The Future of Text Book : A 2020 Vision



Growing out of the annual Symposium, we have put together a book published by Future Text Publishing on the possible futures of text which has turned out to be the largest survey of the future of text ever undertaken, with a wide range of different perspectives and inspirations.


The book is intended to be a collection of dreams for how we want text to evolve as well as how we understand our current textual infrastructures, how we view the history of writing and much more. The aim is to make it inspire a powerfully rich future of text in a multitude of ways today and to still have value in a thousand years and beyond*. It should serve as a record for how we saw the medium of text and how it relates to our world, our problems and each other in the early twenty first century.













opening quote


“The thing that amazed me - even humbled me - about the digital computer when I first encountered it over fifty years ago - was that, in the computer, I saw that we have a tool that does not just move earth or bend steel, but we have a tool that actually can manipulate symbols and, even more importantly, portray symbols in new ways, so that we can interact with them and learn. We have a tool that radically extends our capabilities in the very area that makes us most human, and most powerful.”


“There is a native American myth about the coyote, a native dog of the American prairies - how the coyote incurred the wrath of the gods by bringing fire down from heaven for the use of mankind, making man more powerful than the gods ever intended. My sense is that computer science has brought us a gift of even greater power, the ability to amplify and extend our ability to manipulate symbols…”


“We need to become better at being humans. Learning to use symbols and knowledge in new ways, across groups, across cultures, is a powerful, valuable, and very human goal. And it is also one that is obtainable, if we only begin to open our minds to full, complete use of computers to augment our most human of capabilities.”
Douglas C. Engelbart






Frode Hegland. Editor. ‘Truth’ is not in the written words. But in how they are connected. This is why text-interactions are important. This is why, in an environment of huge volumes of academic and scientific text as well as weaponised social media with high-velocity fake news, the way we can address and connect determines what we see and therefore where we stand. Draft Text






Listed alphabetically by first names, some people you will have heard of, others provide more niche perspectives, all are brilliant minds. The contributors are roughly grouped, to make it easier to get an overview, but these are not people you can really put in a box. Greyed out entries have not yet submitted.



authors, artists & publishers


  • Amira Hanafi. Writer and artist
  • Bernard Vatant. Former Consultant at Mondeca and Linked Data Evangelist
  • Bob Stein. Founder of Criterion, Voyager, and the Institute for the Future of the Book
  • Danila Medvedev. Leading Russian futurologist, lover of computer history and GUI innovator.
  • David Weinberger. Author of ‘Everyday Chaos’, ‘Too Big To Know’, ‘Everything is Miscellaneous’, ‘Small Pieces Loosely Joined’ and co-Author of ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’
  • Dave Winer. On the net since mid-70s. Started two Silicon Valley companies. Wrote for Wired. Fellow at Harvard, NYU. Founder of podcasting, blogging, RSS. Open web.
  • David Jablonowski. Artist
  • Doc Searls. Editor-in-chief of Linux Journal, Author of 'The Intention Economy' & Co-Author of 'The Cluetrain Manifesto'
  • Fred Benenson. data enthusiast, artist, writer, and creator of Emoji Dick
  • Howard Oakley. Mac Developer and Technical Writer
  • Howard Rheingold. Educator and Author of ‘Net Smart’, ‘Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-expanding Technology’
  • Johannah Rodgers. Independent Artist, Scholar, Author of ‘Technology: A Reader for Writers’, former Associate Professor and Founding Director First Year Writing @ City Tech, The City University of New York
  • John Armstrong. Writer & Performance Artist
  • John-Paul Davidson. Producer, Director & Author of ‘Planet Word’
  • Keith Houston. Author of ‘The Book’ and ‘Shady Characters’
  • Kenny Hemphill. Technology Journalist and Copy Editor
  • Leigh Nash. Publisher at Invisible Publishing
  • Livia Polanyi. Linguistic, Discourse Theorist, NLP Researcher and Poet
  • Lynette Chiang. Words + Video + Intent  / and Author of ‘The Handsomest Man in Cuba’
  • Mark Baker. Author of ‘Every Page is Page One’ and ‘Structured Writing: Rhetoric and Process’
  • Michael Joyce. Hyperfiction pioneer, theorist, and Author of ‘Remedia: A Picaresque’
  • Manuela González. Handwriting for Branding Expert
  • Panda Mery. Productive irritant
  • Paul Smart. Philosopher and Author of ‘Blade Runner 2049: A Philosophical Exploration’
  • Peter Flynn. Principal Consultant at Silmaril Consultants and former Head of Research and Academic Computing Support at UCC
  • Richard Seymour. Author of ‘The Twittering Machine’
  • ​​Sage Jenson. Artist focused on speculative biology and emotive simulation with Kit Kuksenok, a natural language processing software developer and socio-technical systems scholar
  • Sarah Walton. Author and Digital Consultant
  • Stephanie Strickland. Poet, in print and digital media, and Author of ‘How the Universe Is Made’
  • Steve Newcomb. Consultant
  • Ted Nelson. Visionary, Interactive Media Pioneer and coiner of the term 'hypertext'
  • Tom Standage. Deputy Editor of The Economist and Author of ‘Writing on the Wall’
  • Tor Nørretranders. Author of ‘The User Illusion’


