I was totally impressed by Apple introducing iBooks textbooks this January which made me want to dive back into high school to have this extraordinary reading and learning experience. It reinvents the physical books into interactive and explorable multimedia information for better understanding to the content, changes the reading methods and provides a platform to create the interactive books.
However, only a platform that just puts text, pictures, diagrams, and videos together, making no difference to current webpages, is not enough. What we need is a format that the computers are able to interpret in order to have more interactive functions with the text.
The essay actually made me think of the text itself, in which the format plays a rather crucial role in translation. It contains definitions and formats. Each word has a definition and the grammar make them formatted to be fully understood. When we see a sentence, we automatically translate the words into the actual objects and format the information into a certain logic in our brains in order to fully build up the models behind the plain text.
For example, when we read “for example”, we will know that the following content would be a supplement that illustrates the previous statement; when we read “in summary”, we will know that the point would be exposed again and the passage is going to end; when we read “where is …?”, we will know it is asking about location; when we read “behind”, we will know it is at the far side of something. Throughout reading, we continuously put little tags around every words to make the text meaningful, just like what we do in HTML. So why don’t we teach the computers about the reading method that we use in our daily lives, then we could let not only the readers but also the computers know the model behind the text?
To make the reading interactive and explorable to the readers, the author should make the medium know about the information that is being conveyed. As the author could not possibly be available all the time to answer all the questions that a reader would ask, it is the medium that can take the role of the instructor who can both teach and answer questions. The article would be like in programming languages but should be no different than human language, after which being mature then we can think about much more possibilities of explorable information.