Future of Text [Monday, February 20th 2023]
When you hear the term “Future of,” it’s typically followed by something vague, frightful, and all-encompassing. The Future of Work, the Future of Technology, and so on. The Future of Text could easily be called “The Future of Media, Communication, Interaction, Language, Knowledge, and Culture” because it touches all those concepts. But I like “Future of Text” because it keeps it small and tangible.
Text is a type of media. It sits somewhere between language and speech on one end and email and iPhones on the other. Text is a meta-media. It’s natural to assume the digital analog of text is hypertext, but a better analogy is the pixel. We can’t imagine a digital world without a pixel just as we can’t imagine communication without text.
So the study of text is like an all-access pass to talk about anything. Even math, which doesn’t seem like text, involves the act of naming things. And names are a type of text.
Brandel Zachernuk defined text as, “the explicit implication of a durable artifact.” This a good definition. It reminds me of the definition of a game (from Bernard Suit, 1978)
Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.
There’s a connection between this definition of games and the act of naming things. Ever since Adam, we’ve ascribed power over an object by naming it. A name captures an object. Then dimensionally reduces it (to borrow a phrase from linear algebra) until it can fit on a page. And then we forget about the other dimensions. The more we name things, the more object-oriented we become. Everything becomes data; therefore, everything can be tracked and transacted.
But what if naming a thing is like playing a game? I’m starting to suspect that naming things is one part of a Pathology of Technology. Just as the concept of ownership is part of a pathology of governance.
I’ll talk about this more in future posts.