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the art + science of seeing

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the art + science of seeing TM

GLIMPSE issue 7 explores the evolution of written language, from its earliest appearance to its current and unique forms. Contributors to this issue consider visual implications of text in multiple contexts and functions, explicit and subtle.

C O N T E N T S issue 7 T E X T winter 2011


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Reading Europe’s Paleolithic Writing: Gönnersdorf Platte 87




Anatomy of TEXTURE


ACTIVATING PRAYERS: Textual landscapes of the Tibetan Buddhist diaspora

Matthew Reed

Donald Thomas Burgy


(Re)view Prospero’s Books

Christine McCarthy Madsen with photographs by Robert Correia, Jr.

Ivy Moylan


Aesthetic Innovation in Indigenous Typefaces: Designing a Lushootseed font Juliet Shen


DYSLEXIA: A mind for typography Matthew H. Schneps


Negated News: HISTORIES’ RANSOM NOTES: An interview with visual artist Megan Michalak Carolyn Arcabascio and Megan Hurst


Mapping Text


RETROSPECT ca. 1865 Text as image: A Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

André Skupin

Georgia B. Barnhill





69 78 the Text issue playlist the GLIMPSE blog

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the art + science of seeing

Issue 7, winter 2011


(Front cover image) Photograph of typewriter: “Underwood Standard: Portable typewriter with unusual ‘double shift’ giving 3 characters per key,” 2008, by flickr member John Nuttall. (Back cover) “Watch,” 2010. Graffiti paste-up, Bradford Street, Deritend, Birmingham, England, by AsOne - Street Artist, Illustrator and Graphic Designer: Photograph by flickr member Elliott Brown.




Georgia B. Barnhill has been at the American Antiquarian Society since the fall of 1968 and was the curator of the graphic arts department from 1969 to 2009. During those many years, she lectured and published extensively on aspects of the Society’s print and illustrated book collections for audiences in the US and abroad. Among her recent accomplishments is a definitive descriptive bibliography of books and articles on American prints of the 18th and 19th centuries. As director of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture, she places the demystification of images for historians and others at the center of a number of activities.


Donald Thomas Burgy is the only child of Helen Stebler and Lucien Burgy who fled World War I from Alsace to New York. He was born in Manhattan in 1937. His first one-man art exhibition was at age eight. Joy Renjilian of Holyoke, Massachusetts and he married in 1966. Their twin sons, Lucien Boston Sky and Sarkis Boston Sky, were born in 1974. Burgy has taught art in Chicopee, Mass., Rutgers University, Brentwood, N.Y., Bradford Junior College, Harvard

University, Milton Academy and Massachusetts College of Art. Critics describe his work as Conceptual Art. He exhibited in Information (1970) at the Museum of Modern Art, which was a survey of concept art. Recently he completed a series of forty works of art that translate engravings by earliest humans, 30,000 to 10,000 years ago. The work reproduced in GLIMPSE is the first in the series.


Robert Correia, Jr. is an amateur photographer and outdoor enthusiast, who delights in all manner of nonmotorized exploration. Rob has acquired over 20 years of financial management experience, by education and employment at Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., a Fortune 500 grower-owned cooperative, and most recently at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His interest in public service has lead to appointments as a volunteer firefighter, a relief worker for FEMA following hurricane Katrina, and a Sierra Club backpacking trip leader. He lives in a bungalow in the woods of southeastern Massachusetts.


Dr. Christine McCarthy Madsen is a librarian and academic whose research aims to re-center libraries at

the heart of all the disciplines, and re-focus the work of librarians on creating a space for the transformation of information into knowledge. Her dissertation project was a critical analysis of the impact of digitization on scholarship and practice in the Tibetan and Himalayan region, but her larger research agenda is to recapture an integrated space in and from which to study the future of libraries. Madsen just completed her Doctorate degree at the Oxford Internet Institute of the University of Oxford.


Megan Michalak is an interdisciplinary artist whose studio practice spans sculpture, new media, performance and drawing. She lives in New York state where she is an assistant professor at State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo. Her works have been exhibited internationally at the Moscow Biennale for Young Art, Galleria Titanik in Finland, Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain in Montpelier France, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, among others. Interviews with the artist have appeared on the YLE Television National News of Finland, and YLE Radio Turku. Michalak received an MFA in Sculpture from Bard College, and an MFA in Studio for Interrelated Media from the Massachusetts College of Art.


Dr. Matthew H. Schneps studied calligraphy as a child in Japan, and thanks to his father who was head of design at a major publishing house, grew up in a home surrounded by typography. Schneps has a PhD in Physics from MIT, and is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). There, he was co-Director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory, and founding director of the Science Media Group, where he creates television and other visual media. He is founding director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning, conducting research in the neuroscience of visual perception and learning.

Juliet Shen was born and raised in New York and now lives in Seattle, Washington, where she has an independent design firm and teaches typography at the School of Visual Concepts. In 2005–2006 she closed her doors for one year and moved to England to earn a master’s degree in typeface design at the University of Reading. Her typefaces include Bullen (Font Bureau), inspired by early American foundry type; Earlybird (Oxford University Press), for primary level readers; and Lushootseed School (Tulalip Tribes of Washington), a Native American font. She has a special interest in American type history and recently organized the first Type Americana conference in Seattle. She is a sometimes letterpress printer and a dedicated student of tai chi.


Dr. André Skupin is an associate professor of Geography at San Diego State University. He received a master’s degree in Cartography at the Technical University Dresden, Germany, and a PhD in Geography at the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo. Dr. Skupin’s core research area involves leveraging geographic metaphors, cartographic principles, and computational techniques towards the visualization

of high-dimensional data. He has developed new visual data mining approaches for diverse data sources, from large text document collections to crime statistics and environmental sensor data. His research is strongly interdisciplinary, aimed especially at increased crossfertilization between geography, information science, and computer science.


Ryan Sullivan has been drawing since he developed thumbs in the womb. After being yelled at for obsessively doodling during class for the better part of 12 years, he enrolled in the Illustration program at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth and graduated in 2008. Though he tends toward creating comics, primarily about crows that smoke butts, he is also available for copious amounts of freelance work. He currently lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts with his fiancée, Rachel, and an ungrateful Boston Terrier named Nickels.




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Dr. Matthew Reed has been an imaging scientist for over twenty years and specializes in image analysis, quantitative microscopy and stereology. He has cofounded two companies, QuanToxPath Ltd and Spiral Scratch Ltd, and is a visiting professor at the University of Ulster, UK. Matt recently re-designed, re-typeset and reprinted the stereology handbook he coauthored with Vyvyan Howard in 1998. The book is still selling well, is used in numerous training courses and has more than 900 academic citations. Matt lives in West Kirby, on the northwest coast of the UK, with his wife Dawn, daughter Lorna and son Ben.


GLIMPSE Team Megan Hurst Founder, Editor


Carolyn Arcabascio Acquisitions Editor Rachel Sapin Editorial Assistant, Staff Writer Ivy Moylan Contributor, Film Reviews Arto Vaun Staff Poet, Contributing Poetry Editor Allison Nonko Editorial Intern, GLIMPSE Blog Adjunct + Alumni Christine Madsen Cofounder, Editor (Europe) Nicholas Munyan Consulting Designer EmComm: Madeleine Wojdak, Viviana Soto Marketing + Communications Account Managers



Anthony Owens Photographer Matthew Steven Carlos Editorial Advisor Jamie Ahlstedt Logo Design

GLIMPSE PO Box 44 Salem, MA 01970 ISSN 1945-3906

GLIMPSE issue #7, Text, presents artists’, designers’, historians’, visual scientists’ and geographers’ engagements with the prehistoric roots of, and aesthetic, cognitive, social, religious, and political engagements with the visual language and visual evidence of text. We start with Donald Thomas Burgy’s radical concept art illustrating earliest written language as visually-rooted in representations of spinning and weaving, and in early visual metaphors for the cycle of life. Next, we leap forward 28-40 millennia to typographer Juliet Shen’s recent efforts to help preserve the Lushootseed language by designing a font that emulates the spirit of the Tulalip Tribes’ culture, art, and spoken language. Astrophysicist Dr. Matthew Schneps then shares his understanding of written language as evolving within the constraints of human kinesthetics, and his research on the exceptional perceptual abilities of scientists and students with dyslexia. Dr. Schneps explains why people with dyslexia may be particularly suited to the profession of typography. Visual scientist Dr. Matthew Reed treats us to an essay on the structure of text, drawing comparisons of storage density between cortex and codex. GLIMPSE’s Dr. Christine McCarthy Madsen and photographer Robert Correia, Jr. share their article and stunning photo essay on Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in the power of the motion-activation of textual prayers and how this is translated in the digital-era Tibetan diaspora. Visual artist Megan Michalak laboriously mines The New York Times, bringing an archaeological mind-set to current events and the artifact of the newspaper. Geographer André Skupin segues into GLIMPSE issue 8 on the theme of cartography, with an essay on the role of text in maps. Historian and curator, Georgia B. Barnhill contextualizes a handwritten portrait of Abraham Lincoln. This issue is further punctuated with cinephile Ivy Moylan’s review of Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books (1997), and Rachel Sapin’s short pieces on forms and relics of text, including skywriting. Finally, we close this issue with illustrator Ryan “Sully” Sullivan’s exclamatory exercise of punctuation.

GLIMPSE is an independent, interdisciplinary journal that examines the functions, processes and effects of vision and its implications for being, knowing and constructing our world(s). Each theme-focused issue features articles, visual essays, interviews and reviews spanning the physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

ERRATA In GLIMPSE issue 6 “Invisible Friends: The creation of imaginary companions in childhood and beyond,” by Tracy Gleason: Selected print copies contained a production error which cropped the caption for the illustration on pages 10-11. The caption should have appeared as ‘(Left) “Snuggle Bear,” is a charming stuffed brown bear animated and loved by a 4-year-old boy. Although Snuggle Bear’s owner is his daddy, they are also close friends and have been for years. When the little boy plays firefighter, Snuggle Bear likes to be his fire dog.’

This issue leaves me with much to ponder, and with more questions about text than with which I started: Burgy’s piece leaves me interested in more cross-disciplinary, deeply-considered connections for how earliest written language might have evolved. Further, what will the future of text and reading look like? How will text be transmitted across centuries and millennia in a digital future? What are other examples of belief and practice of the “activation” of text? We welcome your comments to these and other questions elicited in the following pages.

Megan Hurst

Music to read GLIMPSE issue 7 by... Wordy Rappinghood, Tom Tom Club Typewriter Tip Tip Tip, from the film Bombay Talkie, Asha Bhosle & Kisore Kumar D.A.N.C.E. (Featuring Mos Def and Spank Rock), Justice

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Paperback Writer, The Beatles Amsterdam (Acoustic), Guster The News, Jack Johnson Font, Sputnik Helvetica, Lost Motion Assembly I’m going to sit right down and write myself a letter, Fats Waller Gutenberg’s Press, Cameron McGill Le Journaliste, Anne James Chaton & Andy Moor The Misprint in the Gutenberg Print Shop, Kinski Typesetter’s Song, Monarques



Now Available

Now Available

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Reading Europe’s Paleolithic Writing: Gönnersdorf Platte 87 by Donald Thomas Burgy

Here we read an engraved stone found in Gรถnnersdorf, a hunter/ gatherer winter dwelling on a terrace overlooking the Rhine River. The site is dated to Magdalenian V culture of the late Bรถlling temperate climate ca. 12,500 years BC. The reading is based upon a drawing of the engraving by Gisela Fischer and our illustration is a detail of her drawing.



Three females are depicted in profile silhouette facing right. The sizes and shapes of their buttocks and breasts represent, when viewed from left to right, those of an old crone, a matron, and a maiden carrying her child papoose style with her teenage daughter before her. They are on a journey with the youngest walking ahead and oldest behind.


The twist signs are comprised of two lines converging into one. Their shapes resemble the letter Y. They represent a spinster’s process of twisting fibers together to make strands by rolling them along her hip or thigh with the fingers of her right hand. Each female figure’s twist sign is engraved on her right hip.

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Engraved within the three female silhouettes are abstract signs which identify them as spinsters who twist fibers into strands of thread, string, yarn, lamp wicks, cords, etc.


As the three spinsters work together, they specialize in the chain of operations and this is signified by variations in the shape and size of their hip twists. The maiden’s twist is small and comprised of finely incised lines signifying simple short strands she twists at the process’ beginning. The matron’s is deeply incised long lines signifying longer stronger strands resulting from twisting together the maiden’s products.



