THE GENERALIZATION OF DOCUMENTS
Theodor Holm Nelson, Founding Designer, Project Xanadu
Note: "Xanadu®" is a registered software trademark of Project Xanadu. "TransLit™" is a claimed trademark for cooperating software by others.
What is the topology of thought? No time to go there.
What is the topology of documents?
As established by the standard PARC model (Microsoft Word, formerly Bravo at Xerox PARC), there is only one long column (called a document).
It has paragraphs and headings, but otherwise represents one long stream.
This can be said to derive naturally from speech, which is a singular stream of words, as written down.
WHAT ABOUT PARALLELISM?
There has been parallelism in documents for thousands of years. The Rosetta Stone is an obvious example. An especially powerful example is the Hebrew Talmud, a system of parallel comments on the Hebrew Bible, or Torah. Christian parallel documents include the Hexapla, which had a number of different translations side by side to study their differences.
There is no way to represent this parallelism in Microsoft Word, or in any available electronic format.
=== OUR GENERALIZATION
A xanadoc allows parallel columns, or pages, connected by visible bridges, called xanalinks. The reader may see them side by side, or proceed in any one. A xanadoc may have many parallel pages.
This has many uses:
WRITING OF HISTORY: instead of forcing parallel narratives into sequence, they can be shown side by side, with connections.
DETAIL: summary explanations can be in one column, details in another, allowing quick overview and then deeper study.
COMMENTARY: comments by different parties may be shown with explicit connection to the parts being commented on.
EXPLICATION: basic texts, as explained later by others, may be seen side by side.
ANTHOLOGIES: selected portions for students may be connected to their sources, for direct access the reader who wants to see or understand more.
=== SIMPLEST AND CLEANEST?
Visibly connected pages represent a simple generalization of conventional text-- each page is like a column in today's Word or Web. Side-by-side connection is not hard to learn or understand.
This is a simple and clean generalization that opens literature to a whole new level of breadth and understanding. That's why we go on.