Creating links to particular ideas rather than pages is an idea that’s now making a resurgence. There are all kinds of libraries that present controls on web sites when text is highlighted, sometimes to translate or define, but often to share a quote on social media. Some newer tools go further, and provide a more semantic layer of interaction with these particles. Of particular note are Quotebacks
feature to be added to the underlying rules of the web. Text Fragments is essentially The Times’s Emphasis but for the whole web: link to and highlight specific text on a web page. Google developed a version of this concept for linking directly to text in search results, and has just released a Chrome extension
to help readers easily link to Text Fragments.
Identifying the particles of ideas embedded in long text is difficult, but can be solved with advanced text parsing, more deliberate location definitions within text, or a combination. Adding information and context to the hyperlink — strengthening the bond — is a harder problem, but one that has recently seen some compelling innovation.
Much of that innovation has been happening in the context of personal software for note-taking and creativity. Obsidian
will create a knowledge graph from specially-marked text files on your computer, and Coda
allow for both simple documents and complex databases to be constructed with no code and shared among small groups, replete with links out to documents and texts. Recent experiments using Roam
propose to go a step further, allowing you to see two related documents side by side
with their interconnections highlighted in the space between, showing how one idea leads to its refinement or elaboration.
Adding on collaboration gives us new possibilities, using spatial rather than semantic linking to facilitate remix and discussion. MakeSpace
is still under development but promises to combine video collaboration with live snippets of websites, allowing participants to embed themselves in the space of ideas for real-time ideation, and the ability to link ideas to the spaces around them. Preserving those interactions as visual-spatial artifacts also facilitates recall, and maps to how our brains make associations.