In earliest Germanic legend, three ladies known as the Norns sit spinning strands by a spring beneath three roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree of all life. Old Urth, middle age Verdandi, and young Skuld preside over the fate of all gods and humans. They spin the threads of our lives and set their spans. Urth represents fate decreed at birth. Verdandi (to become) represents one’s life on Earth. Skuld (something owed) represents death, the debt all must pay. The three Norns weave the web of fate, fastening the threads of destiny. Urth and Verdandi, what was and is, stretch the web from East to West, from dawn to dusk, and Skuld, what shall be, cuts it. The three females represented in the Gönnersdorf engraving are the progenitors of the Norns and the Moirai of Greek myth: Klotho (twister, spinner), who spins the thread of life; Lachasis (allotment, share, portion), who measures it out to receive one’s due; and Anthropos (unturnable, inflexible, unchangeable) chooses when to cut it.

The three females are the source of the Fates of Roman myth who preside over birth, the Parcae (parere, to bear children): Nona (nonus, a ninth, a mature birth), Decima (decimus, a tenth, a postmature birth), and Morta (death, a still birth).

The Gönnersdorf engraving’s twist signs are writing. They are one example of the Paleolithic mother script which descended over millennia to become part of daughter writing systems in post-glacial civilizations.


The Gönnersdorf spinsters’ names are unknown so we will refer to them as the Norns: Urth, Verdandi, and Skuld. Skuld presides over the future rearing her child and teenage daughter who walks before her. They are ahead of the others walking to the right, in the direction of the future. Old Urth at the left carries a silhouette of a man who died in the past. His empty silhouette identifies his non-existence and his position behind her signifies that he is in the past.

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The three Gönnersdorf spinsters are Fates presiding over past, present, and future. They are spinning substance, turning it into becoming, being and has been. They spin, measure and cut the thread of life’s time.


In ancient Egypt a hieroglyph of two parallel twists represents warp threads signifying fringed fabric, item of clothing. A triplet of twisted lamp wicks signifies greatest time, infinite time. A cord with a triplet of knots signifies to plan, to found.


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NT ib E NT bscr O C su Y L m/ N O N Various twist signs are written in LinearaB script on a clay tablet found O ronn the island of Crete. The twists IKnossos T in the Minoan palacePof u I ejorepresenting R are written upon rectangles sacks of various fibers C ps S B dyed washed, carded, mand spun. The sacks are weighed so each held U i l S a standard amount. .g The signs were written as entries in the palace w economy’s w accounting system. w // : p Verdandi’s inverted hip twist is an unfinished strand. Urth’s Y is htt finished. The Minoan inverted twists signify unfinished strands.

In the following Chinese characters, twist signs signifying textile, time and/or life are identical to Paleolithic twists in form and meaning with the addition of circular representations of silk worm cocoons to identify the thread as silk. Ti is a thread wound on a spool with a winch at the bottom: succession of brothers. Kuan is two parallel twists of silk warp threads: to weave, to join, to fix. Sun is a human figure with a twist of silk thread: a connecting line of offspring, a grandson, posterity.


of the Gönnersdorf engraving are typical of Magdalenian art which persisted throughout Europe from the Würm IV glacial maximum ca. 16,000 years BC to its end during the warm Alleröd climate ca. 10,000 years BC. The signs and images of Magdalenian art are descended almost unchanged from Solutrean, Gravettian and Aurignacian artistic traditions that preceded them.


NT ib E NT bscr O C su Y L m/ N -O N IO urn T IP ejo R SC ps B U glim The twist S is only .one example of the many signs written with the w engraved Gönnersdorf images and only one example of how the w w Paleolithic // mother script descended to daughter writing systems in : p tt civilizations. The abstract signs and representational images hvarious

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A 17-inch-high female figure sculpted in relief was found in Abri Laussel, a rock shelter overlooking the River Beune, a tributary of the VÊzère in France. It is dated to the Gravettian culture during the warm moist Tursac Interstadial ca. 23,000 years BC. She raises a bison horn incised with 13 lines to signify 13 months of a lunar year. A twist sign engraved on her right hip identifies her as a spinster. The spinster who holds up a calendric of the year is a Fate of time, the Norn who spins the thread of life and presides over destiny.



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At present, the earliest known example of the art of painting is a wall mural in Chauvet cave in France which is dated ca. 30,400 years BC. It is an example of earliest Aurignacian culture in Europe. Reproduced here is a detail of the Chauvet mural. Three parallel vertical bands of four animal images are arranged in calendric sequences. In a band of four horses a Przwalski horse is at the band’s bottom. It is a breed adapted to cold climate with its small body and short nose. It migrated into the region only in winter. At the band’s top is a summer horse with large body and long nose.


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In the center calendric band’s bottom are two rhinoceros in a tête-à-tête confrontation, a scene typical of the late autumn rut. It is the time when rhinos have grown their woolly winter coats. The large twist sign written on one rhino labels it as an excellent source of wool for twisting. A longer twist written beside the Przwalski horse represents a spinster who is a Norn overseeing the winter horse’s fate. She is a Fate of time and life presiding over a calendar of the four seasons as signified by fauna that migrate in and out of the region in chronological sequence annually. Twist signs are written to modify the meanings of images in the earliest painting. Abstract writing and representational images are seamlessly together in the earliest painting. Writing is as old as art. The twist signs in the Chauvet painting, Gönnersdorf engraving and Chinese characters are evidence of an unbroken continuity from earliest Aurignacian culture in Europe to modern Asia. The many engraved stones paving the floor around Gönnersdorf’s hearth are a great library. Their widespread distribution over the floor suggests widespread literacy and open access. w


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Bauschatz, Paul C. 1982. The Well and the Tree, World and Time in Early Germanic Culture. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. Betrò, Maria Carmela. 1996. Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt. Abbeville Press Publishers, New York, London, Paris. Bosinski, Gerhard und Gisela Fischer. 1974. Die Menschendarstellungen von Gönnersdorf der Ausgrabung von 1968. Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH, Wiesbaden.


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Burgy, Donald Thomas. Drawing of Chauvet cave mural.

Chauvet, Jean-Marie, Eliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire. 1995. La Grotte Chauvet À Vallon-Pont-D’Arc. Seuil, Paris. Lalanne, J. G. et Chanoine J. Bouyssonie. 1941. “Le Gisement Paleolithique De Laussel.” L’Anthropologie, tome 50, Nos. 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, Masson & Cie, Editeurs, Paris. Vandenabeele, Frieda et Jean-Pierre Olivier. 1979. “Les Idéogrammes Archeologiques Du Linéaire B.” in École Francaise D’Athenes Études Crétoises, XXIV, Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, Paris. Wieger, L, S.J. 1965. Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology, History, Classification and Signification. A Study from Chinese Documents. Dover Publications, Inc., New York.

The artist thanks the librarians of the Tozzer Library, Harvard University.

Prospero’s Books


Directed by Peter Greenaway, 1991. 124 minutes. by Ivy Moylan


rospero’s Books is Peter Greenaway’s cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, starring John Gielgud. It is a heady and hallucinatory film with image, text, dialogue and sound overlaying each other. Although it loosely follows the play’s plot, that of an exiled magician whose daughter falls in love with his enemy’s son, it is more a re-interpretation of The Tempest than a direct adaptation.

Prospero’s Books was Greenaway’s follow-up film to The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, which was an internationally-acclaimed art film. With Prospero’s Books, Greenaway was one of the first filmmakers to use HDTV technology to create the picture within the picture elements.

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When the film was released in 1991, it was poorly received. There were angry reactions: there was too much going on in the frame; it wasn’t really an adaptation; it didn’t make any sense; there wasn’t any story. Some admired it, but few enjoyed it. However, now, nearly 20 years later, it appears to have been far ahead of its time. Greenaway’s multilayering of narrative forms foretold the media inundation and multi-tasking life that is normal to us now. w

An artifact containing some of the earliest forms of written language, the Rosetta Stone dates back to 196 BC and the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt. The content of the text is a decree that affirms the royal cult of 13-year old Ptolemy V on the anniversary of his coronation. The decree is carved into the stone three times in three different languages: hieroglyphics (a language used by priests), demotic (the quotidian language used by the general public), and Greek (the language used by royalty and administrative figures). - Rachel Sapin


Rosetta Stone


ou may have heard the term Rosetta Stone used figuratively as something that provides the key to understanding a concept that is otherwise mysterious. That’s because the “discovery” of the Rosetta Stone by soldiers in Napoleon’s army in 1799, and the ensuing analysis of the artifact by thousands of scholars contributed immensely to our current understanding of Egyptian culture and the deciphering of hieroglyphics, a writing form that had gone out of use after the end of the fourth century.


The film’s title refers to 24 books that Prospero took with him to his island exile–volumes he values more than his dukedom. Greenaway imagines what these books are, introducing them throughout the film, and presents Shakespeare’s narrative as another story that Prospero is writing. Prospero is author, central character and producer of the film’s action. We see him writing at his desk, putting down the words that he is also narrating to us. And, we see him perform the actions that he is writing and narrating. Each part overlays the next to

add another dimension to the action. By interlacing the elements of text, image and action Greenaway pushes beyond the normal boundaries of the film frame, traditional narrative, and the cinematic medium.

Aesthetic Innovation in Indigenous Typefaces Designing a Lushootseed font by Juliet Shen

The role of new typeface designs in language preservation



This past June, I sat among 350 linguists and educators in Eugene, Oregon, and listened to a keynote address by one of the last surviving native speakers of her Athabascan language. The Northwest Indian Language Institute at the University of Oregon hosted the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium, which I attended to speak about aesthetic innovation in the design of Native American typefaces. Innovation is needed to give indigenous typefaces a stronger cultural identity, since the Latin typographic design tradition, which originated in Europe, is not historically germane to the culture of Native American peoples. Both the small stroke terminals that we call serifs and the relative position of thick and thin strokes on the letters themselves are beholden to the broad-nib pen, the predominant tool of scribes in the 15th century when the technology of printing from cast metal type literally solidified the appearance of the prototypical roman typeface we are accustomed to reading. Its appearance has changed very little over the centuries since then. Today, design innovations in typefaces made for reading are necessarily subtle and difficult to perceive without a trained eye because too much innovation diverts the reader’s attention from the content of the text to its appearance. This reigning conservatism was abetted by the large capital investment required of printers while typesetting remained within their exclusive purview. But so long as principles of legibility are observed, orthodoxy in typeface design is less relevant in cases where literacy has been imposed so recently upon an oral tradition, as is the case with most American indigenous languages. Although the more recent designs of text typefaces without serifs

(sans serif) may offer a more neutral springboard from which to design new Native American fonts, raising the cultural and aesthetic appeal of these fonts calls for more than neutrality. Most Native American languages had no written script until the late 20th century, when linguists began recording the stories, songs and everyday speech of elderly native speakers. (This movement came too late for many indigenous languages, after a century of public policy attempted to stamp them out.) Today most of the extant indigenous languages in the U.S. are written in the Latin alphabet amplified by diacritical accents and phonetic characters, a system of writing devised by linguists. Unlike the typography of the traditional Latin alphabet, these scripts do not form a harmonious interwoven texture on the page. The idea that indigenous fonts should be aesthetic as well as functional, that they should look as balanced as Latin text on the page, has not yet taken root among linguists and educators, concentrated as they are on capturing and analyzing the speech of elders while it’s still possible, and on finding effective ways to teach fluency to second-language learners. Typographic aesthetics are just not on their radar. As a result, the appearance of most devised

secafepyT suonegidnI ni noitavonnI citehtseA tnof deestoohsuL a gningiseD

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(This page) Lushootseed wood type created by the Hamilton Museum of Wood Type & Printing, Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The press was used at the 2010 Tulalip Lushootseed Language Camp in Washington. Image courtesy of The Tulalip Tribes of Washington.

writing systems for indigenous languages is more likely to intimidate youthful learners than invite them to decode the mysteries of the script.

Typographic needs of indigenous language fonts



Currently, the need for typefaces with indigenous language characters is sometimes met through the illegal but still common practice of opening “free” fonts and editing them to add the missing characters. Most of the so-called “free” fonts are bundled with operating systems and office software programs and have licensing agreements that prohibit editing and redistribution. A better way to obtain typefaces for indigenous language characters is to use fonts with extensive character sets that seek to meet the needs of any and all such scripts. But because of the sheer volume of characters contained in these pan-indigenous fonts (numbering in the thousands) and the tiny size of some indigenous language communities, not all scripts are well served by these sets, and may call for a customized font instead (Figure 1).

(Figure 1) Note the poor default display of the two comma accents, one above the c-caron (c-wedge) and one belonging to the el, in this extended unicode font.

The Tulalip Tribes commissioned me to custom design a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font for Lushootseed, a member of the Salish family of languages. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranks Lushootseed as critically endangered, the final status before extinction (Figure 2). We named the new font “Lushootseed School” since its primary purpose was as a tool for teaching children.

(Figure 2) UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages ( Image courtesy of the author.

