Eco in the DOM


Eco in the DOM

Outlining intention


“The solution would be to represent an ‘ideal’
text as a system of nodes or joints and to
establish at  which of them the co-operation of
the Model Reader is  expected and elicited”

Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader 1984


In his theory of textual co-operation, Umberto Eco gives the collaboration between a writer and a reader a central role in the process of making sense. Eco reminds us that a document [1] is an unfinished work and requires a reader. A text exists only in the collaboration between the “textual strategy” of a creator with a reader that is supposed to realise some interpretations. One job of the author is to work on this anticipated interpretation.
How to create, maintain and reinforce this collaboration are key issues for our Layout by intention approach at the heart of the LibreDoc© project. Our layout engine must be able to create the link between the intention of the content creator, and a set of competencies possessed by a reader.

The Structure

Eco underlines that the description of the structure of a text is at the same time the description of the reading movement (U. Eco, Lectore in Fabula, 1979). They are absolutely complimentary. The result of this collaboration is not true or false, but have to be analysed in terms of felicity (success) conditions to be satisfied for a text’s potential content to be actualised. At this point of view, the traditional editing-publishing solutions are more a source of distraction than a help. Today we have three main options:

  1. The agency Model (internal or external)
    The author is included in a complex workflow before having any chance to reach a reader. She has to manage, deal, struggle with “allied alien” like Design or IT departments, black boxes and maybe other fortresses…
  2. The CMS Model is where macro templates are supposed to do the job. It forces us to give up a lot of flexibility. This is why some may say that templates are dead.
  3. The WYSIWYG Model is also an embarrassing approach. Content creators may spend more than 60% of their useful time in layout works.

This is why LibreDoc project is neither a new kind of agency, nor another CMS, nor a brave new IndeQuark-like solution.

Considering a document as a “node system” is at the heart of the Document Object Model (DOM) present in any modern web server. Instead of asking for bold or columns and all those boring details, LibreDoc Editor © starts with the structure. An author is well gifted to define, adjust, transform (and even improve…) the structure of a document. This structure is an essential part of the intention of a text and it gives us some possible spectacular effects while automating the layout.

Please check this video of Jean-Dominique : the magic of building. More videos will be posted to show how the engine can manipulate other dimensions of the document. The calculated relation text-image is an even more impressive feature. Check regularly for updates.

LibreDoc opens a new generation of zen publishing & editing tools. It will help us to forget the layout effort in favour of a more precise work on the author’s intention for a better collaboration with the reader. The problem with the traditional solutions mentioned above is that they may create a kind of schizophrenic attitude where the layout become an ultimate and independent goal in itself instead of serving the writer/reader collaboration.
One of our key concern is to propose the best interface to show and manipulate the structure on the author side. With such a focus, we naturally turned to outliners (and especially here for Browser-Based Outliners).

The key features we are looking for, and among many others, are:

  • How to promote and denote a node
  • How to move a node across the same level of the tree
  • How to delete nodes preserving consistency
  • How to expose and hide a node
  • How to hoist a node (so that it will be the uppermost node in the screen)
  • How to search within or across outlines

and more specifically for our project

  • How to import a document and split it in nodes
  • How to transform a tree in an array and vice versa
  • How to know where is the cursor in the node tree

Finally, we see intrinsic outliner as a bridge that helps carry and outline intention in the DOM, the realm of HTML.

…the computer screen is an ideal book on which one reads
about the world in the form of words and pages.

Umberto Eco, From Internet to Gutenberg, 1996

Eco said that the digital world is a world of texts, images and pages. This remains true today, the Gutenberg galaxy is still in a very good shape. Which company might relinquish its content to support its marketing? Textual pragmatics is the armed wing of Content Marketing and Internal Communication as well.

Yves Monsel
Layout by intention

[1] We will use the terms ‘text’, ‘publication’ or ‘document’ interchangeably as a blend of text and images.

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