Rethinking Text: Unleashing the Full Potential of Media to Provide a Better Reading Experience

Rethinking Text: Unleashing the Full Potential of Media to Provide a Better Reading Experience

Matthias Wölfel
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJACDT.2018070101
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The way we store, distribute and access textural information has undergone a dramatic change starting by the introduction of movable type around the 1450s. The way, however, we present and perceive written information has not changed much since then. But why is that? Technology has been a key driver in what is now called digital media. It provides a broad variety of possibilities to present written information. Until today, these possibilities stay nearly untouched and current textural representation is taken for granted and unalterable. In this article, the authors argue that, for real progress and innovation, people have to rethink text and to accept textual representations in digital media as an independent and alterable media. The authors summarize different approaches to augment text to foster the discussion and drive further developments.
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The ability to access written information has become one of the most important cultural techniques that you need to have mastered. We spend years in school to learn to read and to write for self-actualization and in order to be accepted and function properly in a given culture. Various technologies have been developed to support us in the storage, distribution, access and generation of written information: movable types by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450s (Kinross, 2010), typewriters in the 1860s which quickly replaced handwriting, word processors in the late 1960s (Berkeley, 1969) which are now commonplace in every office and home, and finally the Internet which made information accessible anytime and anywhere.

Since the introduction of movable types written information, however, is presented and perceived more or less in the same way. While industrialization necessitated the standardization of type, digitalization offers a liberation of these stringent constrains. To promote the transition to reading on digital media, it is vital to make the experience as good or even better as the experience of reading on paper. The main goal in the development of today’s electronic reading devices has been to create a paper-like reading experience. But digital media are providing novel possibilities far beyond these aspects. To go beyond paper requires to overcome traditional patterns of thinking: It has become possible to know and integrate more knowledge in the generation as well as in the perception phase. This information–such as personal characteristics or the environment–can now be used to statically or dynamically adapt the presentation of written information. The required adaptation is determined by the specific goal of the reader which can for instance be an improvement in comfort, reading rate, readability, comprehension or immersion. Depending on the goal different input parameters have to be defined which are influencing particular output parameters. The relationship between the goal, input and output parameters is visualized in Figure 1.

The input can be classified into three stages: production, text analysis and perception.

Production includes all relevant information in the process of text generation. It can, for instance, include characteristics of the person writing the text such as voice characteristics, facial expressions or typing speed. Text analysis can ‘understand’ meaning and syntax such as orthography, grammar or emotional expressions using techniques well known in computational linguistics and related fields. Perception provides information at the time the text is read. It can include personal characteristics about the reader and information about his/her environment. Example parameters include relative position and orientation between the reader and the textual information, gaze (e.g. which word is currently looked at), brightness, reading experience, eyesight, age, gender, socio-cultural background, motivation and purpose of reading (e.g. study, leisure, contemplation, light entertainment and news).

The output can be classified into typography, surface and environment. Typography can e.g. influence the size, shape, color, spacing, contrast of the individual characters, words or word sequences. Surface describes the background the text is placed on and can include e.g. background color or image, markers for highlighting or animation sequences. Environment is the surrounding the reader is located in. Parameters belonging to the environment include e.g. brightness, color, audio, temperature or images on a second screen.

Figure 1.

Relationship between the goal, input and output parameters


Before we go into details goal by goal in the following sections including sample solutions to reach the respective goal we briefly review the process and ongoing discussion from reading on paper to reading on screen in the next section.

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