On the Tulalip reservation, a 20,000-acre area on the Salish Sea about 40 miles north of Seattle, Lushootseed instruction begins at the preschool level. The teachers in the Tulalip Lushootseed Department explained to me that children laboriously copied the serifs on some letters when a font like Times Roman was used in pedagogic materials. Though research with young readers has found no advantage to using sans serif fonts, educators still prefer them when teaching reading and writing simultaneously.

Designing a Lushootseed font Lushootseed is indigenous to the place where it once thrived, spoken by peoples who revered the natural world that sustained them. The sound of it blends into the natural sounds of the Pacific Northwest: water lapping on the shore, wind rustling through cedar trees, the consonantal clicking of creatures in the wild. At our very first meeting, a master teacher pointed out to me that the written script did not do justice to the spoken language. I went home and listened to recordings of elders telling traditional stories, and made it my design brief to produce a typeface that looked as graceful on the page as the language sounded. There are some tasks that must precede the design of glyphs for an indigenous language font. Unicode compliance means that the font follows international encoding standards, ensuring that one may change the

How font software works


unicode for the character “scaron”

font-specific glyph outline



visible glyph

After the encoding for Lushootseed School was agreed upon, I studied traditional Salish art forms, benefiting from the fortuitous presence of a Salish art exhibit named S’abadeb, The Gifts, at


font of a document without affecting its actual text (Figure 3). Fonts with Unicode private use area (PUA) or incorrect encoding produce documents that can only be read in the font with which they were created. This impedes the exchange of information among academics, for example, who may not have the same font installed on their computers. It also creates headaches for archivists since the digital documents are unreadable if the original fonts are lost. So the first step in designing a font for an indigenous language is to determine the standard Unicode for its characters. Sometimes similar-looking glyphs are linked to different Unicodes. For example, the el-caron (Unicode 013E) that is used in central European languages is rendered as the letter el followed by an apostrophe-like accent and looks identical to the glottalized el (Unicode 0063 + Unicode 0315) in Lushootseed. Selection of the right code for a particular language requires consulting with speakers and linguists and then applying the standard consistently in all subsequently designed fonts.

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17th Annual SILS • June 2010 • Juliet Shen • designing aesthetic indigenous typefaces

(Figure 3, above) Font software works by connecting a character outline with a unicode value which remains constant. Different fonts like Helvetica and Times Roman may have different character outlines, but the unicode value for a character is the same in both fonts. Image courtesy of the author. (Figure 4, right) A figure collected in 1792 from Puget Sound displays stylization typical of Salish figures from before the time of contact into the 20th century. Image courtesy and © Trustees of the British Museum.


the Seattle Art Museum. I hoped to discover authentic forms that could be used in the font design. I found that the symmetry of Salish art does not fit the rigid geometry of the digital environment. It is the symmetry of nature, where lines curve and there are no true circles. In Salish objects, generosity in volume is favored over elongation, so that conical baskets have convex sides and circular shapes are always wider in the middle. Most strikingly, the persistent repetition of certain formal motifs, the reduction and simplification of shapes, and a heightened awareness of the interaction between the interior space of a shape and the exterior space defined by its perimeter— all these attributes of Salish art are mirrored in the way typeface designers see letter forms (Figures 4-9).

Designing in the spirit of wood


Next, I considered how to incorporate the influence of traditional Salish art in the Lushootseed typeface. Metal typecasting was a technology well suited to reproducing thin

parts of a stroke that withstood the pressure of the printing platen, and broad areas that inked evenly, all in the same small letter. It faithfully reproduced the sharp edges of the pen stroke and the small serifs. But traditional Salish art and artifacts are infused with the spirit of wood. Objects sculpted of wood have softer edges and broader details. To preserve the spirit of wood in Lushootseed School, I avoided the true straight edge that is the natural extension of the digital pixel and made straight strokes with slightly curved edges and terminals. The basic round unit in the typeface is broader across than it is tall. Stroke

Clockwise from above-left. (Figure 5, above left) Housepost of Tsimalano, Musqueam, late-19th century. Image courtesy of University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada. (Figures 6 and 7, top right) Canoe paddles carved more than a century apart: Thunderbird and Serpent, by Shaun Peterson, Puyallip/Tulalip, 2006 (above) and Canoe Paddle of Princess Angeline (Chief Seattle’s daughter), Suquamish/Duwamish, 1882 (below). Courtesy of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, catalog numbers 2006-158/1 and 2.5E1556. (Figure 8, right) Spindle-whorl, Cowichan, 19th century. Image © Trustees of the British Museum. (Figure 9, above) Coast Salish D-adze, Puget Sound, late-19th or early-20th century. This tool illustrates a consciousness of the interaction of interior and exterior space on form that is essential to typeface design as well. Courtesy of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, catalog number 8611.


:/ p t ht


NT ib E NT bscr O C su Y L m/ N -O N IO urn T IP ejo R SC ps B SU .glim w w w

issue 7 Text

tm h . e


č̓ č c̓ gʷ

(ɬ ɬ) l̕ m̓ p̓ š w̓ y̓

ʔ intersections, such as the center name, running man (see the final a of the x, are rounded instead of character in Figure 11), than the pointed (Figures 10 and 11). typical typeset Greek lambda. One b b̓ character in particular proved to c be controversial. Among the three Improving the texture of crossed el characters in Unicode, Lushootseed on the page d dᶻ the correct linguistic choice for the The typography of Lushootseed in Tulalip Tribes’ font is one with a ə continuous text suffers most from looped belt, but the teachers cong the frequent use of characters sidered this letter awkward to write incorporating a raised small w, and too similar to an ampersand. h which modifies the pronunciation of They had their own way of writing i the letter immediately preceding it. the character as a cursive looped The spaces under the raised small el with a bar across the intersecǰ w leave disturbing holes in the tion. With any script for a major of words. For Lushootseed world language, such an anomaly k k̓ kʷ k̓ʷ middle l the School, this glyph is based on the would not be incorporated into m t l handwritten, or informal form. The typeface, but for endangered lanT as Lushootseed, h small . rounded vertices of the informal guages N e such E teaching ƛ̕ ib communities w capture more white space indigenous T r c N within the letter, allowing it to be are all that s stand between survival m O extinction. b reduced in size without fillingCin. andu preferences s trump Their Y n n̓ / Reducing the size in turnLreduces should standard typoNmiddleoofmgraphic usage and they should be the unsightly gaps in the p O words (Figure 12). l.c permitted to develop distinctive N a q q̓ qʷ q̓ʷ O styles, just as the European I theuspace rn above glyphic T In Lushootseed scribes did in the centuries before P I o s theRx-height,ejthe area where the Latin alphabet was cast as type C withpsascenders like h poke (Figure 14). Sletters t t̕ B also accommodate two im lmust SU up, u levels of diacritical accents. This (Figure 14) The three els below each have g . wleaves too shallow an area below a distinct unicode. The Tulalip Lushootseed w w for letters such as s, k and x that community uses the character on the right, w / have mid-section subdivisions. This / : xʷ p difficulty was solved by abandoning t x̌ʷ x̌ht the traditional four-line grid of the Latin alphabet and adding a second but the teachers dislike it and requested a y x-height (Figure 13). design based on handwriting (below, left) for

(Figure 10, above) Lushootseed alphabet tree with core characters and their diacritical branches. There are no capital letters, allowing all characters to fit on the keyboard with use of the shift key. Image courtesy of the author. (Figure 11, right) Enlarged characters showing the rounded intersections and slightly curved strokes and terminals. Image courtesy of the author.

Additional characters in Lushootseed School have an unorthodox design. The glottalized stroked lambda looks more like its popular

the Lushootseed School font. An alternate font called Lushootseed Sulad with the standard glyph (right), was also made.

The same text set in Lushootseed School (center) and two other fonts available to the Tulalip Tribes’ language teachers. Excerpt from “The Legend of the Boy Who Could Not Walk,” as narrated by Emma Conrad (Sauk-Suiattle).

Gel falilileX ti seVitils dXfal Ii seTsils. Gel ;ufe:aX elGef. ;ubebelIaX elGef dXfal tifef difef Vit ;Qucid fe tifef difef sfilucid fe dXqelb. fal Iedif tusfes;a;lils elGef. tuLfal Gel, Gel fetXaX elGef tifef stabs elGef fal tifef dadatu. Gel fufabGaseX elGef fal tifef QXabac fal tifef stIab.

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gʷəl ʔaliləxʷ ti səč̓itils dxʷʔal kʷi sət̕sils. gʷəl ɬuʔəƛ̕axʷ əlgʷəʔ. ɬubəbəlkʷaxʷ əlgʷəʔ dxʷʔal tiʔəʔ diʔəʔ č̓it l m ɬq̓ucid ʔə tiʔəʔ diʔəʔ sʔilucid ʔə dxʷqəlb. ʔal kʷədiʔ ht . e Təlgʷəʔrib tusʔəsɬaɬlils əlgʷəʔ. tul̕ʔal gʷəl, gʷəl ʔəƛ̕txʷaxʷ N E sc Tʔuʔabgʷasəxʷ tiʔəʔ stabs əlgʷəʔ ʔal tiʔəʔ dadatu. gʷəl b N u O s C / əlgʷəʔ ʔal tiʔəʔ q̓xʷabac ʔal tiʔəʔ stkʷab.

Custom designs accommodate unorthodox solutions

Latin alphabet on 4-line grid

itcdegkpsx Lushootseed on 6-line grid

it p əsxk ƛ̕ ʔ k̓ʷ x̌ʷ č̓


LY .com N l ɬuʔəƛ̕axʷ Osət̕sils. a gʷəl ʔaliləxʷ ti səč̓itils dxʷʔal kʷi gʷəl N urn O I əlgʷəʔ. ɬubəbəlkʷaxʷ əlgʷəʔ T dxʷʔal jo tiʔəʔ diʔəʔ č̓it P e I s ɬq̓ucid ʔə tiʔəʔ diʔəʔ pʔə dxʷqəlb. ʔal kʷədiʔ CRsʔilucid S m i tusʔəsɬaɬlils tul̕l ʔal gʷəl, gʷəl ʔəƛ̕txʷaxʷ əlgʷəʔ g UBəlgʷəʔ. . S w tiʔəʔ stabs əlgʷəʔ ʔal tiʔəʔ dadatu. gʷəl ʔuʔabgʷasəxʷ w w / q̓xʷabac ʔal tiʔəʔ stkʷab. əlgʷəʔ ʔal:/tiʔəʔ p htt


(Figure 12, left above) The same text set in Lushootseed School (center) and two other fonts available to the Tulalip Tribes’ language teachers. Excerpt from “The Legend of the Boy Who Could Not Walk,” as narrated by Emma Conrad (Sauk-Suiattle). Image courtesy of the author. (Figure 13, left below) The Lushootseed font was adapted to a 6-line grid with two lowercase x-heights and two tiers of diacritic accents. Image courtesy of the author.

Observations on designing for a different culture Working for the Tulalip Tribes proved to be different from designing for any other client in my 30 years of professional practice. As mentioned, the community’s preferences were a large factor in decisions that would customarily be based solely on established typographic norms. On a deeper level, there were cultural differences in communication. Designers usually receive important feedback about the direction of their work in face-to-face meetings, even if it means reading between the lines or identifying a decision-making hierarchy within the group. In this community, etiquette did not permit expressions of open praise or criticism, and the social structure of the group remained opaque, so these avenues for gaining insight were closed. I had to adjust my expectations and be patient.



NT ib E NT bscr O To the indigenous language community, I offer these C su Y recommendations for working with a typeface designer: 1) L and m/ N that a tech-savvy point person liaise with the designer o -Osoftware; c be available to test and troubleshoot the font . l N a all 2) that the approval process includeIconsultation with O n r T and stakeholders, such as linguists, P teachers, utechnology I o j aides; and 3) that a flexible attitude be adopted regarding R point issimportant e C keyboarding habits. This latter BS limp font permitsbecause the use of a non U Unicode-compliant some S that cannot keyboarding habits then be sustained when .g switching to a Unicodew font. w w / Pedagogical :/ values of an aesthetic typeface p t Endangered ht Native American languages deserve harmonious, balanced typefaces that reflect something of their indigenous aesthetic tradition. A typeface that appeals to the eye and has a cultural connection to its speakers will attract new learners to an indigenous language and provide affirmative reinforcement of their efforts—much as a well designed and beautifully crafted tool will encourage the apprentice cabinetmaker to do fine joining. This power should be exploited by indigenous language communities in the uphill endeavor to save their language from extinction by restoring it to everyday use. w


tm h . e

Adding hand typesetting and printing to the language acquisition stream can enhance cognition for those who benefit from the integration of kinetic activity with learning. Using wood type modeled on the digital font design, the Tulalip Tribes first combined a printing workshop with language instruction during their Language Camp in August, 2010.

(Figure 17, below) Showing off their letterpress prints of the Lushootseed word, “listen.� Image courtesy of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.


(Figure 16, left) Students at Language Camp print with their Lushootseed wood type. Image courtesy of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.