academic, archive & library affiliated
(whether author or other)


  • Alessio Antonini. Research Associate at Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University
  • Amaranth Borsuk. Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington Bothell and Author of The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series ‘The Book’
  • Andries Van Dam. Former VP for research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Contributed to Hypertext Editing System (HES) and co-authored ‘Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice’
  • Ann Bessemans & María Pérez Mena. Professor and post doctoral researcher at PXL-MAD School of Arts / Hasselt University, research group READSEARCH. Typography and type design teachers BA graphic design and MA READING TYPE & TYPOGRAPHY
  • Belinda Barnet. Swinburne University, Author of ‘Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext’
  • Cathy Marshall. Texas A&M University and Hypertext Developer
  • Charles Bernstein. Poet, Essayist, Editor, and Literary Scholar
  • Christian Bök. Associate Professor, Charles Darwin University
  • Claus Atzenbeck. Hof University & General Co-Chair of the 2019 ACM Conference on Hypertext & Social Media
  • Dave De Roure. Professor of e-Research, Oxford e-Research Centre
  • David M. Durant. Associate Professor/Federal Documents & Social Sciences Librarian and Author of 'Reading in a Digital Age'
  • David Johnson. Co-author of Law and Borders, The Rise of Law in Cyberspace
  • David Millard. University of Southampton
  • David Owen Norris. Head of Classical Performance, Professor of Music University of Southampton
  • Dene Grigar. Professor and Director, The Creative Media & Digital Culture Program; the Electronic Literature Lab; Washington State University Vancouver
  • Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Professor emerita of Art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and Author of ‘How Writing Came About’
  • Derek Beaulieu. Director, Literary Arts, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
  • Elaine Treharne. Stanford University Text Technologies
  • Ewan Clayton. Calligrapher, Teacher and Author
  • Fiona Ross. Typographic Consultant  & Professor of Non-Latin Type Design, University of Reading
  • Garrett Stewart. James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa and Author of  ‘The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text’
  • Harold Thimbleby. See Change Digital Health Fellow at Swansea University and Author of 'Press On'
  • Ian Cooke. Contemporary British Collections, The British Library
  • James Baker. Senior Lecturer in Digital History and Archives at the University of Sussex
  • James O'Sullivan. Lecturer in Digital Arts & Humanities, University College Cork and Author of ‘Towards a Digital Poetics: Electronic Literature & Literary Games’
  • Jamie Blustein. Associate Prof. of Computer Science & Information Management at Dalhousie University, Canada
  • Jane Yellowlees Douglas. Author of pioneering Hypertext Fiction, including ‘I Have Said Nothing’, one of the first published works of hypertext fiction.
  • Janet H. Murray. Ivan Allen College Dean's Professor in the Graduate Program in Digital Media, Georgia Tech and author of ‘Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace’
  • Jay David Bolter. Wesley Chair in New Media, Georgia Tech and Author of ‘The Digital Plenitude: The Decline of Elite Culture and the Rise of New Media’
  • Jessica Rubart. Professor of business information systems, OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Joe Corneli. Researcher working at the intersection of collective and artificial intelligence
  • Joel Swanson. Artist and Assistant Professor, ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Johanna Drucker. Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies, UCLA and Author of ‘The Visible Word’ and ‘Diagrammatic Writing’
  • John Cayley. Poet, Programmatologist, Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University and Author of ‘Grammalepsy’
  • Joris J. van Zundert. Senior researcher and developer in humanities computing, department of literary studies at the Huygens Institute for the History of The Netherlands
  • Joseph D. Novak. Developer of concept mapping and professor Emeritus, Cornell University
  • Judy Malloy. Electronic literature pioneer; Lecturer, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Ken Perlin. Professor of Computer Science, New York University and Director, NYU Future Reality Lab
  • Martin Kemp. Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, Trinity College, Author of several books on Leonardo Da Vinci as well as ‘Visualizations’
  • Mark Anderson. University of Southampton, PhD graduate
  • Leslie Carr. University of Southampton, Professor of Web Science
  • Lori Emerson. Associate Professor and Director of the Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Martin Tiefenthaler. Book and Graphic Designer, Teacher of Typography and Semiotics at ›die Graphische‹, Vienna/Austria; co-founder of tga (typographic society austria)
  • Maryanne Wolf. Director, UCLA Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice, Visiting Professor and Author of ‘Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World’ and ‘Proust and the Squid’
  • Matthew Kirschenbaum and Kari Kraus, Co-Directors, BookLab, University of Maryland
  • Mike Zender. Editor, Visible Language. Professor, Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design, University of Cincinnati
  • Naomi S. Baron. American University, Author of 'Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World'
  • Nasser Hussain. Senior Lecturer, Leeds Beckett University
  • Neil Jefferies. Head of Innovation, Bodleian Digital Libraries, University of Oxford
  • Nick Montfort. Poet, Professor of digital media at MIT and Author of ‘The Future’
  • Patrick Lichty. Assistant Professor, Animation/Multimedia Design, College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi
  • Pip Willcox. Head of Research, The National Archives, UK
  • Richard A. Carter. Artist and Lecturer in Digital Media, University of Roehampton
  • Richard Price. Head, Contemporary British Collections, The British Library
  • Sam Brooker. Assistant Professor, Richmond University UK
  • Scott Rettberg. American Digital Artist and Scholar of electronic literature based in Norway. and co-founder of the Electronic Literature Organization
  • Sofie Beier. Associate Professor, Head of Centre for Visibility Design, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK)
  • Sonja Knecht. Copywriter, Design Writer, Lecturer in Verbal/Visual Communications at Berlin University of the Arts and other institutions
  • Stevan Harnad. Editor, Animal Sentience, Professor of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Adjunct Professor of Cognitive Science, McGill University and Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Science, University of Southampton
  • Stephen Lekson. Curator of Archaeology, Jubilado, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History
  • Teodora Petkova. PhD student at Sofia University and Author of the ‘Brave New Text’
  • Tim Donaldson. Falmouth University, Typographer and Teacher
  • Tim Ingold. Professor Emeritus of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and Author of 'The Perception of the Environment'
  • Tyler Shoemaker. PhD Student, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Dame Wendy Hall. Regius Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton
  • Zuzana Husárová. Poetess, Electronic literature researcher, Assistant professor of Literary Studies at the Comenius University in Bratislava




