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Three Dimensional Literature

Three Dimensional Literature

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Published by T M Copeland
Essay defining three dimensional literature and the future of the written word.
Essay defining three dimensional literature and the future of the written word.

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Published by: T M Copeland on Mar 01, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/08/2011

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The primary media used by mankind to display the written word, that is, display abstractsymbols used by the creator/writer to convey meaning to the viewer/reader, doesn'tchange very often. Depending upon how you define "written" symbology, for a period of time, at least 50,000 years, perhaps much further back, even beyond the dawn of thehuman species, drawings of symbols, erection of markers and what have you were etchedupon the face of the earth. Whether cave drawings of animals or stacks of stones used tomark a trail, symbols were placed upon the earth's surface to illustrate some idea or other that could be read by individuals other than the creator of the symbol. The surface of theearth itself was the media.At least ten thousand years ago, perhaps many tens of thousands beyond that, people began to scratch out images and other symbols onto manufactured articles such as claytablets, crafted walls in public places, carved stones and so forth. These messages bothutilized a manufactured media and were, generally, used more sophisticated symbologyallowing a more complex and/or precise story or message to be conveyed to the reader.Five of six thousand years ago, some societies began to develop forms of papyrus. The papyrus was formed into scrolls on which symbols were drawn using some manufacturedstain or ink. Somewhat later, true paper was developed and used, first as scrolls then,hundreds of years on, in a recognizable book form.In the west, it was only around five hundred years ago that moveable type forced amovement of the written word onto the modern book form. Books are now used toconvey messages in all the static forms of symbology known to man.Around fifty years ago the written word and other forms of symbology began to becreated, stored, retrieved and read in digital forms using electronic devices. Of course,some electronic forms of symbology had been around for many decades prior to this but,for the most part, digital symbology recognizable to most literate humans began in thelate 1940's, early 1950's.From this time line, admittedly a highly debatable timeline, two things are obvious. One,in the entire history of the written word/symbol, only four or five changes in the primarymedia of messaging has taken place. Two, the period of time between these shifts isshrinking dramatically. These periods of time have gone from perhaps hundreds of thousands of years between the advent of using the face of the earth to usingmanufactured surfaces to lesser intervals between subsequent shifts. Perhaps, it took another five to thirty thousand years to go from crude manufactured surfaces to papyrusand paper. Perhaps it took yet another five to ten thousand years to get from paper andink entries by hand to the use of moveable type in a modern book format. Maybe another five hundred years to move from the printed book to digital formats.Of course, digital formatting is not yet the primary media for presenting the written word.It may never be. However, in all likelihood, digital formats will very shortly be the primary presentation format. In only a generation or two hence the printed book may gothe way of the clay tablet and the scroll.
 
Even so, the book will never go completely away. Just as mural graffiti keeps the mediaof the cave painting alive and billboards are nothing more than modern versions of ancient Egyptian wall writings, no form of symbolic media has ever fallen completely outof use.Chances are some form of digital media will become the primary media for everydaytransmission of written symbology, including written language. But, just as the book isused to convey every form of human symbology, at least every form of stationarysymbology, digital formats are evolving that will make room for all kinds of, includinganimated, symbology.What the new vook (a proffered new word, not of my invention, incorporating theconcept of a traditional book that includes other media such as video and audiomessaging) will look like is not, at this point, known. It takes a while for the general public to achieve literacy in new symbolic communications' techniques. Just asubiquitous human literacy is only a few centuries old it may be many, many years beforethe general public is comfortable with the many possibilities of new literary forms andformats.One obvious opportunity that should not over tax the general reader of a digital book is tomake footnotes in nonfiction works, and other written works, immediately referablethrough links to the cited source documents. This is a basic example of three-dimensionalliterature. That is, allowing the reader to look into the creation of a work by exploring thesources from which it springs. If a reader has access to a good library, this option isalready available to him or her by checking out the source documents and comparingthem to the way an author portrays these works in his work. Within a digital book, thesesources can and should be linked so immediate access is available to the reader. Indeed, Icannot understand why such active links are not required in all scholarly work presentedfor peer review today.In fiction works achieving true three-dimensionality may be somewhat morecomplicated. This additional complication is due, in part, to the fact that it can take somany different forms. On the one hand, historical fiction can make use of active linksoffering historical legitimacy to the reader who desires it. Such links would act in muchthe same way as they would in a nonfiction work of history. Beyond that, layers of storycan be arranged within a digital book so that, in much the same way varying layers andlevels of an interactive game grow more complex as a player advances from level tolevel, the story's layers can provide incremental complexity depending upon thesophistication and tastes of the individual reader.J. K. Rowling did something very much like this by increasing the literary complexityand the social complexity of her stories, aging them along with the increased maturity of her core readers. If a child began his or her engagement with the world of wizardry at theage of ten, by the time the reader finished the final book when he or she was in the lateteens or early twenties, the maturity of the language and the story concepts and plots had

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