging, operating, and being deployed. The following report summarizes some of the key panels and events at the conference; and also reflects on their implications for the Transliteracies Project. (more…)


Valence is a software program written by Ben Fry to dynamically render complex information as a visual, three-dimensional, and relational representation. It has been produced and installed in multiple versions that take various inputs. The original version, which ‘reads’ novels, was installed in 2001 at Ars Electronica in Austria and appeared in the film Minority Report. The latest version, which visualizes genetic information, was installed in 2002 at the Whitney Biennial in New York and appeared in the film Hulk. Images and quick time movies of various instantiations of Valence can be viewed at Fry’s website

Starter Links: Ben Fry’s home page

Ben Fry, Valence (2001)

Research Report by Brooke Belisle
(created 05/21/07; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories:

Original Object for Study description

Valence is a software program written by Ben Fry to dynamically render complex information as a visual, three-dimensional, and relational representation. It has been produced and installed in multiple versions that take various inputs. The original version, which ‘reads’ novels, was installed in 2001 at Ars Electronica in Austria and appeared in the film Minority Report. The latest version, which visualizes genetic information, was installed in 2002 at the Whitney Biennial in New York and appeared in the film Hulk. Images and quick time movies of various instantiations of Valence can be viewed at Fry’s website. (more…)

Reading as Gathering

“Reading as Gathering” by Elizabeth Swanstrom.
(version 1.0; created 5/18/07)

About the Author: Elizabeth Swanstrom is a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at UC Santa Barbara. Her research interests include twentieth-century Latin-American and American literatures, the literature of the fantastic, history of science, media theory, and science-fiction film and literature. A recent paper she wrote on issues of memory and information technology in William Gibson’s science fiction titled “Wax Blocks, Data Banks, and File #0467839: The Archive of Memory in William Gibson’s Science Fiction” appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. Swanstrom is a member of the development and editorial team of The Agrippa Files: An Online Archive of Agrippa (a book of the dead). In addition to her academic work, she writes short fiction and serves as co-editor for the online literary journal Sunspinner. Read more about the author.

Related Categories:

Transliteracies Research Paper PDF Version PDF version of the research report.

In the Transliteracies’ research clearing house we’ve been seeing many research reports that focus on reading as a collective activity that brings together a group of readers to one reading locus in the online or new media environment. In such spaces multiple readers have access to the same text–they read it, they respond to it, and they help write it, either explicitly in the case of wikipedia or indirectly (or, at least, differently!) in the case of blog platforms. This is extremely interesting, but I am equally intrigued by the way that reading is not just a collective activity, but a collecting one, a process that not only allows people to come together and gather as a group of readers, but one that also involves the act of gathering, sorting, sifting, organizing, processing, and editing information.

I would like to focus here on precisely this: reading as a collective and collecting activity, reading as gathering. By looking at a few case studies and excerpts from my own research reports, I wish to explore, however briefly, the way collective and collecting reading shift in the online environment and to consider what happens when the act of collecting or selecting becomes an automated or partially automated part of the reading process. (more…)

Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPoR)

TAPoR is a web portal for analyzing digital text. The project is based out of McMaster University and includes a project team from six different Canadian universities.

Created by a consortium of Canadian universities, TAPoR is a collection of online text-analysis tools—ranging from the basic to sophisticated—that allows users to run search, statistical, collocation, extraction, aggregation, visualization, hypergraph, transformation, and other “tools” on texts. (The site comes seeded with prepared texts, but users can sign up for a free account and input their own.) TAPoR allows tools to be mixed and matched in a mashup-style “workbench.” Particularly impressive is the “recipes” page, which in step-by-step fashion suggests ways that tools can be combined for particular purposes—e.g., identify themes, analyze colloquial word use, visualize text, explore changes in language use by a writer, create an online interactive bibliography, build a social network map from text, create a chronological timeline from bibliographical text, etc. As regards the general philosophy of TAPoR, which descends from the mature computational-linquistics side of humanities computing (the oldest use of computers for the humanities), project developer Geoffrey Rockwell says at the beginning of his article for the Text Analysis Developers Alliance (TADA) entitled “What is Text Analysis?”:

