lost and safe

This Ain’t Yo Granny’s Thesaurus.

…The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus that allows you to discover the connections between words in a visually captivating display…It works like your brain. Unlike a paper-bound book, the VT is fluid and dynamic, like the way you think. Word maps blossom with meaning, helping you find just the right word.

While writing the last entry, I managed to stumble upon this nifty little tool.  It works like this:

  1. Type a word into the Java applet’s text field, and hit “Look It Up”.
  2. The word you entered into the search field appears onscreen, along with a wiggling web of related words, definitions, and uses.
  3. Prepare to be amazed, educated, and amused as you explore word relationships, origins and more.

This is an amazingly powerful and sophisticated tool.  The possible applications for technology of this sort are endless.  I remember seeing something similar a while back, and couldn’t help but be amazed (See also: MusicMap).  The ingenuity and simplicity, combined with ease of use make this method of information presentation extremely efficient.  I feel like this could be the primary way we gather and communicate information in the near future.  As interactive technology trends away from static displays set up in hierarchical lists, we will see the rise of dynamic visualizations of data.

One such application just popped into my head.  What if you combined “dynamic data display” – as I like to call it – with word processing applications and active search and retrieval functions?  Sound like a bunch of gobbledygook?  Think of it like this.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are typing up an informative piece for a college course on…oh, I dunno, say visual informatics.  The word processor recognizes your lack of knowledge on synonyms for the word “display”, since you’ve used it four times in the last two paragraphs.  All four instances of the word are highlighted, and a small dialog bubble appears in the lower right corner of your screen: “Would you like to explore alternate words/phrasings to avoid repetitiveness?”  Amused by the machine’s delicacy in pointing out your slightly deficient vocabulary, you decide to accept the help on offer.  As soon as you click “Yes”, the screen grays slightly (the text is still visible underneath), and a new information layer appears.  What you see very much resembles the image at the top of this entry, with the word in question featured prominently in the center.  Synonyms and antonyms branch off in all directions, while nodes containing definitions and usages act as connection points.  You select suitable replacements for three of the four instances.  Your paper is suitably enriched and you continue working.

That was just one of many possibilities that this technology (and its subsequent embedding in other programs) entails.  I’d like to see this grow, and will definitely become a supporter once funds allow me to do so.  Even more than being informative and helpful, the thing’s just so dang fun to play around with.  I found myself fooling with it for at least an hour, and that was after only typing one word into the search field.

Filed under: Acquire Knowledge & Understanding, Missives, Value Creators, , , , , , , ,

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