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(Figure 15, far left) Lushootseed teacher Rebecca Posey teaches students to print on the 19th-century proofing press donated to the Tulalip Tribes by Sandra Lyon, a retired teacher. Image courtesy of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.


DYSLEXIA: A mind for


by Matthew H. Schneps, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics



rior to the invention of movable type, books were produced by talented scribes who painstakingly drew every page by hand. Though today hand-drawn text has been supplanted by modern technology, the aesthetics of modern typography is rooted in the aesthetics of the pre-industrial calligraphers who slowly and carefully drew text-forms by hand. A moderate-sized book could take years to reproduce. Therefore, an important aspect of this aesthetic was driven by a need to avoid disrupting the natural flow of the hand, and minimize the number of strokes required to render the text. Characters were designed so that they could be smoothly linked from one to the next, in shapes that were easily executed by the muscles of the hand and arm. The biological origins of the modern typographic aesthetic are now much-disguised; nonetheless, virtually every font in use today incorporates designs that can be traced to the constraints and limitations of human kinesthetics.

beauty. Just as some people have bodies better suited to marathon running than to weightlifting, abilities for fine motor control and eye-hand coordination required for calligraphy vary tremendously among individuals. Though less obvious, people also vary widely in their abilities for perception. It is therefore natural to assume that the ability to perceive and appreciate the subtleties of typographic aesthetics also varies according to the individual.

virtually every font... incorporates designs that can be traced to the constraints... of human kinesthetics

We often joke that physicians seem incapable of writing a legible prescription. And yet, others seem to be gifted with handwriting remarkable for its grace and

We are aware that many people wear eyeglasses to correct for differences in the structure of their eye that affects sensitivity to detail. Differences of this sort, that make people more or less sensitive to the effect of fine detail, will obviously alter their ability to appreciate things like the role a serif has on the qualities of a font. While such obvious differences in vision are easily measured and corrected, others that originate deeper within the brain are more subtle, but can nevertheless have profound effects on a person’s sensitivity to typographic design. Since the typographic aesthetic is rooted in the subtleties of gesture and motion produced by the hand, and since the ability (Left) Arabic calligraphy, translates to “The distant ports will not entice me. Leave me to open seas, and salt-laden winds.� - Nadeem Naimy

(Right) Research shows that people with dyslexia are better able to remember the physical layout and arrangements of blurred images such as this, compared to people who are typical readers. Blurring the image enhances visual characteristics better matched to the peripheral portions of the visual field.

Dyslexia... affects anywhere from 5 to 20% of all people

Dyslexia, a hereditary condition that impairs abilities for reading and spelling, is one such condition that is known to affect the neurology of the visual system. Dyslexia is the most widely diagnosed learning disability among children in school. According to estimates it affects anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of all people. Though routine eye exams do not reveal anything especially noteworthy in people with dyslexia, researchers have found that people with this condition process visual movement and flow in ways that are subtly different from typical readers.

Research shows that some people with dyslexia are slightly less sensitive to certain types of movement.

Experiments performed by my lab with James Brockmole of University of Notre Dame showed that when pictures of natural scenes are blurred, so that they match the visual response characteristics of the periphery, college students with dyslexia were able to learn and remember spatial layouts of scenes. However, college students without reading impairments were not able to learn the spatial arrangements in the blurred images. This study is important because it demonstrates that dyslexia, typically regarded as a learning disability, may be linked to cogni-


Yet, this insensitivity to motion appears offset by unusual strengths in processing information on the peripheral parts of the visual field that are not used for reading. We suggest this advantage for peripheral processing leads to surprising cognitive abilities, including some that may be important in typographic design.

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to sense biological movement is essential for the survival of humans as a species, the brain is evolved to be exquisitely attuned to the perception of movement underpinning typographic design. Sensitivity to movement is not usually measured in routine diagnostic eye examinations. However, variations in visual sensitivity to movement are sometimes studied in people who have evident neurological issues, such as brain injury, neurological disease, or a neurological learning disability. Therefore, much of what we know about visual sensitivity to movement, or other higher order cortical visual functionality, comes from studying people whose neurology is otherwise unusual.


HOW SENSITIVE ARE YOU TO ERRORS IN TYPOGRAPHY? Starting at the second paragraph in this article, subtle errors in typographic design were deliberately introduced into every other paragraph. The errors are barely noticeable to start, but increase in magnitude in paragraphs on the preceding two pages. At which paragraph did you first spot that something was wrong with the layout? If you noticed the errors in paragraph two, you have the skills of an experienced typographer. If you hadn’t noticed until paragraph six, you may be less sensitive to these types of errors. Research sug-

32gests that people with dyslexia may be among those who are more sensitive to such errors compared to others.

tive advantages for memory and learning. It furthermore suggests that the neurological differences in vision associated with dyslexia may be advantageous in learning the layout of a scene, a skill that is important in typographic design. Another clue suggesting that dyslexia may be linked to visual talents for typographic design comes from a study conducted in my lab investigating whether astrophysicists with dyslexia have special abilities for noticing subtle undulations in the shape of a graph. In collaboration with my colleagues Todd Rose, Marc Pomplun, and Lincoln Greenhill, we compared astrophysicists with dyslexia to scientists who are typical readers and measured their ability to notice a double-peaked pattern in a spectrum signaling the presence of a black hole in a faraway galaxy. We found that when the spectrum’s graphical shape spanned a large visual angle, the astrophysicists with dyslexia outperformed their

Enhanced abilities to holistically integrate information across a visual expanse also makes people with dyslexia especially adept at noticing errors and inconsistencies in a drawing. For example, the artist M. C. Escher is well known for illustrations of fanciful scenes that appear to violate the laws of physics: to allow water to flow uphill, people to walk up walls, or ants to walk a staircase in a seemingly endless circle. Escher achieves these effects by incorporating geometric forms known as “impossible figures.”

To illustrate how dyslexia may influence sensitivity for typography, you may notice that the text in this paragraph has been subtly altered so as to introduce errors in font spacing and layout. Some words are expanded or compressed, and some characters are shifted slightly above or below the line. Our work suggests that individuals with dyslexia are likely to be more sensitive to such errors in design and to nuances in layout. These differences in the neurology of vision associated with dyslexia may contribute to making these people very well suited to careers in typographic design. Overall, this demonstrates that people who otherwise struggle with reading and other functions, often have visual strengths valuable in fields such as art and science, that make them important, valued contributors in these fields.w

Dyslexia... may be linked to cognitive advantages for memory and learning

Impossible figures are drawn in such a way so as to join one part of a figure with another in ways that would be impossible (without tricks) if the structure were to be actually built. Catya von Károlyi at Boston College timed how quickly people with dyslexia were able to identify whether or not a figure was impossible, and found that those with dyslexia were faster at making this distinction. She attributed this to heightened abilities in dyslexia for global integration that allows these people to more readily compare parts of the drawing across its whole, to quickly spot the logical inconsistencies. Since typography incorporates patterns and regularities that are vestiges of a calligrapher’s flowing hand (Above) Impossible figure. Image courtesy of Sarah Shuwairi. (Left) Scientists with dyslexia can more readily spot the doublepeaked pattern in graphs such as these, simulating the spectra from galaxies containing black holes, when the peaks are separated by large visual angles.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: The author’s research described here was supported with funds from the National Science Foundation and a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution funded by the George E. Burch Foundation. Check the GLIMPSE journal blog for a transcript of the author discussing his article and the documentary film, Helvetica, with typographers Dyana Weissman and David Jonathan Ross from the December 15, 2010 GLIMPSE Art + Science of Seeing Dialogues event at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA.


and arm movements, departures from this expected pattern are often perceived as a departure from the accepted aesthetic. We suggest that people with dyslexia, who have strong abilities for holistic integration, who are sensitive to errors in visual logic, may have visual systems that are extremely sensitive to this aspect of the typographic aesthetic.

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colleagues in this task. Again, this suggests people with dyslexia are at an advantage when it comes to holistically integrating shapes across the whole of an expanse, using information from the peripheral parts of the visual field.


The Anatomy of Texture by Matthew Reed

“ . . . the anatomy of texture, is that which shews the composition of the organs: it is a kind of analysis, reducing these into their constituent elements.” William Lawrence FRS 1829. On the Nature and Classification of Diseases. Lecture III. October 5th, 1829. Printed in the London Medical Gazette.


he word “texture” has been widely used to describe the anatomy of




organs in the human body. The

Typesetting, printing and binding a complete physical

phrase, “anatomy of texture,” in

multi-scaled book is a high-level cognitive task in visual

particular, is an elegant and highly appropriate

and geometric construction. A complex book texture

way of describing the complex, three-dimensional

needs to take the stream of words written by the

spatial arrangements of their structure and

author and give those words a physical form.

microstructure. This same phrase can also be applied in the conceptual exploration of the

Before a book is typeset, the text that was created

textures embodied in the complex internal

by the author is essentially a one-dimensional stream

structure of text in a physical book.

of information; thousands of individual characters are formed into words, sentences, and paragraphs, using

The word “text” is derived from the Latin word

spaces and specific punctuation marks. If all of these

textus meaning to weave. This word is also the

characters were printed out one after another on a

root of the word “texture.” The connection

long strip of paper, like an old-fashioned ticker tape,

between text and texture is both natural and

we would have a completely linear text. Although not

obvious. When seen from a distance of a meter

ideal, even in this format it would be possible to read

or more, a page of printed text is unreadable but

the text, word by word, as the text was scrolled before

is instantly identifiable by its two-dimensional,

our eyes. For example, the first edition of The Origin

visual, texture. The history of the connection

of Species by Charles Darwin is composed of 155,727

between text and texture goes much deeper than

separate words. In this linear format, if The Origin

two dimensions. In metal type (or letterpress)

of Species was printed in an 11-point font, it would

printing, the text letter forms on paper did not

emerge as a one-dimensional strip about 600 meters

result in just two-dimensional optical textures,

long (Figure 1A).

but tactile, three-dimensional physical textures, caused by the pressing of inked metal type

A complete linear text can easily be broken into small

onto, and into, paper.

strips, each of which can be glued onto a piece of paper.



Living birds can hardly fail to be Livining highly effective agents dsspo can fail thebir beldhig tran rtathar ion dly of see I cou givhly e maeff nyective agents


This was of course how telegrams used to be constructed (Figure 1B). This transition from linear to telegram text is a



crucial step. The linear text string is mapped from one-dimension into two-dimensions.


In addition to the existing one-dimensional

������ �� �������

relationships between letters, spaces, and punctuation, this mapping now adds new

�Living birds can hardly fail to be highly effective agents in the transportation of seeds. I could give many facts showing how frequen tly birds of many kinds are blown by gales to vast distances across the ocean.

structural features to the text—including inter-line spacing, and how to end a line. Telegram paste-up is a crude transitional

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step towards a fully typeset two-dimensional page (Figure 1C).


Transposing text into a two-dimensional visual space is at the heart of book design, and it is ancient. Robert Bringhurst points

Telegram paste-up is a crude transitional step ng birds can hardly fail to be hig effective agents in the transportat ion of seeds. I could give many towards ahlyfully typeset two-dimensional page

(Top,Figure 1A) A very small portion of the linear text version of The Origin of Species. (Above, Figure 1B) A “telegram” version of our fragment of The Origin of Species. (Below, Figure 1C) Telegram paste-up is a crude transitional step towards a fully typeset two-dimensional page.

(c) out that, “scribes and typographers, like architects, have been shaping visual spaces for thousands of years.”1 If the complete


������ �� �������

linear stream of The Origin of Species is mapped into a readable two-dimensional form, it would be about 14 square meters in area. The Origin of Species, in the form of twodimensional typeset pages, can now be turned into a three-dimensional form. It is

�Living birds can hardly fail to be highly effective agents in the transportation of seeds. I could give many facts showing how frequen tly birds of many kinds are blown by gales to vas t distances across the ocean.


printed onto both sides of a thin paper, then cut and bound to create

Origin of Species

a three-dimensional book with a volume of less than half a liter—about one US pint. This whole process of typesetting, printing and binding

in 2-dimensions

thus allows a high degree of compaction—it weaves the very long


three-dimensional space. All levels of hierarchical structure in the final

sequence of words that comprise a book into a complex, but compact, physical book serve the purpose of making the text easily available in

~14 square meters

space and time to a human reader. Designing and typesetting a complete book is a synthetic task. Although the anatomy of a book is completely man-made, it has a final structure with a close conceptual similarity to the complex spatial arrangements

Origin of Species

of the tiny functional units of living organs. Whereas the unaided eye is a sufficiently sharp tool to observe all of the structural elements of a book, the units of functioning organs can only be observed and quantified

as a 3-dimensional book




a volume of < .5 liter or ~1 US pint

using a range of quantitative microscopy tools, and this is an explicitly analytical task.

