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About the project
Z-text
Z-reading
Z-writing
Multidimensional textual space
Possible applications

Acknowledgment

About the project

Zoom Imagine is a project dealing with new forms of
  • electronic textuality,
  • reading and
  • writing.

Its objective is the construction of a new type of text editor, called zoom-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 kind of scalable text was called z-text and the related processes of creation and exploration, z-writing and z-reading.

ZLayout

A z-layout 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. ^

Z-text

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 scales. 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.

Z-text

Therefore, we have imagined the z-text (Armaselu, 2007) as a hierarchical structure starting with an abridged, condensed form, i.e. a succession of paragraphs (or generally textual fragments which can contain less or more of a paragraph), each of them being potentially expanded on the hidden, deeper levels (see Fig.2).

A fragment can have one, many or no children on the next level but it has necessarily a parent on the previous level (excepting the case when it is a first level fragment, a 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 fragments having the same parent are called siblings. The broader, indirect lineage is rendered by the ancestor - descendants relationship (for example, F1 is an ancestor of F1.1.1 which is one of its descendants). ^

Z-reading

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 textual fragment 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 fragment 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 magnifying glass 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 (see Fig.3-6). ^

Z-writing

The z-writing procedure consists in successive expansions starting from a shorter, more abridged description. This layout actually stands for a sort of "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 (see Fig.7). ^

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. Zooming on the same fragment, but with different magnifying glasses will display different kinds of details, allowing consequently 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 will permit the multiplication of points of view. ^

Possible applications

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 successive versions recording, and the mechanism of zooming-in and out as a strategy of storytelling);
  • literary criticism (structuring the analysis and critic commentaries of a given text on successive layers of interpretation and according to different points of view and perspectives);
  • pedagogic design (organizing the argumentative framework on types of explicative elements and levels of complexity, from simple to complex, from abridged to detailed).
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Acknowledgment

The project has started as PhD research in Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon.
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