  • Adam Cheyer. Co-founder of Siri & Viv Labs
  • Adam Kampff. Neuroscientist at the Sainsbury-Wellcome Centre and founder of Voight-Kampff
  • Alan Kay. Developer of the Dynabook, Smalltalk, graphical user interfaces and more.
  • Anthon Botha. Director, TechnoScene Ltd
  • Ben Shneiderman. Professor, Author and Human Computer Interaction Pioneer, University of Maryland
  • Bruce Horn. Software Developer and Author of the original Macintosh Finder
  • Chris Gebhardt. Software Engineer and Researcher, The InfoCentral Project
  • Chris Messina. Hashtag inventor, product designer, technologist
  • Christopher Gutteridge. University of Southampton and Developer of academic repositories
  • Dave King. Founder, Exaptive Inc.
  • David Price. DebateGraph Founder
  • Duke Crawford visual vocal actionable text
  • Esther Dyson. Executive Founder, Way to Wellville
  • Gyuri Lajos. TrailMarks Founder
  • Irina Antonova. Partner, NakedMinds Lab, Russia
  • Jack Park. TopicQuests Foundation, Co-founder
  • Jeremy Helm. Inventor, Communication Advocate and California Bay Area Organizer of
  • Leslie Lamport. Inventor of LaTeX
  • Marc-Antoine Parent. Developer of IdeaLoom and HyperKnowledge
  • Mark Bernstein. Eastgate Systems, Developer of hypertext software ‘Tinderbox’ and ‘Storyspace’
  • Matt Mullenweg. Developer of WordPress
  • Phil Gooch. Founder & CEO Scholarcy
  • Rafael Nepô. Information Architect, Founder of with Guilherme Azzi, Susan Moreno, Bernardo Brasil, Sophie Ying Liu, Alexandre Lopes and Lidia Ganhito
  • Raine Revere. Developer of EM
  • Shane Gibson. Technologist and Political Scientist
  • Stephan Kreutzer. Hypertext Systems Implementer
  • Tiago Forte. Productivity expert and creator of ‘Building a Second Brain’
  • Timur Schukin. Partner, NakedMinds Lab, Russia
  • Vint Cerf. Internet Co-Inventor & Pioneer
  • Ward Cunningham. Inventor of the Wiki






