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Digital communication – Text format

 
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How do you get the knowledge from your mind, through a digital information processing device (aka. computer) and allow others to receive this information as close as possible to the original meaning?
This is a long sentence that describes my struggle to write using a computer.

One part is writing logical, interconnected sentences.
The other is structure: Using the existing understanding of the reader to rebuild your knowledge with them.
Then there are aesthetics: It is far easier (for me) to read a well printed, well designed book then reading the average website.

These challenges do not describe the digital format.
It is an entirely different problem and equally important.
So far I have seen and used a range of options:
1) plain ASCII-text (letters a-z, A-Z, 0-9 and a few symbols including punctuation). This doesn't even cover my language. [Now there is UTF-8, which helps a lot.]
2) HTML: basically the attempt to describe everything else as ascii. ü becomes ü; It also introduces a mixture of semantic, visual and structural elements (<title> indicates the title of something; <i> means italic font; <table> allows to create a rough tabular structure).
3) LaTeX: A collection of visual commands combined with a mathematical layout engine. Has the potential to create beautiful books at the cost of very steep learning curve and complexity that cannot be phased.
3) M$ Word, Star-/Open-/LibreOffice: Easy to use, but not capable of producing fine work.
4) M$ Paint / The Gimp / Inkscape: positioning everything yourself. Making a change often means recreating the whole page.

Most of them only focus on the visual representation, but not the actual meaning: The expression 2 to the power of n is represented in HTML by 2<sup>n</sup> capturing only the fact that "n" is superscript. LaTeX woud allow you to write 2^n relying on the current definition of the command ^.
Then there often different visualizations of the same object. Which one is best, is often hard to determine: A wave could be represented by a still picture, an animation or a sound. The different parts of a landscape on a map (water/land, elevation, soil type, ...) could be visualized by color, fill patterns, line patterns, numbers, text, animations, sound. Which ones are appropriate differs between a huge printed map, a computer monitor, mobile phone or braille screen. Color vision, background noise and limitations in interaction are also important.


How do you deal with this?

I even made an attempt to create a format myself… and got to the limits of my skills in mathematics.
 
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Video. The answer is video. Reading is a fad. Sure, it is a fad that has hung around for something like 700 years, but it will eventually go away. Even now, the majority of people would rather watch the movie than read the book.

Books are a particularly difficult medium. You can't change the font: some people (dyslexics) need a different font type, and others like me (presbyopia) need a larger font size. PDF really sucks because when you enlarge it, the whole document enlarges instead of simply the text enlarging and everything else reflowing. And for folks with enough ADHD even the act of turning a page can be enough of a distraction to bring your mind out of the text. I can't read books anymore.

 
Sebastian Köln
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I do agree that video allows to transfer vast amounts of information.
On the other side they are have a fixed content per time ratio. When I am reading a book (or a website) I can read as fast or as slow as I prefer to.
When watching a video the speaker is often too slow. Other people will say that he/she is progressing too fast.
Then there is this very limited ability to include complex objects. They don't fit on the screen.

However the most critical problem with video is the ease of manipulation. It doesn't require great skills to introduce false facts, implicit statements (you think X was said, but it wasn't) and more …

The ability to adjust the font size or font type is indeed useful. (Or changing the units in text and graphs).
Personally I own only very few books. On the other side I love to be in a library with millions of books. Or the rare possibility to go into an archive with books written before 1900 … they smell great!
 
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