Xanadu, Transliterature, and Ted Nelson

I just found out that Ted Nelson is continuing his decades-long, quixotic quest to reinvent the world’s basic document model, in the form of XanaduSpace 1.0, a recently released 3D document viewer that lets you see pan and zoom around a document universe with the transclusive relationships between documents represented as colored beams. You can download it here. This version is very close to demoware: there’s just one set of sample documents to be viewed.

I’ve always been a fan of Ted Nelson’s computer-science-on-acid sort of approach, at least that’s how I think of it. Although I don’t claim to understand his work that well, I can lay claim to owning an original copy of Literary Machines (Amazon ).

But I’m trying to figure out why XanaduSpace is useful. I see the application in academia and research, and I’d love to have something like this to help me with my Dogen translations. And sure, it looks great for lawyers and legal documents. But is it really worth the trouble for the other 99% of the documents in the world?

I have to say that Ted seems to be moving farther and farther afield. In his keynote at HT07, Ted attempts to generalize the physical presentation of text beyond old-fashioned rectangular pages to text streamers and “crawls”, overlays, flying paragraphs, and even fountains of text and rippling surfaces , and shows a demo with pages rolled up like toilet paper. That’s all great fun but it seems less than central to any core information model and for that matter is pretty much covered by technologies such as SVG anyway.

Leave a Reply