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Re: Non-linear full-2d writing (again)

From:Sai Emrys <sai@...>
Date:Saturday, January 28, 2006, 6:18
>From an offlist email (w/ permission):
On 1/25/06, Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@...> wrote:
> Hi Sai! (O Prophet! :-) )
> 1. Thanks for trying to explain your notion of "non-linear", and how it > differs from simply "not presented along a straight line". If I might > summarise, I think your meaning of "non-linear" is what I would call > "non-sequential". So we're really talking about basic internal structure > here, rather than (primarily) about representation.
*nod* Two good tests are branching factor and recursivity. If it can't to both to arbitrary degrees, it's not what I'm talking about. That's not to say that I'm claiming exclusive rights to 'non-linear writing' or anything - nor am I saying anything bad about people (or their work) who use a different definition. I just don't have a more exact way of easily naming the idea.
> 2. But what are we analysing and representing - is it real, live thought? > As seen in the wild? If so, tall order! :-) I agree that the subject of > "thought" and "thinking" is poorly served by trying to reduce it too > simplistically. No writing technique I've ever encountered even begins to > capture a fraction of what goes thru my head when I think! (And I've been > writing with something like that ideal in mind for many years, and have > explored some weird methods.)
Note my response to Ray. Yes, I want to be able to represent "real live thought in the wild". No, that's not the full domain. Nor does failing at it imply failure at the general NLF2DWS task. I don't think that writing can *fully* represent thought, in that thought contains the actual things that symbols point to - e.g. the sensation of pain. (Or the frame/concept of marriage for that matter...) But we can surely get closer, and do better at representing the *structure* etc
> 3. I'm glad you're "in cogsci", by which I'm sure you mean "the cognitive > sciences". Care to be more explicit? Are we talking about experimental > psychology? Modelling? Whatever it is, it gives you, I'm sure, a better > handle than most on how hard the representation problem can be, and even the > definition of what constitutes thought.
4th year undergrad (graduating in May), UC Berkeley, majoring in cognitive science; emphasis in computer modeling / linguistics / neurobiology (depending on how you want to count it). My interests are somewhat broader, but it's a fairly good fit, and does the integrative part fairly well within its domain.
> 4. You mention context, and also meditation. Both considerations lead one > to favour network views of thought processes and concepts, I believe. I > wonder though whether the role of hierarchic models is at an end?
Explain? Also, what do you mean by 'hierarchic models' here?
> 5. By and large, the same Chinese characters have the same meaning to > someone speaking Cantonese as to one speaking Mandarin. Yet they are > realised as different sounds. The fact that the sign for English "mouth" is > read in Mandarin "ko", and is replicated in many compound characters as a > clue to meaning & pronunciation in Mandarin, does not preclude its being > pronounced "Xue" in all such contexts, does it? Yes, I'm aware they also > encode sound to a limited degree, but that doesn't mean that they don't > carry the same meaning to speakers of other languages. Both Korean and > Japanese texts once used Chinese characters exclusively, and only North > Korea seems to have successfully repalced them with the Hangul syllabary.
I was only talking about the fact that they code for meaning within the same reading-language (e.g. Mandarin). E.g., there are many examples of series of characters that share a radical or two, and also share some part of their pronounciation.
> 6. As I wrote to you earlier, I doubt I'll have time to wade thru 200-odd > posts in the previous thread. I have trouble enough keeping up with my > email as it is. And if we can't get to the core of your intention in a > couple of emails, then I would seriously wonder whether even you knew what > you were after.
I know what I'm after, it's just that I have difficulty expressing it because I have difficulty representing it concretely to myself. If I could do the latter, then I'd be able to make the system. As is, I have to point at it and wave my hands a lot. (I think this is an inherent problem in trying to think about thought-patterns and major low-level changes to thought-representation or -encoding. [Here, 'thought-representation' is e.g. as in writing oneself notes, or thinking linguistically {i.e. verbally or textually or whatnot}.])
> 7. Regular writing systems do tolerably well at encoding significant speech > distinctions. They do a lousy job of encoding ideas, perhaps. But they are > static, and so cannot [re]present a web of ideas, nor their flux, at all > well. So I'm lead to consider interactive sign systems as a better > alternative.
I don't see what a dynamic system could do that a static cannot in terms of representing a web of ideas. Elaborate? Flux - there perhaps you have something. And also, possibly, as an automatic 'zoom' effect - e.g. getting more detail to pop up about things you're looking at, or using it to traverse the web. But those would be kludgable in a static system, and aren't IMO major enough features to warrant worrying about just yet. If you can pitch it better though, please do...
> 8. Interactive systems suggests using some available computing power. That > is now ubiquitous, portable, and at times more cost-effective than pen and > paper. It also offers incredibly compact storage while permitting > incredibly detailed presentation wtih good ergonomic values. Consider the > possibility of a complete dump of the contents of a human brain, stored as a > database on a notebook PC, with a content- and context-addressable store, > fast retrieval and arbitrary levels of zoom. If we don't have it now, it'll > be common in 20 years or sooner. Right now we can use a search engine like > kartOO to address all the information (and untruths) available on the > Internet, using arbitrarily precise search queries, and retrieve that data > most relevant to our request within seconds. We can explore the network of > ideas that connect to any point returned by our search. Years of reading > encyclopaedias and dictionaries, or of haunting libraries, in the past would > not turn up the useful and relevant information that we now can in a single > evening. Nor would we, following a dedicated program of research, have > begun to discover some of the connections and ramifications that are now > readily apparent. Therefore our understanding may be wider as well as > deeper. I hope I've shown you that (I at least believe that) a dynamic > nonlinear writing system can deliver more advantages than a static one. > I'll try to find that cognitive map software I talked about before - I think > you'd like it.
