About the project
About the project
ZoomImagine is a project dealing with new forms of
- electronic textuality,
- reading and
Its objective is the construction of a new type of text editor, called z-editor, allowing the user to increase or decrease the detail of the text by operations of zoom-in and zoom-out. The model relies on a 3D textual structure, i.e. a layout on levels of "depth" along with the axis Z, corresponding to different degrees of detail and signification. This type of scalable text was called z-text and the related processes of creation and exploration, z-writing and z-reading.
A z-layout (Fig. 1) supposes gradual expansion and variable scale representation, i.e. an "in depth" stratification of the arguments based on the following principle: The text of the most abridged level can be replicated or reformulated and appropriately augmented on the subsequent, deeper levels, as in the simplified example:
"Tom is a cat." (1st level)
"Tom is a yellow cat." (2nd level)
"Tom is a yellow cat which loves Mewsette." (3rd level).
According to the degree of interest of the reader, at a certain moment, some details will be displayed on the screen and others will be hidden.^
The z-text model was inspired by the idea of immersion and interactivity reconciliation (Ryan 2001) and by the fictional construction of Stephenson (2003), an "anfractuous", self-expanding book able to answer reader's questions and functioning on the principle tell me more about the subject. The term "anfractuous" is related to the concept of fractal (Mandelbrot 1983) and refers to highly irregular forms, like the coastlines whose length increases "without limit" when they are represented on maps of increasing scale. Stephenson's fictional primer is an "immersive-interactive", "scalable" book (Ryan, 2001), growing larger and larger by adding details to an initially abridged version of the story, in its further interactions with the reader.
The z-text was imagined (Armaselu/Vasilescu 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017) as a hierarchical structure starting with an abridged, condensed form, i.e. a succession of paragraphs (or generally textual fragments, called z-lexias, inspired by Barthes’s (1974) lexia, which can contain less or more of a paragraph), each of them being potentially expanded on the hidden, deeper levels (Fig. 2).
A z-lexia can have one, many or no children on the next level but it has necessarily a parent on the previous level (except for the case when it is a first level fragment, as part of the root of the structure). The construction of children supposes the transmission of text from parent to children, as we have seen in the simplified example. Two z-lexias having the same parent are called siblings. The broader, indirect lineage is rendered by the ancestor - descendants relationship (for example, zl1 is an ancestor of zl1.1.1 which is one of its descendants). Figure 2 shows the result of three operations of zoom-in, two on zl1 and one on zl3, displayed on the screen (the blue surface), starting with an initial z-text composed by level 1 z-lexias, zl1, zl2 and zl3.^
Since it deals with texts of three dimensions (width, height and depth), the process of z-reading implies three directions of movement through the text:
- horizontal (left/right),
- vertical (scroll up/down), and
- "in depth" (zoom in/out).
A zoom-in action on a z-lexia will produce the replacement of this one by all its following level children, if any, i.e. its next level, more detailed version. A zoom-out action will replace the clicked z-lexia and all its siblings by their previous level parent, if any, by producing a more condensed description. A z-reading experience involves therefore the idea of zooming cursors as elements exterior to the text, and of interactivity as an agent producing gradual immersion.
A zooming action will affect only the pointed fragment, while the surrounding context will remain unchanged. Thus, the reader will have continuously on the screen a single "page" where the fragments are dynamically displayed and hidden, in a relatively stable context (figures 3, 4 and 5).^
The z-writing procedure consists of successive expansions starting from a shorter, abridged description. This type of layout evokes Geertz's (1973) "thick description" in his interpretation of cultures, and the detection of a "stratified hierarchy of meaningful structures” in the observed object. Z-writing implies the construction of a "scalable" structure (each scale or level represents a certain degree of detail or signification) which will subsequently support the zooming-in and out exploration of the text (Fig. 6).^
Multidimensional textual space
The 3D layout of the z-text model could be expanded to a "multidimensional space", if different types of magnifying glass are considered. For instance, the red, green and yellow ones in figure 2, which may involve multiple perspectives, such as the red, green and yellow books in Pavić's (1989) Dictionary of the Khazars. Zooming on the same fragment, but with different magnifying glasses will display different types of details, allowing for a multi-path or branching z-reading experience. From the authorial perspective, the possibility of multiple ways of expanding a given fragment in the z-writing process may permit the multiplication of points of view.^
Starting from these hypotheses, we could imagine some possible domains of application of the z-text model, such as:
- creative writing (using the zoom-editor for recording successive versions of a text, and the mechanism of zooming-in and out as a strategy of storytelling);
- literary criticism (structuring the analysis and critical commentaries of a given text on gradual layers of interpretation and according to different points of view and perspectives);
- pedagogic design (organising the argumentative framework on types of explicative elements and levels of complexity, e.g. from simple to complex, from abridged to detailed, from global to local, from general to specific).
The project was initiated as a PhD research in Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon.^