Writing has changed with digital technology, but much is the same. The Lila writing technology builds on both the dynamic and static features.
Writers traditionally spend considerable time reading individual works closely and carefully. The emergence of big data and analytic technologies causes a shift toward distant reading, the ability to analyze a large volume of text in terms of statistical patterns. Lila uses these technologies to select relevant content for deeper reading.
Writing, as always, occurs in many locations, from a car seat to a coffee shop to a desk. Digital technology makes it easier to aggregate text from these different locations. Existing technologies like Evernote and Google Drive can gather these pieces for Lila to perform its cognitive functions.
Writing is performed on a variety of media. In the past it might have been napkins, stickies and binder sheets. Today it includes a greater variety, from cell phone notes to email and word processor documents. Lila can only analyze digital media. It is understood that there is still much text in the world that is not digital. Going forward, text will likely always be digital.
Writing tends to be more fragmented today, occurring in smaller units of text. Letter length is replaced with cell phone texts, tweets, and short emails. The phrase “too long; didn’t read” is used on the internet for overly long statements. Digital books are shorter than print books. Lila is expressly designed around a “slip” length unit of text, from at least a tweet length for a subject line, up to a few paragraphs. It would be okay to call a slip a note. Unlike tweets, there will be no hard limit on the number of characters.
A work is written by one or many authors. Print magazines and newspapers are compilation of multiple authors, so too are many websites. Books still tend to be written by a single author, but Lila’s function of compiling content into views will make it easier for authors to collaborate on a work with the complexity and coherence of a book.
In the past, the act of writing was more isolated. There was a clear separation between authors and readers. Today, writing is more social. Authors blog their way through books and get immediate feedback. Readers talk with authors during their readings. Fans publish their own spin on book endings. Lila extends reading and writing capabilities. I have considered additional capabilities with regard to publishing drafts to the web for feedback and iteration. A WordPress integration perhaps.
Pirsig’s book, Lila, was published in 1991, not long after the advent of the personal computer and just at the dawn of the web. His slip-based writing system used print index cards, but he deliberately chose that unit of text over pages because it allowed for “more random access.” He also categorized some slips as “program” cards, instructions for organizing other slips. As cards about cards, they were powerful, he said, in the way that John Von Neuman explained the power of computers, “the program is data and can be treated like any other data.” Pirsig’s slip-based writing system was no doubt inspired by the developments in information technology.