The Texture of the neocortex In many organs—for example, the brain, liver, and kidney—biological functionality is achieved in nature by the careful and non-random creation of a 3D structure, which is composed of millions or billions of tiny functional units distributed through the 3D space of the organ. The human brain is built in precisely this manner. In particular, the highlyconvoluted layer on the outside of the brain called the neocortex, is packed with neurons, the brain’s key functional units. The neocortex manages virtually all of the high-level tasks we identify as human; it is

human cortex

the home of the sensory and motor cortex, the auditory cortex, as well

four lobes

weighs about 600 grams, which is about 40 percent of the weight of the

= ~600 grams,

as our memory and our visual cortex. In a typical adult human, the cortex whole brain. Within this cortex there are about 15 billion neurons, with supporting tissues and structures such as blood vessels and glia. The neocortex has been studied for hundreds of years and

15 billion neurons,

neuroanatomists use a number of hierarchies to describe its structure. At

many only ~10 microns

overlying cranial bones: frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal. Within

in diameter

parallel to the surface of the convolutions of the external surface of the

the crudest level, the neocortex is divided into four lobes, named for the these lobes the neurons within the neocortex are arranged in six layers, cortex. At the same time, columns of neurons course through these six layers and tend to be connected together. Neurons themselves are tiny—many are only 10 microns in diameter—and they are embedded

in a structured matrix composed of other


cell types and tiny blood vessels. The neurons are the

—Text Block—Page—Book. Although the fine

basic computational units of the brain. They require

detail of brain microstructure can only be resolved

information to be passed into them and then back out

using microscopy, for most people with normal

again at high speed.

visual acuity, the unaided eye is sufficiently sharp



a tool to zoom in on all the structural elements All of the hierarchical and multiple levels of structure and

of a book. Although there are analogous textural

texture in organs such as the brain are exposed as the

motifs in printed books and the neocortex of the

organ is inspected with higher and higher magnification

brain, the mode of seeing required to resolve these

microscopy. Here, due to the very small scale of the

motifs is quite distinct.

fundamental units of the brain, microscopy is the tool we need to zoom in on the structural elements of the

We see more and more detail in our field of view as


we zoom in on each of the hierarchical components of a book. However, at each successively higher

In a printed book, the functional units analogous to neurons are glyphs. These discrete impressions of black or letters but rather elements of writing—the individual marks on paper that contribute to meaning. Glyphs are embedded in plain white space and are the basic units that construct the hierarchy

of textural components that make up a book. These welldefined components range in size over seven orders

fraction of the total book in the field of view. For our purposes, the seven components can be approximated as two-dimensional objects, for which the most robust measure of size is area. In the case of a physical book, the size of each object has been estimated in millimeters squared (Figure


ink onto the white space of paper are not characters

magnification, we see a smaller and smaller

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Anatomy of a book


2). Each of the seven components has a distinct physical extent or size. Note that if any of these hierarchies were completely left out—for example, if the book was made of pages that had no delimited text block and margins—it would have a detrimental impact on the readability of the book.


(Figure 2) The h seven ragrap Pa components of a physical book.



108 107 2




Page Word

2 Area, mm

7 6




104 103 102 1

xtxt TeTe blokck bloc






Area, mm








Text blo3ck

10 102



Text b

Line Word



Axis Axis

Ape Serif




38 Utopia At a magnification where whole paragraphs are visible, the anatomy of texture of individual words and the font becomes the dominant feature of a text. The individual glyphs of the font are clearly visible and the inherent structure of these glyphs and the way that they interact with whitespace are the motifs of texture that delight or annoy the eye. The construction of lines and paragraphs of text that we really want to read, and find easy to read, requires the skills of the typesetter. There are a number of textural decisions that a typesetter needs to make, perhaps the most important being selection of the font that the text will be set in. The Utopia font shown in detail in Figure 3 is a transitional style font that was designed by Robert

Slimbach and first released by Adobe in 1989. Adobe describes this font as combining ”the vertical stress and pronounced stroke contrast of 18th-century Transitional types like Baskerville and Walbaum with contemporary innovations in character shapes and stroke details.” Although the font is not as widely used as Slimbach’s Minion typeface, it is an excellent font and is also freely available for aspiring typesetters in the LaTeX system. Complex scientific textbooks, complete with mathematics, can easily be typeset in Utopia. It prints well and reads well even at small font sizes. Figure 3 also shows some of the key tricks that master typesetters of old had to achieve by their acquired skills and which are now created with clever computer algorithms.

erture Aperture

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39 (Figure 3) The Utopia font, by Robert Slimbach.

Although invented by Chris Messina (an Open Web advocate for Google), hashtags became popular among mainstream users in 2007 because they allowed users to quickly relay information during an emergency. In October 2007, tweets about the San Diego fire were shared and made searchable through the hashtag #sandiegofire; they have since been implemented by users for similar purposes, and now serve as perhaps the most up-to-date source of information for local, national, and international breaking news—in addition to rampant updates about the goings-on of celebrities. - Rachel Sapin



f you know about #followfriday, you probably also know about Twitter’s hashtag craze (or the # sign as it was long known to keyboards before the advent of the social networking giant). In addition to being a way for users to convey metadata in an already-compendious tweet, hashtags allow for a more connected back-and-forth on the site; they help categorize tweets, and also make them searchable based on the subject of the hashtag. For instance, #followfriday is a hashtag an individual attaches to a tweet to identify that they are giving the thumbs up to a user or list of users they are including in a tweet (an example tweet might read: #followfriday @Glimpsejournal). People can then type “#followfriday” into the Twitter search bar to see a large sample of whom users of the site like to follow, and possibly expand their own network of users they connect with on the site.


Individual Glyphs If we turn the zoom up even further, then the individual


glyphs that make up a font fill our field of view. Here

In analytical terms, the anatomy of texture of a

the interaction between the glyphs and white space that

physical book is remarkably analogous to that of

creates words and lines is no longer visible. Here we see

a biological organ such as the brain. But whereas

the fine details of the glyphs and the skeleton of the letter

evolution has been the hand at work designing

forms. This level of magnification is illustrated in Figure 4,

the complex three-dimensional structure of a

which shows the Scala font and its closely related sans

working brain, once the text has left the hands

serif. These fonts form part of a large family of typefaces

of the author, the book’s designer, typesetter

created by the Dutch typographer Martin Majoor. In his

and printer are responsible for creating a three-

published philosophy of type, Majoor states that, “In my

dimensional physical artifact. In common with a

opinion, mixing serif with sans only makes sense when

well-functioning brain, a well-functioning book

the serif and the sans typefaces are both derived from the

has enormous complexity and sophistication.

same foundation, or even from the same skeleton.”2

The techniques used by typographers to build

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(Figure 4) the Scala font and its closely related san-serif. These fonts form part of a large family of typefaces created by the Dutch typographer Martin Majoor.

the best books are based on thousands of years of human


experience and are designed to produce a pleasurable reading experience. The anatomy of texture produced in the book creation process gives rise to structures that span seven orders of magnitude in size. Most books do well to have these structures exist, but great books, like great brains, need to ensure that the structures that exist at each of the scales are highly integrated with all of the other structures. As Robert Bringhurst puts it, â&#x20AC;&#x153;typography is an art where the microscopic and macroscopic constantly converge.â&#x20AC;?


1. Bringhurst, R. 2002. The elements of typographic style. 2nd ed. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. 2. Majoor, M. 2005. My type design philosophy. http:// 3. Chaundy, T. W.; Barrett, P. R. and Batey, C. 1954. The printing of mathematics. London: Oxford University Press. 4. Howard, C.V. and Reed, M. G. 2010. Unbiased Stereology; Three dimensional measurement in microscopy. 2nd ed. Liverpool: QTP Publications. 5. Rhatigan, D. 2007. Three typefaces for mathematics. The development of Times 4-line Mathematics Series 569, AMS Euler, and Cambria Math. MA in Typeface Design, University of Reading.

Activating Prayers

Textual landscapes of the Tibetan Buddhist diaspora by Christine McCarthy Madsen photographs by Robert Correia Jr.



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hroughout the Tibetan diaspora, text permeates

Beyond the visible, the reverence for text continues

not only the culture, but the landscape. As

further still—practitioners circumambulate the

the result of thousands of years of respect

library, prayer wheels contain strips of written

and reverence for the written word in all of its

mantras and prayers repeated thousands of

forms and instantiations, text in the form of prayers and

times, and library collections often house small

mantras serve as a quotidian reminder of the importance

shrines as well as texts, blurring the line between

of textual knowledge in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.

library and temple. While this sort of deep cultural and spiritual relationship with text is only beginning to be studied and understood by Western scholars, it is apparent and striking in even the shortest visit to areas of the Tibetan diaspora. The integration of text into the physical and nonphysical surroundings of practitioners is said to be a means of integrating prayers into daily life. Monks and lay people walk past these spiritual texts routinely. It becomes habit to spin prayer wheels when passing by them. Each of these movements and acts is said to bring the textual


prayers to life. While the saturation of texts into one’s surroundings is thought to be a means of daily integration, there are also particular activities that serve to emphasize a special engagement In Dharamsala, India, and the Boudhanath section of

with text. The act of copying out texts, in

Kathmandu, text is visible everywhere—prayer flags contain

particular, has long been considered a good or

written texts, rocks are carved with prayers and mantras,

meritorious deed, and is indeed tied to some

books are placed on altars, and images in temples often

of the earliest teachings of the Buddha. The

contain scenes of reading and studying.

Lotus Sutra, which is often quoted in Tibetan




he Boy Who Wrote Sutras on the Sky is a centuries-old story of a boy who heard of the great merit that comes from writing out the Diamond Cutter Sutra. Too poor to afford paper and pen, he eventually writes the Sutra on the sky. “Then, in the space of the outline that he had fashioned, the rough grass became soft, the flowers had a sweet fragrance, and in neither day nor night was there frost, hail, wind, or rain—all through the blessing power of writing the holy object.”3 Many Westerners may have been introduced to secular skywriting with the Wicked Witch’s broomstick-in-the-sky scribbling of “SURRENDER DOROTHY” in The Wizard of Oz, but the first form of airplane skywriting was seen in England, courtesy of John C. Savage. In 1922, Savage hired Captain Cyril Turner to write “Daily Mail” over England and subsequently, “Hello USA” over New York. Soon after, the American cigarette maker, Lucky Strike, adopted skywriting for marketing purposes, and the Pepsi-Cola Corporation followed suit. Skywriting is typically performed by one plane that can write up to around six characters. It is accomplished by heating low-viscosity oil to 1500 degrees using the aircraft’s engine exhaust, where the oil is then vaporized, thus creating the plumes of white letters you see against the blue sky. Typically, the letters are around 1 mile high, take about 1 to 1 and 1/2 minutes to create, usually last about 20 minutes and can be seen for 30 miles. Skytyping is somewhat of an improvement on the skywriting medium. Using an array of planes, skytyping emits biodegradable vapor puffs in a dot-matrix pattern; an onboard computer controls the sequencing of the vapor that forms the letters in the sky. - Christine McCarthy Madsen / Rachel Sapin

Buddhism in defense of the worship of textual scriptures, says: If a good man or good woman shall receive and keep, read and recite, explain or copy in writing a simple phrase of the Scripture of the Dharma Blossom . . . that person is to be looked up to and exalted by all the worlds, [and] showered with offerings fit for a Buddha. . . . Let it be known that that person is a great bodhisattva.2 So strongly associated are texts and writing with good deeds that both the act and the medium are considered both




characters of prayers and mantras are slapped out on the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and printing on the sky are both practiced as well as being the center of important Tibetan legends.3 Great value is placed on learning to read at a young age, and paper has always been an important economic commodity. It is not only the act of copying out a text, but also the act of commissioning a copy of a text that holds merit for the actor. While the act of copying out a text by hand is laudable,4 the act of printing by mechanical means has also been considered meritorious. Just as the use of text is heavily embedded in the culture and practice of the Tibetan diaspora, so too is the use of technology; and

(Left) Mani stones, circumambulation trail, Dharamsala, India. (Above right) Tibetan book, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (Below right) A young monk reads on a balcony, Gyuto Tantric University, outside Dharamsala, India. Photographs courtesy of Robert Correia Jr.

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sacred. Printing on waterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;where the


one of the first and longest associations of the diaspora with technology is through the mechanical reproduction of texts.

If you recite ten malas7â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a thousand mantrasâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a day, then when you go to wash in the river or at the beach, all the water becomes blessed. Because your body is blessed by the mantra, all the water becomes blessed as it touches your body, and so the water purifies all the animals who live in the water, who drink the water, and those who touch the water.8


f in Tibetan Buddhism, to copy a text is to do

a good deed and to earn merit, then to automate the copying of that text is to do the same, only faster and more efficiently. This notion often seems counterintuitive to Westerners who are inclined to romanticize Tibet as pure and untainted by modern technologies; but the truth is that Tibet has long had a love affair with automating the reproduction of texts. Block printing is known to have existed in Tibet and China from the 9th or

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century, with the first major commissions for


larger texts (under the patronage of the Mongols) in place by the 13th century.5 There is also some evidence that the Tibetans were using an early form of moveable type as early as the 13th century for the mass production of prayer flags.6 By the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, there was the mass printing of the Kanjur

This statement indicates the extreme power imbued within the

and Tenjur (which together compose the Tibetan

recitation of simple prayers or mantras in Tibetan Buddhism.