Text analyis tools aide the interpreter asking questions of electronic texts:” Much of the evidence used by humanists is in textual form. One way of interpreting texts involves bringing questions to these texts and using various reading practices to reflect on the possible answers. Simple text analysis tools can help with this process of asking questions of a text and retrieving passages that help one think through the questions. The computer does not replace human interpretation, it enhances it…. (1) Text-analysis tools break a text down into smaller units like words, sentences, and passages, and then (2) Gather these units into new views on the text that aide interpretation.”

Starter Links: TAPoR | TAPoR Recipes | Text Analysis Developers Alliance (TADA)

ACLS Humanities E-Book

Sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Humanities E-Book (HEB) initiative digitizes scholarly books in the humanities. E-books in a range of subjects, from African History to Women’s Studies, are hosted on the Initiative’s site and available via institutional or individual subscription. The site also hosts a number of XML-based books.

“Humanities E-Book is a digital collection offered by the ACLS in collaboration with ten learned societies, nearly 80 contributing publishers, and librarians at the University of Michigan’s Scholarly Publishing Office. The result is an online, fully searchable collection of high-quality books in the Humanities, recommended and reviewed by scholars and featuring unlimited multi-user access and free, downloadable MARC records. HEB is available 24/7 on- and off-campus through standard web browsers” (HEB web site)

Starter Links: Humanities E-book | American Council of Learned Societies

Remembrance of Media Past (Ayhan Aytes)

Remembrance of Media Past engages with cultural archetypes as motivations for designing interfaces in contemporary media. I chose to take illuminated manuscripts as a central focus of my research because they were perhaps the most significant medium of complex information structures before the introduction of the mechanical reproduction beginning with the Gutenberg era. In its final articulation, the project components attempt to link these antecedent cultural interfaces to more current approaches to complex information structures. (more…)

Peter Cho, “Typotopo”

Research Report by Kate Marshall
(created 4/27/07; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories: Text Visualization | Text and Multimedia

Original Object for Study description

Peter Cho’s body of typographic experiments, collected on Typotopo, visually explore the constituent parts of language and narrative. Cho’s work presents a range of graphic design innovations that use digital technology to access forms of letters or forms of texts. The text visualizations showcased on Typotopo ask not only how technology influences typography, but also what happens to the act of reading when letters, words, and narratives are experienced in interactive, dynamic environments.


Peter Cho, “Typotopo”Transliteracies Research Report

Typotopo is a website that collects the typographical and topographical work of Peter Cho.

This site represents the space where typography and topography overlap: explorations of type in virtual environments, experiments in mapping, and innovations in textual display. TYPOTOPO examines how the act of reading evolves when letters and words, viewed both as text and image, are placed in interactive and dynamic environments. TYPOTOPO explores typographic information spaces and the possibilities for playful, expressive letterforms (Typotopo).

Starter Links: Typotopo | Peter Cho’s home page

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kate Marshall

WordsEye: An Automatic Text-to-Scene Conversion System

Research Report by Nicole Starosielski
(created 3/13/07; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories: Text and Multimedia | Alternative Interfaces | Text visualization


WordsEye is a text-to-scene conversion tool that allows users to construct a computer modeled scene through the use of simple text. Users describe an environment, objects, actions and images, and WordsEye parses and conducts a syntactic and semantic analysis of these written statements. The program assigns depictors for each semantic element and its characteristics and then assembles a three-dimensional scene that approximates the user’s written description. This scene can then be modified and rendered as a static two-dimensional image. (more…)

Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s News Reader (2003) (with David Durand, Brion Moss, and Elaine Froehlich)

Research Report by Brooke Belisle
(created 2/21/07; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories: New Approaches to Reading Print Texts, New Reading Interfaces

Original Object for Study description

“It is difficult to get the news…”

