The Author PhD Project
Frode Hegland





An initial overview of issues involved:



Issues in Research


A most basic issue is that if you annotate a PDF (highlight, doodle or type a comment) the researcher cannot search for that annotation easily later and cannot tag what they find in a way which will benefit the researcher later. Yes, that’s right, PDF annotations are not searchable, neither in-document nor in bulk. (improvement need: annotation system for PDF or PDF import)

The ability to ’tear up’ the research documents and lay them out in a spacial configuration and connect relevant elements (either manually and through some sort of automatic weights) limits the digital interaction more than if the researcher used paper and a dining rom table. With digital tools and environment we have the potential to create ‘magical’ mind environments but in this crucial case we are lacking behind paper.  (improvement need: concept map integration)

There is very little, if any, meta-data connected to the text in the document such as would allow for instant re-formatting of the document to show timeline views for example.  (improvement need: rich tagging)

Text documents can be very long and uniformly laid out, making skimming difficult. (improvement need: automatic highlighting of keywords, summarisations and more)

Access to information resources such as Liquid | Flow which is modelled on Doug Engelbart’s NLS toolbar, is not in wide use, meaning that when terms come up that the researcher is not familiar with the effort required to look the terms up are above the ’no-cost’ mental threshold and thus are slightly less likely to be looked up. (improvement need: powerful tools)



Issues in Authoring


Authoring an academic paper is an involved and complicated process which entails thinking, organising, searching for connections, checking intuitions, and working this into a coherent structure which conforms to the structures of the field, all the while keeping citations clearly attached to any sources. (improvement need: concept map integration and other views)

Questions as to how to store cuttings of thoughts or found material come down to ‘a different document’ or ‘at the end of the document’ but not in an integrated way.  (improvement need: document structure)

The researcher lacks efficient ways to zoom in our out of their work, such as an integrated outliner could do.  (improvement need: flexible views)



Issues With Citation Handling


One of the tragedies of the current model of researcher-supervisor interaction via documents is how citations cling to a paper-past; instead of using the links and interactions as we do in other fields, the citations are ‘dumb’ numbers or Names & Years in parenthesis with further information provided at the end of the document (only). There is no opportunity for the advisor to immediately interrogate the veracity or relevance of the citation. There is also no means through which the researcher can see how citations and other information line up along different dimensions, something which could bring further insight.  (improvement need: new models of citation uses, views, storage and interactions)

Citations to recorded media is at arm’s-length; a researcher cannot instantly look up a specific part of a video or audio at a real-world time-location, only the relative time inside the document, making it harder to gather multiple perspectives of events. (improvement need: rich media citation management)



Issues with Lack of Integration with available Tools


There have been advancements in text analysis over the decades but it is expensive for individual coders to add these to their word processor projects. This excludes serious competition among indie software vendors for high-performance, advanced interaction, such as text summaries.  (improvement need: open API high-performance libraries)



Issues with Lack of Increased Literacy Potential


The literacy of the academic user, outside of specialised needs, have stagnated because the tools which can provide more control are not available. This is why this project is also a call to develop ever deeper literacies, both in terms of tool use and tool & environment development. (improvement need: more powerful tools)



Issues with ’Dumb’ Publishing


When publishing the document to a supervisor or as a final copy to the world, much work needs to be done manually to get the work to a high standard, something modern systems can easily plug-in to do, such as plagiarism and citation check, auto-summary for the author and more, saving the writer and reader considerable time. (improvement need: publishing needs analysis and modular testing)