I don't see what this adds to the previous...
> 9. Gaze direction is the only control input that some paraplegics have for > using a computer. That's why enabling software for them uses it. But those > with normally functioning hands have to type, mouse, puck, cursor or pen > their way into the computer. Using gaze direction for everyone is one way > of freeing one's hands for other concurrent activity. It's also quick and > precise after training, and not prone to cause RSI.
Aah, that. I've used gaze-keyboard software (neat stuff), but that's not what I thought you meant when you referred to this previously. I was thinking something more like a HUD that changed its *display* significantly in response to how you read it. (Which, FWIW, I think could be an awesome idea if seriously thought about.) I've not used 'em for long periods of time, and the most impaired coworker there was quadriplegic but able to use a bitestick and chin-mouse. I suspect you could get RSI with your eyes too though. I've not seen any longterm followup reports of users that find out how common that is.
> 10. Comprehensibly compact? .... OK! Suppose you want to understand that > famous painting of an American farming couple, standing in front of their > barn. (Thinks) "Is that a pitchfork in his hand? And what a funny hat! > Oh, look, I do believe that's a pig coming around the side of the barn. No, > it's a chicken! He doesn't seem to be paying much attention to the animals > ..." (Thunk.) You see how your gaze moves over the surface of the > painting, noting one salient feature, then another, then relating one to > another? And another time you look at it, you notice something you missed > before. A representational painting is often a non-linear story. Sure, > there's some guesswork involved; part of that is knowing the appropriate > context to view the picture in. Some of it, the viewer (reader) has to > invent. Yet it's basically all there, comprehensible, and (fairly) compact. > We can be more compact with a computer, with no loss of comprehension. > (Mind you, learning to read this is a different skill from learning to read > strings of alphabetic characters.) I suggest this, viewing a picture, might > be a reasonable model for "non-linear writing". Shouldn't a non-linear > writing impart more information than a linear one? Then it will take longer > to read; let's not be impatient.
A painting does not actually represent all the content you are ascribing to it. That is what we'd call effective use of cultural context and implicature. And you could do that with words too - just describe the scene in visual terms. The story is nowhere to be found. IMO, this is a tangent from the actual question of NLF2DWSs *explicitly* representing information (not merely implied). Implied meaning has little to do with language structure - that is, the scope thereof is influenced by it (e.g. by forms that give clause A more significance than clause B), they just don't actually determine what that "translates" to (e.g. that you're effectively calling politician B a slave of party A).
> 11. You wrote: "thought*s* - that is, ideas / concepts / etc (rather than > the > experiential process of "having a thought") need have nothing to do > with inherently-sequential time at all (viz. the 'cognitive maps' and > the like that you referred to)." > > I think you misunderstood - a cognitive map imposes no times, no sequences; > it relates like to like, using whatever relationship is appropriate. > Doesn't stop one taking a temporal journey thru one, tho - such an > exploration is a lot like meditation.
I think you misunderstood *me*; we are in agreement. The viz. was referring to '[non-temporal] thoughts', not 'time'.
> 12. Your explication of non-linear fiction immediately put me in mind of > "interactive novels", which sometimes require a truly admirable degree of > cleverness in branching and rejoining different plot threads to achieve > given states of knowledge at various points.
If you are thinking of e.g. Choose Your Own Adventure books, those are not nonlinear at all; they are merely branching (or 'customized') linear. (Viz: the scene in /The Princess Bride/ where the kid corrects the grandfather and says how the story is obviously *supposed* to go - the story would still be linear either way, it's just a change in how it turns out.) Every one that I have seen is exclusively intended to have one path *at a time* that is possible; attempting to keep track of the full tree is extremely difficult. They definitely don't take advantage of the actual structural net as an object in itself, which is what I was imagining non-linear fiction (or poetry) would be like.
> 13. I think "sub-text" is a gross over-simplification of complex networks > of relationships; a furphy! > More to the point to think about represnting wens of meaning in > comprehensible and accessible ways.
Furphy =? Wens =? (Google: 1. an early water-cart (made by Furphy, Victoria). 2. wild rumour; tall story; false report. Joseph Furphy (Tom Collins) (1843-1912) was a novelist, best known for his book Such is Life. This work is a fictional account of the life of rural dwellers, including bullock drivers, squatters and itinerant travellers, in southern New South Wales and Victoria, during the 1880s. Wens: cysts resulting from the retention of oil in the skin. - neither seem relevant...) [Oh, the second is probably meant to be 'webs'. An amusing definition though, so I'll leave it in.] - Sai


tomhchappell <tomhchappell@...>
Jefferson Wilson <jeffwilson63@...>