In 2003, New Radio and Performing Arts commissioned two artworks by Noah Wardrip-Fruin for their website, Turbulence.org. [1] Wardrip-Fruin produced Regime Change and News Reader, both of which he titled “Textual Instruments.” News Reader offers an interface for reading current news stories, and for what Wardrip-Fruin calls “playing” these stories or “playing” the online news environment. [2]As the user interacts with the news stories by clicking highlighted text, the stories multiply and warp in unpredictable ways. (more…)


Research Report by Kimberly Knight
(created 2/19/07; version 1.0)

Related Categories: Text Visualization | Social Networking Systems | Online Knowledge Bases

Original Object for Study description

LibraryThing is an online knowledge base and social networking tool for bibliophiles. The website allows users to catalog their personal libraries. By entering in their own books, users can locate others with similar libraries, find suggestions for books they might like, or even get “unsuggestions” for the books that are least like their own. Users can organize their collections according to self-defined tags and also view how others have tagged the same books. (more…)

Intelligent Fridge Magnets

Modeled after the various types of refrigerator poetry magnets, the Viktoria Institute’s intelligent fridge magnets are aware of the other magnets surrounding them. The magnets can categorize the type of word (noun, verb, etc.) that is shown on each 16-character lcd display and will learn grammar rules by evaluating relationships between the magnets that are placed next to each other. Once they learn grammar rules, the magnets can substitute words from the same category to make new sentences.

Starter Links: Viktoria Institute website | Article on the Australian Broadcasting Company website

Tag Crowd

A tool that allows users to create tag clouds of any text.

“When we look at a tag cloud, we see not only a richly informative, beautiful image that communicates much in a single glance. We see a whole new approach to text.

Potential uses for tag clouds extend far outside the online realm: as topic summaries for written works, as name tags for conferences, as resumes in a single glance, as analyses for survey data, as visual poetry; the list goes on. ” (TagCrowd website).

Starter Links: TagCrowd | Post on SmartMobs.com

agoraXchange-Make the Game Change the World

“agoraXchange is an online community for designing a massive multi-player global politics game challenging the violence and inequality of our present political system. Phase I was launched as a commission for the Tate Online on 15 March 2004 and now contains a database of ideas for the rules, game environment, and site look-and-feel.”


Following is a quote from the game manifesto:

“Our present political institutions are not natural or inevitable, but an experiment gone awry, a utopia for the paranoid. We seek collaborators for bringing an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth. We call on all communities of and for the imagination, for creative thinkers and visionaries, including citizens, activists, artists, scholars, political leaders, and the stateless, to eliminate those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities. We seek to develop in agoraXchange and elsewhere laws that will privilege creativity, empathy, and freedom.”

Self Organizing Maps

“The SOM is an algorithm used to visualize and interpret large high-dimensional data sets. Typical applications are visualization of process states or financial results by representing the central dependencies within the data on the map.

The map consists of a regular grid of processing units, “neurons”. A model of some multidimensional observation, eventually a vector consisting of features, is associated with each unit. The map attempts to represent all the available observations with optimal accuracy using a restricted set of models. At the same time the models become ordered on the grid so that similar models are close to each other and dissimilar models far from each other.”

The map that can be seen through the following link is a great application of the SOM idea made by Andre Skupin:

In Terms of Geography

“Description of Content:
Visualization of the geographic knowledge domain based on more than 22,000 conference abstracts submitted to the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (1993-2002). Landscape features express the degree of topical focus, with elevated areas corresponding to more well-defined, topical regions and low-lying areas corresponding to a mingling of various topics. Dominant terms are used as labels for topical regions.
Description of Unique Features:
The most unique aspect of this visualization is its combination of intense computation with geographic metaphors and cartographic design considerations. From a computational perspective, the use of a self-organizing map consisting of a large number of neurons (10,000) is fairly unique. The final map presented here aims to explore how far we can go in the design of map-like information visualizations. Its use of a range of label sizes (from very large to very small) on a large-format map and the omission of a legend are aimed at challenging traditional notions of interactivity, by encouraging viewers to vary their distance from the map and instigating discussion.”