Buddhist cannon).

It illustrates both the qualities with which these prayers are infused, but more importantly, the power ascribed to the

This view of how technology has been used to

quantity of repetition. Like with the reproduction of text, if

automate the reproduction of texts illustrates

more mantras means more merit, to automate the recitation

the beginning of an ongoing affinity for

of mantras makes good sense. Prayer flags are one form of

combining technology and text. The next steps

such automation. Prayers are printed onto thin and loosely

in technological automation are closely aligned

woven squares of cloth, which are hung outside. As the wind

with the significance of recitation of prayers

passes through and around the flags, it is said to release the

and mantras in Tibetan Buddhist practice. Like

prayers printed on them into the wind and to bless anyone

writing or copying out the sutras, recitation is seen as another means of engaging with text that produces meritorious results.

(Above Left) Prayer Flags, Dharamsala, India. (Above and Right) Wrapped, stored texts, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Photographs courtesy of Robert Correia Jr.

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passing by.9 If reciting a mantra or prayer releases it,

Most prayer wheels are turned by hand, and can

then prayer flags can in some ways be thought of as

be seen as a common form of technology used

automating this process.

to deliver more mantras than could be read or recited manually. Taking the notion of automation


hile prayer flags perform the recitation of

one step further, the prayer wheels themselves

a mantra or prayer through wind power,

are frequently automated. Some are turned by

prayer wheels are able to automate the recitation of

water, others by the warmth of a lamp or even a

thousands of mantra in only a few seconds. Prayer

light bulb.

wheels appear as metal cylinders inscribed or painted with a mantra around the outside and set atop a dowel or turning mechanism. Inside all of them are


iven this long and productive history of automating the reproduction and recitation

of text, it should come as no surprise, then, that

written or printed hundreds or thousands of times on

the adoption of digital texts in this diaspora has

scrolls of paper wound tightly into the center of the

been so common. If the goal is quantity, then

wheel. The size of the prayer wheels vary from a few

digital media have some tremendous benefits.

atop a handle and contain a weighted lanyard to

provide momentum and to assist in the spinning of the wheel; they are carried by practitioners who spin

them in a clockwise direction as they walk—also

always clockwise—around a sacred space such as a

temple, monastery, or library. Larger prayer wheels are affixed to walls, while the largest (several feet

in height) are placed in small rooms by themselves. These wheels are turned by passing practitioners as they follow circumambulation trails.

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Just as prayers are released onto the wind from


flags, mantras inside of prayer wheels are said to be released through the rotation of the wheel. To spin a prayer wheel is the equivalent of reciting each of the mantras written inside. In the words of the Amitabha Buddha, “anyone who recites the six syllables while turning the Dharma wheel at the same time is equal in fortune to the Thousand Buddhas.”10 In this way the prayer wheel can be seen as a powerful means of automating the recitation of mantras. (Far left, above) Large prayer wheel, Macleod Ganj, offices of the exiled Tibetan government. (Far left, below) Buddhist practitioners in Dharamsala, India circumambulate the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (Left) Circumambulating the library. Photographs courtesy of Robert Correia Jr.

Early forms of digital media share the same spinning quality of prayer wheels, even the same clockwise direction. Taking this to the next step, rumours abound on the Internet that the Dalia Lama himself has said that having a digital prayer wheel—or even just the text of the mantra om mani padme hum on your spinning hard drive is the same as using a traditional prayer wheel.11 From this idea, copious animated GIF files, computer applets, gadgets, and widgets have appeared to fulfill the practice of setting text into motion with the greatest ease. Animated illustrations of prayer wheels, opened in web browsers will spin in a clockwise direction. Some Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism have taken this notion of digital prayer wheels to an extreme through the manufacture of prayer wheels filled with DVDs each containing millions of mantras.12 Each prayer wheel contains 128 DVDs, for a total of over 1.8 trillion prayers.13 While not typical of the Tibetan diaspora, when viewed in the context of the long affinity of the Tibetan Buddhists with automating the repetition and reproduction of texts, the Tibet-Tech™ Prayer Wheel does not seem incongruous.


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inches to many feet. Small prayer wheels are perched


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mantras (most commonly, om mani padme hum)



The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (Above left) Digitized texts displayed on a computer moniter, The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (Left center) Tibetan book, being used to check against digitized versions, The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (Below left) A monk at Shechen monastery in Kathmandu Nepal transcribes a Tibetan text into the computer to make it searchable. (Right) The Library of the Tibetan Works and Archives contains a small shrine. On the table in the foreground is a single book removed from the shelf. Photographs courtesy of Robert Correia Jr.

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If prayer flags, prayer wheels and printed and


carved mantras are all ways of integrating text into


Boudhanath is a section of Northeast Kathmandu that is famous for its giant stupa. Located on the traditional trade route from Tibet to the Kathmandu valley, it has been a pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists since at least 450 BCE, before Kathmandu was established. It is now home to at least 50 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. wiki/Boudhanath


Schaeffer, Kurtis. 2009. The Culture of the Book in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press: 5.


Schaeffer, Culture of the Book: 147.


See in particular, Vesna Wallace in Stephen C. Berkwitz, Juliane Schober and Claudia Brown (eds.). 2009. “Diverse Aspects of the Mongolian Buddhist Manuscript Culture and Realms of its Influence,” in Buddhist Manuscripts Cultures: Knowledge Ritual and Art. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis: 76-94.


The earliest known printed book in the world, is in fact a Buddhist sutra, or teaching. The Diamond Sutra (http://www. is a central teaching of Indian Buddhism and was first translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in about 400 AD. This copy of the Diamond Sutra was found in the caves of Dunhuang and is the earliest block print to contain a date: 11 May 868.

daily life, then the adoption of digital technologies can also be seen as an extension of this principle. Daily life for many around the world now takes place in front of a computer, so does it not make sense for that space to contain these same integrations? Considered from this perspective, the leap from stone to paper to digital bits does not seem inconsistent and may provide a reason for the early adoption and widespread uptake of digitized texts in this field. Projects to digitize Tibetan texts are now widespread throughout the field of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies.14 w

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(Right) Prayer Flags, Dharamsala, India. Photograph courtesy of Robert Correia Jr.




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Palmieri, Richard P. “Tibetan Xylography and the Question of Movable Type,” Technology and Culture 32: 82-90. This article by Palmieri looks at the case of three blocks for printing lungta (prayer flags) that used a set of interchangeable “keys” for setting in alternate texts. Palmieri argues that this was an early form of combining wood block printing with moveable type.


A mala is a string of beads (usually 108) used, like a Catholic Rosary, for reciting and counting prayers. To recite a mala, therefore, means to say a prayer or mantra for each of the beads in the mala. To recite ten malas is simply to do this ten times.


Thupten Zopa Rinpoche as quoted in Lorne Ladner and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. 2001. The Wheel of Great Compassion. Cambridge: Wisdom Publications: xii.


Wise, Tad and Thurman, Robert. 2001. Blessings on the Wind: The Mystery & Meaning of Tibetan Prayer Flags. London: Chronicle Books.

10. Ladner and Zopa, Wheel: vii. 11. This quote appears on a number of web sites, http://www. but could not be substantiated in any of the Dalia Lama’s writings or teachings. 12. “Digital Prayer Wheels” accessed October 6, 2010, http:// 13. Retrieved from: sacredSpacesPrayerWheel.php 14. The most well known Tibetan digitization project is currently being made into a documentary film, Digital Dharma: http://

by C. Arcabascio and M. Hurst

an interview with visual artist Megan Michalak


Negated News: Historiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Ransom Notes 54

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“10: 7: 3: Rice Says ‘Hole’ in US Law Shields Contractors in Iraq: Rice Says US Shields Contractors in Iraq: ‘Hole’ in Law [October 26, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 21.5 x 25.5 inches.



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(Detail, left panel). “10: 7: 3: Rice Says ‘Hole’ in US Law Shields Contractors in Iraq: Rice Says US Shields Contractors in Iraq: ‘Hole’ in Law [October 26, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 21.5 x 25.5 inches.



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(Detail, right panel). “10: 7: 3: Rice Says ‘Hole’ in US Law Shields Contractors in Iraq: Rice Says US Shields Contractors in Iraq: ‘Hole’ in Law [October 26, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 21.5 x 25.5 inches.


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“12: 5: 4: 3: Bill in Spanish Parliament Aims to End ‘Amnesia’ About Civil War Victims: Bill to End ‘Amnesia’ About: In Spanish Civil Victims: Parliament Aims War (October 28, 2007),” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 26.5 x 40 inches.


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GLIMPSE journal: In your project, “Negated News: Histories’ Ransom Notes,” you have created/extracted “sub-narratives” from existing newspaper texts. They have both layers and holes. Do the holes in the white paper appear where words were discarded?



Megan Michalak: Yes. These “drawings” address the performativity of historiography by reversing the editing process critical to the creation of a historical narrative. This performance unearths embedded discontinuities, exposing differing accounts of the same event. In terms of process, I use a subtractive method of progressively removing information—the holes that you mentioned. So here the meaning mutates solely by shifting where the hole, or historian’s gap, appears in the article. Going back to your question, the holes are the most important structuring device in these drawings; as they create a new story from the same information without adding or reordering the data that is there. Gj: So do you see this work of pulling out alternative stories as analogous, or counter, to the journalist’s construction/omission of history/ies? MM: I see it as completely analogous to any editing process, whether it’s film or writing. The structure of the drawings themselves exposes how the editing process influences meaning. Something akin to the “exploded-view drawing” in architecture, that shows the intended order of assembly of the fragments that create the whole. If you were to superimpose the afterimages together, you will find the original document in its entirety. So these afterimages/facsimiles, form a counter-narrative to the positive transcription; as they embody that which is omitted from the record. Together, the encoded and negated transcriptions create a contemporary palimpsest. Gj: You have made mention in your writings about the idea of recording as erasing. Could you talk about that a bit?

MM: Yes, the editing function within writing always mediates the said and the unsaid. This becomes more complicated when you look at economies of storage in historical archives, as constraints of storage determine what makes it into the contents of the archive itself. This point is most obvious when looking at the form of the palimpsest, where in order for writing to occur an old record would have to be scraped off and reused. In this way cultural production is often tied to erasure. This destruction happened mostly because of the scarcity of material, which brings us back to this idea of storage again. The irony is that hundreds of years later we are able to detect and re-image these negated, written-over accounts. One of the most striking examples of this is the Novgorod Codex. What is unusual about this particular codex is that some of the records overtly refer to heretical subjects that are excluded from the records of the Church. Which brings us to the really juicy question of what determines the parameters of the contents of an archive, and the criteria for what is excluded, and omitted from it? This question relates to Walter Benjamin’s concept of the written record as the history of the victors, which is not without its taint of barbarism.1 So, going back to your original question, from this perspective of Benjamin, the constellations of holes within the drawings become the apertures through which meaning is exhumed. Gj: So you’ve chosen to cut out these words in a way that brings the criticality of retrospection to the present moment—to create hyperconsciousness in the viewer that there are, in fact, holes in the original, contemporary text? MM: Right. I’m interested in taking a contemporary document and performing a reverse archeology of that artifact as it represents the present historical moment. The drawings, through performing this reversal, create a forced distance in the sense that they are deeply forensic, and make something that is familiar into something slightly uncanny. This uncanniness comes from viewing the present as archeology, which brings about narratives of extinction, exhaustion, a projected future of science fiction, etc. To heighten this uncanniness, I also deliberately picked texts that bear witness to some of the outrageous excesses of the present, such as the Blackwater Hearings, or the auctioning off of Che Guevara’s hair.

l Text

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(Detail, left panel). “12: 5: 4: 3: Bill in Spanish Parliament Aims to End ‘Amnesia’ About Civil War Victims: Bill to End ‘Amnesia’ About: In Spanish Civil Victims: Parliament Aims War [October 28, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 26.5 x 40 inches.

Gj: When you read any text, you can approach it from several perspectives. There are layers of meaning, conceptually, with any written text. Does your visual, visceral reaction to the text have layers of visual meaning too? Not just the content of what you read, but do you see text as a texture, possibly letter forms, on the page?



