Sunday, December 10, 2006

What I need... a three-dimensional text editor. And no, smartarses, I don't mean a pad of paper and a pen.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to actually walk into a text you are trying to create, like a character in a computer game walking into a city, and to physically explore it and pull the pieces around? Each paragraph could be a building made up of blocks of sentences arranged in a way that showed their relationship to each other. And the buildings in the city would have a layout that resembled the flow of the whole text.

You could use a whole bunch of metaphors of spacial relationships and proximity as well as textures and lighting to visually represent aspects of the text's structure, including its linear flow, but also to represent references back and forth inside it, connections between paragraphs, footnotes, and all the mechanisms you use to foreground and background various parts of your argument. That parenthetical aside halfway down page two would be a wardrobe on the second floor. And the bit in footnote 23 where you ever-so-politely debunk so-and-so's argument would be a mysterious staircase winding deceptively deep into a badly-lit dungeon of references.

I never thought of myself as an especially visual person. (I hate mindmaps.) But I really, really want a program like this for playing with the structure of my dissertation. Does anyone want to write me one for Christmas?


Breena Ronan said...

I think that would really confuse me, but it sounds cool.

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

I think somebody's been working too hard lately. :)

sab said...

Wow, I'd love something like that! I often feel like my data leaves me with a big web of stuff that's interconnected in different ways, and forcing it into paragraphs in some particular order is just a nightmare. Writing is so linear isn't it?!?

daniel said...