Brian Kim Stefans, “The Dreamlife of Letters” (2000)

Research Report by Kim Knight
(created 2/18/07; version 1.0)

Related Categories: New Reading Interfaces | Text and Multimedia | Collective Reading

Original Object for Study description

“The Dreamlife of Letters” is a flash poem by Brian Kim Stefans. Published in 2000, the piece is based upon an appropriated poem by Rachel Blau DuPlessis and takes the viewer through the mobile and unstable “dreamlife” of letters. The words of DuPlessis’ poem have been grouped together according to their first letter and animated in such a way that the passive viewer can only watch as the text moves around the screen. Influenced by the traditions of concrete poetry and ambient poetics, the piece foregrounds language not only as a medium of meaning, but also as a medium of design. (more…)

CaveWriting and the CAVE Simulator

Research Report by Nicole Starosielski
(created 2/6/07; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories: Immersive Text Environments | Alternative Interfaces

Original Object for Study description


Cave Writing is an interdisciplinary artistic practice developed at Brown University for the CAVE simulator, a virtual reality environment typically used for scientific visualization. Cave Writing began in 2002 when hypertext fiction writer Robert Coover initiated a series of workshops in Brown University’s CAVE that brought together faculty, students, artists and scientists in the development of creative projects integrating text, visual imagery, narrative and sound. Several notable projects from the workshop include Screen, developed by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, et al., John Cayley’s Torus and William Gillespie’s Word Museum. The release of CaveWriting 2006, a spatial hypertext authoring system designed by workshop developers, allows authors to directly manipulate text, imagery and 3D models in a graphical front-end environment. CaveWriting now expands beyond the physical limits of the CAVE simulator, making it relatively easy for anyone with a compatible personal computer to experiment and explore writing and reading in three dimensional environments. (more…)

Table of Contents

1. Images

Santa Barbara Bible
UC Santa Barbara’s Book of Hours
Pages from the New Atalantis

2. Video Resources

Conference (2005) Video
Rama Hoetzlein’s “Quanta: Knowledge Organization for Interdisciplinary Research”

3. Flash Animations

“In the Beginning Was the Word…”
“Boston Correspondence”

4. Highlighted Research Reports & Papers

NINE’s Collex Tool

5. Highlighted Objects for Study

6. View All Items

Tag Cloud

“A tag cloud (or weighted list in visual design) can be used as a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.” (From Wikipedia.)

Cognitive Psychology

“Cognitive psychology is the school of psychology that examines internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language. It had its foundations in the Gestalt psychology of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka, and in the work of Jean Piaget, who studied intellectual development in children. Cognitive psychologists are interested in how people understand, diagnose, and solve problems, concerning themselves with the mental processes which mediate between stimulus and response. Cognitive theory contends that solutions to problems take the form of algorithms–rules that are not necessarily understood but promise a solution, or heuristics–rules that are understood but that do not always guarantee solutions. In other instances, solutions may be found through insight, a sudden awareness of relationships.” (From Wikipedia)


“An application programming interface (API) is a source code interface that a computer system or program library provides in order to support requests for services to be made of it by a computer program. An API differs from an application binary interface in that it is specified in terms of a programming language that can be compiled when an application is built, rather than an explicit low level description of how data is laid out in memory. The software that provides the functionality described by an API is said to be an implementation of the API. The API itself is abstract, in that it specifies an interface and does not get involved with implementation details.” (From Wikipedia)

Web Crawler

“A web crawler (also known as a Web spider or Web robot) is a program or automated script which browses the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner…This process is called Web crawling or spidering. Many legitimate sites, in particular search engines, use spidering as a means of providing up-to-date data. Web crawlers are mainly used to create a copy of all the visited pages for later processing by a search engine, that will index the downloaded pages to provide fast searches. Crawlers can also be used for automating maintenance tasks on a Web site, such as checking links or validating HTML code. Also, crawlers can be used to gather specific types of information from Web pages, such as harvesting e-mail addresses (usually for spam). (from wikipedia)