MM: I’m approaching the whole project in a way where the meaning is algorithmic and related to code or pattern. I view it more orally and musically, than visually. While these works are drawings, they are also intended to be musical scores. The holes are rests, or silence, but also the empty space on the page, and the words are like notes. The way it’s orchestrated on the page relates to rhythm. I decided to create drawings that look like a player piano scroll or punch card system—again to heighten this idea that within the positive transmission there are also omissions, which relates to the storage of knowledge in binary code. From this idea of binary code I wanted to take the power of the negative transcription and use this idea of negation as a political strategy. Gj: That’s interesting. Have you thought about doing an audio component to the project? MM: Yes. That’s the ultimate intention for it in its final form. It’s visual because our conception of truth is related to having proximity to an original signifying event, or a physical referent that is visual. So, culturally we have this bias of truth being tied to visuality as proof. Somehow there is no better cultural artifact of this illusory proximity to truth through visuality than the newspaper. Coincidentally, a few years after I had started this project, the New Museum in New York curated an exhibition called “The Last Newspaper.” Perhaps this also signifies something peculiar about the present moment and sounding the tombstone to print media, and a wave of nostalgia for this form? At any rate, while right now my project exists as a drawing series, I have plans in the works to create an installation with digital media that would create an auditory score where this material would be narrated. The experience will be more cinematic and like a strange encounter with one’s own culture projected into the future.

Some of the larger questions I have been thinking about in realizing this project as an installation, are how we have turned history itself into a commodity that is consumed, and the outsourcing of historical memory to corporations that store and lease this material. What I mean by this is the disturbing aspects of intellectual property and copyright laws, where massive stock footage houses, such as Corbis and Reuters own the production rights to the images that constitute historical memory itself. While the images may be in the public domain, there is only access to them through corporation-owned copies. Coincidentally, around the time I was researching this, there was a criminal investigation regarding the CIA Torture Tape Scandal. This raised all kinds of ethical questions about the withholding of and destruction of information, as the Enron Audit did back in 2002. With the confluence of all these events, I began to wonder if it was possible to coopt these strategies and use the act of negation as a political counter-strategy. Right now, the international storm surrounding WikiLeaks and Cablegate, to me, really embodies the power of the negative transcription. This information being released into the public domain threatens to further destabilize many of the faltering systems that we have been scrambling to put Band-Aids® on. Gj: So, negation as a reaction to dominant political forces? MM: Well, partially the project was spawned after maybe year seven of the second Bush administration. So, this was a response of outrage. If documents can be falsified, or intelligence gathered to justify these means that are totally questionable, as with the second invasion of Iraq, then why can’t citizens co-opt these same tactics and use them for counter purposes? In relation to the work, I started thinking about this negation of the official record as a defiant act, and how different marginalized groups have developed tactics that are more or less intended to arrest the


(Detail, middle panel). “12: 5: 4: 3: Bill in Spanish Parliament Aims to End ‘Amnesia’ About Civil War Victims: Bill to End ‘Amnesia’ About: In Spanish Civil Victims: Parliament Aims War [October 28, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 26.5 x 40 inches.


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historical record and insert a populous that’s been omitted. In some ways I began to view these acts as attempts to hold the master narratives hostage, and insert a fugue of “minor histories.” In some ways the aesthetic of this work indirectly mirrors these concerns and is a citizen’s ransom note, hijacking the media, or holding the record itself hostage, and channeling through the gaps all the subliminal messages. Gj: The newspaper is interesting too, because it’s a fixed historical record, but the material of it is also ephemeral. Newspapers are intended to be disposable. MM: Yes. That’s actually the eureka moment that occurred when I decided to use the newspaper as material. I suddenly realized that while I don’t have the rights to most of this stock footage material owned by corporate archives, there is this cultural ready-made that functions in a similar way that is a mass-produced record that is completely accessible and I can hold in my hands! Gj: Why is memory such an important theme in your work,


In terms of the laboriousness, I suppose it is the application of how I work sculpturally to other registers of media, conceptually with writing, to drawing and image manipulation. At first it was very liberating to apply these sculptural procedures to drawing and text, but then I realized that this laboriousness was incredibly demanding in different ways. I wasn’t destroying my back making sculpture, but I was possibly giving myself Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with an X-ACTO® blade and pencil!

of text an effective way of discussing it?

MM: I worked at a post-production house before I started teaching in the Visual Studies Department at the University at Buffalo. I would spend my days looking through archives of films and photographs. It was completely fascinating, in the way that this material was so performative and was its own form of visual anthropology. So, in many ways, this is where this preoccupation came from. I also began this series in late 2007 when I relocated to Buffalo; context is everything, so perhaps I unintentionally ended up channeling the ghosts of Buffalo’s structuralist film and digital poetics histories in this work, since it is very tied to the Cut-Up aesthetic.2


Gj: One of the things that really struck me about this work, initially, was the laboriousness of it on every level: intellectually, conceptually, physically, with your X-ACTO® blade. This is really intriguing when we’re talking about the present moment, and how unengaged physically, viscerally and intellectually we are in our culture. Do you have any thoughts on that? The anachronism of this process? The labor on every level?


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66 and why did you find the deconstruction and reassembly

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MM: It has something to do with being a citizen, but we are in this moment where we are detached from the luxuries of citizenship that are desperately fought for in other parts of the world. I consider it a way of activating these rights of citizenship and not taking them for granted. Also the narratives that are constructed are a method for trying to comprehend subjects that we are desensitized to. I guess in many ways they are acts not only of defiance, but also acts of stretching my capacity to engage and empathize.

Gj: You quote Derrida: “There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory...[and democracy requires] participation in and the access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation.”3 Do you consider your role, or the artist’s role in general, to be inherently political? MM: It’s hard to elaborate without going into my personal beliefs, but we’re innately social creatures, and I think that an artist’s responsibility as a social being is to reflect and comment on the historical moment that we’re part of. That becomes political. People have argued this for a long time in the arts, but there’s not really an apolitical place to stand. That place of ultimate transcendence that art is supposed to bring is always political because that vision of a transcendent position is influenced by wealth and power and taste and the question of what is “good” taste. That’s supposed to be transparent, but I think it’s innately political. It’s hard for me to extract art from the political.

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(Detail, right panel). “12: 5: 4: 3: Bill in Spanish Parliament Aims to End ‘Amnesia’ About Civil War Victims: Bill to End ‘Amnesia’ About: In Spanish Civil Victims: Parliament Aims War [October 28, 2007],” 2007, by Megan Michalak. Extracted newspaper, graphite, glue, cut paper, Plexiglas®. 26.5 x 40 inches.

Gj: This project would be different if it were taking WWII newspapers and doing the same thing, because of hindsight. That would be interesting in and of itself, but the charge of this work comes from… MM: I don’t think you could do it, though, because presently we don’t know the outcomes of anything, so it’s pure speculation. If you take WWII, we know the outcomes and so I don’t know if it would work. Gj: So do you think these will function differently for the viewer 20, 30, 40 years in the future because it would be similar to as if we were now looking back on these works if they had been articles from World War II?



MM: They could be a time capsule, like the Voyager Interstellar Record, or as William Burroughs said about the relationship of the Cut-Up method to divination, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”4 Gj: Is an objective history impossible? MM: I guess that question’s related to the sciences. Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Is there an object without a subject? No one knows. But history is made from human intervention, and there’s always a subjective position from which it’s written, which is related to the existing power structure that forms it. w

Gj: Do you think they’ll still be successful decades in the future, but in a different way?

MM: Beyond the scope of it being certain articles? The other part of what the project is about is realizing how we have turned history itself into a commodity by digitizing everything. I think that’s unique to the present: this drive to digitize and archive everything and put it online! People say our era may end up becoming the new Dark Ages because in the future no one will have an operating system to maintain all of our digital records. It is conceivable that in 20 years our cultural stored knowledge will look like these drawings, in the sense that the information will degrade, bit rot being the moth in the digital archive.


Gj: Your mediation of the articles, though, creates a record in and of itself that is different than that of the newspaper, and that may or may not be transparent to a reader in the


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MM: Yes. I think the companion of the work is ambiguity of not knowing the outcome, and that is what gives it its fuel in a way. Not knowing what’s going to happen.

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future. It may be like discovering a diary, where you have a partial view into one person’s understanding…


Benjamin, Walter. 1968. “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, Essays and Reflections. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 256.


Vasulka, Woody and Peter Weibel, eds. 1998. Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Derrida, Jacques. 1998, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 4.


Burroughs, William. 2001. “Break Through in Grey Room.” Sub Rosa, audio recording.

hat is a map? And what is a good map? Either question can be surprisingly difficult

Toward that end, one typically begins by

to answer, but in making the attempt one

conceptualizing reality as populated by

eventually must confront the role of one

points, lines, and areas, followed by the


and contract, they transform and disfigure.

frequently overlooked element: written

attachment of descriptive attributes to

text appearing in maps. This has traditionally

such entities, and finally their expression

been referred to as “map lettering” or these

as graphic symbols. In doing so, map-

days more commonly as “map labeling.” An

makers can follow well over a century of

otherwise perhaps map-like graphic artifact that

cartographic science, including Jacques

is completely void of lettering – like a raw aerial

Bertin’s influential Semiology of Graphics.2

photograph – could hardly be called a map. In

The point-line-area model is compelling

making that judgment, consider what constitutes

indeed, as it retains some connection to

the overriding characteristic of maps in terms of

geometries that can actually be observed

how they function. It is abstraction!

on the ground or from the air. Switching issue 7 Text

Mapping Texta 69

by André Skupin

“The best-drawn map may have its appearance ruined by the poor skill or bad taste displayed in the lettering.” - J. B. Johnson (1885)1 Maps do not aim to faithfully represent the reality

back and forth between Google’s Map

of geographic space or of other spaces for that

and Satellite views nicely illustrates that.

matter, and they dare not try, since, from a technical perspective, it would simply be impossible to even

The story is quite different for text. The

capture all of spatial reality, in all its intricate detail.

text written on a map is not physically

Instead, maps – good ones at least – are a carefully-

imprinted on the landscape; it is much

calibrated orchestration of what the map-maker

further removed from what it depicts,

considers relevant and important in consideration of

through multiple levels of abstraction.

the purposes laid out by whoever pays the bill. Maps

Eliminate those texts and it becomes

lie and cheat, they add and subtract, they expand

harder to even call what you are looking at


70 (Figure 1). Semiotic variables of form, size, and value, as applied to text (Bertin 1998, p. 415).

a map. In fact, maps without text deserve a special

color (Figure 1). The semiotic principles publicized by Bertin

name; from “blank map” to the more expressive

clearly apply here as well, specifically his prescriptions for

German term “stumme Karte” (mute map), they

expressing data variables through visual variation: for

serve almost exclusively didactic purposes. It is

example, that the visual variable size is best used to denote

not surprising then that cartographers have long

quantitative differences, while hue is better suited to express

characterized writing in maps as anything from

qualitative attributes.

“an integral part of the map” to “a necessary 3

evil,”4 but necessary nonetheless.

If quantitative differences are to be expressed via text – such as the names of cities distinguished according to

When placing labels inside a map, decisions

their population – then manipulating font size is the most

have to be made regarding three key issues:

effective method. Changes in color value (like the difference

text content, text design, and text placement.

between a light, medium, or dark red font color) are to a

Text content refers to choosing which objects

certain extent useful as well, but require fairly large font

are to be expressed in text form, followed by a

size and a limited number of variations in order to be easily

definition of the actual string of characters to be

recognizable. Saturation and texture density can meanwhile

used. Text design involves making choices among

safely be ignored as possible variables when using realistic

such text variables as font type, spacing, size and

font sizes.