Ismail Serageldin. Founder & Director Emeritus, Library of Alexandria






Includes : timeline of digital text



Editor & Curator


Frode Hegland. Developer of Author, Reader & Liquid Flow, and Host of the Future of Text Symposium


Frode is passionate about unleashing the potential of the future of text. To this end, he has held the annual Future of Text Symposium since 2011, many of which have been co-hosted by Vint Cerf. He has also designed and built two novel text-interaction systems, the macOS word processor Author and the Liquid Flow utility:


Frode is currently a PhD student at the University of Southampton where he is researching dynamic views in word processors for literature reviews, and developing the Visible-Meta system, as blogged about on This system is being co-developed by this community and will be employed in the book. You can see one consequence of the work here, Full Citation Copying (1:30 min):


His work is greatly influenced by Doug Engelbart whom he worked with at the turn of the millennium. Doug Engelbart sent him this email in 2003: “I honestly think that you are the first person I know that is expressing the kind of appreciation for the special role which IT can (no, will) play in reshaping the way we can symbolize basic concepts to elevate further the power that conditioned humans can derive from their genetic sensory, perceptual and cognitive capabilities.” A statement he takes seriously.






Contributions for Future Editions


If you feel that you have something compelling to write on the future of text, please send a proposal to If you can think of someone else to add to the list, please send their names and also contact information if you have it.




Humans became behaviourally modern
the moment they committed to storing abstract information outside their brains

Lyn Wadley
as quoted in Mark Moffett's 'The Human Swarm'




Publishing : Paper, Digital & Metal





The book will be published in annual editions or volumes (to be decided), starting with ‘The Future of Text : A 2020 Vision’ in 2020. This is an open access publication.


Paper Edition


Design and printing tests started late 2019.


Metal Edition


The metal edition will be all the pages printed on one sheet of metal, in tiny type, which we are still experimenting with making as small as possible with currently available technology.  A few will be placed in secure storage around the world for future generations to enjoy/discover/come across.


Digital Edition : Advanced ‘Reader’


The digital version will be published in open PDF and will be bundled with a much-upgraded Liquid | Reader which will have as many of the features listed in the link below as we can find money to pay for the programming of. The idea is to present the book in a format that actually delivers some futuristic and useful interactions, including copy and paste as gig-resolution citation from a document with different authors of different chapters:




Guidelines for Authors


For further information, you may want to read the blog posts Author's Invitation and the Author's Guide, but the key info is:


  • 1,000 words. Or less. Or more, if you really need it, subject to agreement.
  • Final Submission was on the 9th of December 2019 (anniversary of Doug Engelbart's demo), including 1 (optional) image, though some extensions were granted.


Contributors are separately welcome to submit an optional glossary for their writing, of a reasonable length. The format will be determined as a group, to aid reading into the deep future and for people of very different perspectives today.




FUTURE(S) of Text(S)


When we talk about the future of text we are talking about powerful potentials but it's fair to ask the question 'what text? If we talk about the future of images we’d instantly have to clarify what type of images we are referring to; photographs, drawings, 3D renderings or something else. We’d also need to specify their purpose, for example; to explore the world through an artists eyes or to provide a lifelike depiction of specific things?


With text these questions can easily remain just out of sight, casting a general fog over the futures we dream of. The text in a text message, in a social media post, a warning label and in an academic document have the same orthography and may even be in the same typeface but the act and meaning of their authorship, storage, linkage, consumption, analysis and effect, is vastly different–and so are the avenues for improvement.


What are *your* dreams for the future of text in your field or area of interest? What do *you* think text should be optimised for and how? How can thinking and communicating be improved by better text-interaction systems in the area you are concerned about? What do you think text is and what it can be?


Text is a medium of representation and as such becomes a media for thinking and communication. How we choose to communicate and to whom, and how we choose to represent our knowledge will, to an extent, determine who we present ourselves to be. With near infinite choice as to how to realise the potential of digital text–without even delving into algorithmic text on social networks–the medium is more the message than ever.






All of the editions will feature future looking innovations including Visual-Meta to make information about the book readable by humans and machine. This will even enable the metal edition to easily become richly interactive again when scanned in the far future.






Lines on a substrate is not text until it carries meaning