Researchers have...ranked location/ position above all other visual variables Qualitative differences among map entities can be

inherent in the data. For example, note how easy

expressed as well, most notably through variations in font

it is to detect linear relationships, clustering, and

shape and color hue. The former is exemplified by the use

outliers from a simple scatter plot.

of multiple font types in a single map, such as Arial and The problem with using it actively as a

fonts from different font families with each other, such as

manipulable semiotic variable in geographic

serif and sans serif fonts, as this can easily disturb the overall

mapping is that location itself – and such related

aesthetic of the map.

concepts as proximity, connectivity, or flow – tends to be the very subject that we are trying to understand via maps. If spatial patterns are

binary differences. Sometimes these differences can be

what we are studying, then we will want to be

purely qualitative, such as when they’re used to distinguish

cautious about introducing our own patterns

between land features and water features. This is one case

just for purposes of visualization. Location is in

where a distinction of roman and italic font styles is both

fact something to which cartographers extend a

useful and subtle. At other times, certain features are meant

great reverence. When preprocessing our chosen

to be explicitly set apart from others, such as when the

point, line, or area geometries and then attaching

names of capital cities are capitalized – which seems fitting

symbols to them, cartographers tend to be

enough – or expressed in bold text, while other cities are

quite conscientious about preserving locational

not. This typically binary use of boldness might be more

information as much as the map’s scale, purpose,

a reflection of what has been actually available in the text

density and distribution of geographic objects

design portions of common software packages, as compared

allow. The very concepts of point, line, and area

to the possibilities pointed to by Bertin (Figure 1).

are a reflection of the attempt to generate a computable representation that is aligned with

So far, this paper has managed to ignore the semiotic

a cognitively meaningful categorization of real-

variable that is by far the most powerful in a perceptual and

world entities.

cognitive sense: location. Humans have evolved to be very good at spotting patterns based on location. Accordingly,

Here, though, is the problem: while we can

location is featured prominently within Gestalt psychology,

adapt our conceptualization of entities to fit

where it drives such organizing principles as proximity,

a particular situation – such as cities being

symmetry, connectedness, or closure. Researchers have also

represented alternatively as points or areas–the

consistently ranked location/position above all other visual

fundamental nature of text itself is dictated to us

variables, when it comes to the ability to convey patterns

and unchanged, no matter whether it is attached


Interestingly, text affords special means for expressing

issue 7

Times. One typically has to be cautious though when mixing


the labeling of the Atlantic... swings handsomely across the full height of the map

computer science community. All this doesn’t even address the fact that in realworld applications, the label position has to be coordinated not only within a single map layer (e.g., the label expressing the name of a country should be clearly associated with the respective area symbol for the country, typically inside of it), but across multiple layers (e.g., country names

to a point, line, or area object. Text is always

should not interfere with other symbols and labels for cities,

linear in terms of its original representation,

highways, and rivers).

with its length being just a direct function of the number of characters (or syllables or whatever

Quality map label placement has simultaneously been an

other building blocks a written language is

issue of such difficulty and importance that it has come to

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rely on a small number of niche software solutions, such as

meaning (e.g., Chile versus Argentina). In terms

ESRI Maplex, MapText Label-EZ, and MAPublisher LabelPro.

of its visual appearance, a given text element will

These typically provide a staggering list of labeling controls

always occupy an elongated area, whose height

for both individual feature classes (e.g., roads) as well as

depends on font size. The difficult question in

coordination across multiple classes (e.g., assigning priority

label placement is where to place this text area

to road labels vis-à-vis other classes).

respective map object and avoids conflict with

With label placement being such a well-known problem, it


other map content, including other text areas.

sometimes leads to a certain myopia and lack of imagination

Label placement for area objects is relatively

when it comes to the full potential of using text within maps.

simple, since they are conceptually well-matched

For example, label text can sometimes altogether replace an

with the respective two-dimensional text areas,

object’s symbol, especially for linear objects and elongated

as long as area objects are large enough and not

area objects. This can lead to remarkable solutions that

shaped too irregularly. Line labeling is likewise

are both space-efficient and visually elegant. For example,

fairly straightforward, given the linear nature

notice in Figure 2 how the labeling of the Atlantic Ocean

of text. However, placement of labels for point

(Atlantischer Ozean, with only the central portion shown

objects is inherently far more complicated, since

here) swings handsomely across the full height of the

point objects are conceptualized as being zero-

map from the North Atlantic to the South Atlantic, while

dimensional, with no height or width, and even

overlapping – but not overprinting – labels for various other

their symbols have a very small footprint on the

oceanic features.

72 such that it maintains clear association with its GLIMPSE


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map. By comparison, text labels for points are quite large and cannot be located at the same

In contrast to serving as the identifier of an object, a label

spot occupied by the objects (and symbols) they

could instead be used to convey the essential character of

are referencing. Conflicts with other symbols and

a region. In that scenario, labels can be an alternative to

labels are thus inevitable, and solving this is a

traditional methods for symbolizing area attributes (Figure

difficult combinatorial problem that has received

3). This can be quite efficient, even altogether eliminating

significant attention from the cartographic and

the need for a map legend.

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(Figure 2, above) Portion of a map of the Atlantic Ocean with extensive labeling of geographic features.6 (Figure 3, below) Use of text as indicator of geographic distribution of grain production in Austria. Weizen=wheat, Roggen=rye, Hafer=oats, Gerste=barley, Mais=corn.7

(Figure 4, above). Two Wordle visualizations of the content of this paper. Note the use of the semiotic variables size, orientation, and location, with the latter two only serving a space-filling function.

(Figure 4). Note how the semiotic variable size is correctly

(Figure 5, right page, to be viewed at 90 degrees counterclockwise). Use of dedicated GIS software for automatic placement of several thousand labels in a visualization based on the music folksonomy of (courtesy of Biberstine, Börner, Duhon, Hardy, and Skupin).

with any meaning at all, apart from being manipulated in

and consistently used in both outputs. Meanwhile, the variables location and orientation have not been imbued random fashion in the interest of filling the display space. For a very different approach to text mapping, consider the visualization derived from the music folksonomy seen

Today, true advances in the use of text in mapping

in Figure 5. Here, more than one million user-tagged items

depend on a simultaneous consideration of the

were mapped in two dimensions according to the similarity


74 look and possible function of text, informed by the

of tag texts. The resulting model is represented in five

role of space in cognition and visualization. This

layers, beginning with the top-dominant term in each map

can lead to improved use of text in cartographic

region, followed by the second-most dominant term, and so

maps, and also to interesting new mappings

forth. This is an example for a mapping of text that takes the

derived from text data. Unfortunately, we find

power of space seriously – including use of a supercomputer

plenty of examples where the role of space as

to project extremely high-dimensional text data into two

organizing principle and the power of location as

dimensions – and connects with traditions passed down

semiotic variable are ignored or abused. Keep in

by generations of cartographers,5 via a labeling solution

mind that, to the human observer faced with a

computed for almost 40,000 area objects using Maplex

display, distance matters, connectivity matters,


clustering matters, and even gaps matter, as they all are involved in giving meaning to space.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that text is one of the most revealing elements of visualization, laying bare much of the

Wordles ( are a particularly

historical, social, and technological context of its creation.

compelling example for text mapping going

This is illustrated in Figure 6 for a portion of Southern

astray. Like some other popular techniques,

Africa, as depicted in multiple editions of Goode’s School/

notably treemaps, Wordles are driven by a single-

World Atlas between 1932 and 2009. Notice how stable

minded fetish for filling space, at the cost of using

the depiction of the physical environment is, with visible

space in a cognitively defendable manner. To

changes mostly due to technological advances (e.g., from

illustrate this, the text of the current article was

1932 to 1960 and 2005 to 2009). It is only the lettering that

turned into two different Wordle visualizations

reveals the colonial and post-colonial changes occurring in

issue 7 Text


(Figure 6, left). Depiction of a portion of Southern Africa during the evolution of one atlas product. Shown are Goodeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s School Atlasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 4th ed. (1932), 11th ed. (1960), 21st ed. (2005), and 22nd ed. (2009). Scale 1:16mio, except 2009: 1:12mio.8 Images courtesy of Rand McNally & Company.



(Figure 7, above). Depiction of a portion of Southern Africa in Google Maps.

this geographic region. For example, in 1925 the Portuguese colonial powers changed the name of the Angolan settlement of Huambo to Nova Lisboa. The 1932 edition reflects this change by using Nova Lisboa as primary label and Huambo as secondary label. By 1960, 35 years after the name change, Nova Lisboa appears as the sole label. Newly independent Angola renamed the town back to Huambo and this is correctly reflected in the 2005 atlas edition. Then, in the 2009 edition, something odd happens, with Nova Lisboa reappearing as secondary label. This, however, has nothing to do with any actual changes on the ground. Instead, one has to know that 2009 marks the first edition of the atlas to be largely produced using GIS

(geographic information systems) software and

to have available, and it is also certainly about more than

digital geographic databases. Changes include

creating something that is good enough.

a larger map scale; though, contrary to intuition, there are overall less settlements depicted in this

A map is supposed to be an organic whole, a carefully

geographic region. Another change is the use of

orchestrated arrangement of geographic data, blending

a digital gazetteer that apparently includes Nova


Lisboa as a secondary name for Huambo, and

of the mapmaker. The result is a product that can be

also indicates Jadotville as a secondary name for

very useful and that can impart lasting esthetic value.

Likasi. There are no reasons to ascribe any sinister

Choosing the content, design, and placement of text is a

motives to these name interchanges, as even the

crucial element of that process, whether one is creating a

U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) does in

printed map or a highly interactive visualization system.

fact list Nova Lisboa as a “variant” of Huambo.

Wordles, despite their shortcomings, have demonstrated

However, the fact remains that in this atlas


product some colonial place names give a repeat

manipulation of text can generate. Let’s build on that, as

performance several decades after their on-the-

we design artifacts that incorporate text in a manner that

ground and on-the-map disappearance. The

prevents grumpy cartographers from having to decry “the

main question here is not whether these colonial

poor skill or bad taste displayed in the lettering.” w











this was based on thoughtful deliberation on a case-by-case basis, weighing the geographic facts as it were, or whether label content was blindly fed from a digital database.


Johnson, J. B. 1885. A manual for the theory and practice of topographical surveying by means of the transit and stadia. New York: John Wiley & Sons.


Bertin, J. 1967. Sémiologie graphique : les diagrammes, les réseaux, les cartes. Paris: École des hautes études en sciences sociales. ———. 1983. Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.


Wagner, H. 1894. Lehrbuch der Geographie. 6th ed. Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn’sche Buchhandlung.


Vogel, C. 1881. Die Herstellung und Zuverlässigkeit moderner Landkarten. Aus Allen Weltteilen 12:161-170.


Imhof, E. 1972. “Positioning Names on Maps,” American Cartographer, 2 (2):128-144.


Laubert, H., E. Woska, and R. Habel. 1988. Kartengestaltung. 2nd ed. Gotha: Hermann Haack GeographischKartographische Anstalt: 28.


Arnberger, E. 1966. Handbuch der thematischen Kartographie. Wien: Deuticke: 293.


Espenshade, E. B. ed. 1960. Goode’s world atlas. 11th ed. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company. Goode, J. P. 1932. Goode’s School Atlas. 4th ed. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company. Veregin, H. ed. 2005. Goode’s world atlas. 21st ed. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company. ——— ed. 2010. Goode’s world atlas. 22nd ed. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company.

Uncritical reliance of map creators on the wisdom of digital geographic databases is a worrying trend that is only made worse when heterogeneous data sources are blindly mashed up. Google Maps provides fine examples for the dangers of the latter approach. Note the heterogeneity of labels in Google Maps’ depiction of the same region in southern Africa (Figure 7). According to this map, Angola is virtually void of any settlements and only Zambia uses a numerical system of road naming. Sure, Google Maps is interactive, comes with an API (application programming interface), and – here comes the all-powerful argument – it is free to use. However, cartography is about much more than putting data on a map that one happens


to include such historical context – but whether

issue 7

names should reappear – since it might be useful


RetroSpect: ca. 1865 Text as image: A Portrait of Abraham Lincoln


by Georgia B. Barnhill, Director, Center for Historic American Visual Culture, American Antiquarian Society

n 19th-century America, the ability of young men to write with a clear hand was important for success in business. In the middle decades of the century, entrepreneurs, including William H. Pratt, established schools in major urban areas to teach writing skills to a generation of clerks in the pretypewriter era. He was also a masterful penmanship teacher and designed this portrait of Abraham Lincoln using the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.



William H. Pratt of Davenport was active in Davenport scientific circles and submitted articles to the Academy of Natural Sciences. The 1860 city directory listed Joseph C. Lopez and Pratt as the proprietors of the Davenport Commercial College. Since Pratt is listed in the 1867 directory simply as a “teacher of penmanship,” it is likely that the College did not survive the economic stresses and dislocations of the Civil War. Not many young men were available to learn accounting procedures or a careful clerical hand. The Proclamation of Emancipation and a similar piece featuring a portrait of George Washington crafted of the text of the Declaration of Independence would have been great advertisements for his skills as a master calligrapher and teacher of penmanship. Portraits of Abraham Lincoln fulfilled a national need for images of the nation’s leader during the

Civil War. This masterful calligraphic portrait turns superb penmanship into a recognizable portrait of the president. This print was probably published after Lincoln’s assassination. The lithographer, Augustus Hageboeck was active as a commercial printer in Davenport, Iowa, from 1861 into the 1880s. At times, Augustus worked with his brother John. They printed city views, railroad stock certificates, and labels for customers in the region. This is an unusual print for them or any other lithographic printer or engraver. The American Antiquarian Society has a fine collection of penmanship books as well as some examples of the calligraphic art in its manuscript and graphic arts collections. w Further reading William E. Henning, An Elegant Hand: The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2002. Explore the AAS website (Right) Proclamation of Emancipation. Abraham Lincoln. Davenport, Iowa: Lithograph by A. Hageboeck, 1865. Copyrighted by W. H. Pratt. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.



issue 7 Text


GLIMPSE | issue #7, winter 2011 | Text  

GLIMPSE issue 7 explores the evolution of written language, from its earliest appearance to its current and unique forms. Contributors to th...

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