Incorporating Novels into NewRadial

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Blog, Modeling/Prototyping

[Submitted by Stephen MacNeil]

In my last blog, I discussed the process of determining a way in which we can incorporate plays within NewRadial’s interface. My hypothesis was that if we can successfully come up with a model that works for the play, that would then translate fairly well to other textual genres such as poetry or prose. From there, my next step was to create schematics how this format will work with the novel. This is where we hit an abrupt snag.

To start, this time I used Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as I created the schematics. Breaking down the prose of a novel just didn’t feel as natural when broken down into different components. For instance, whereas a play is divided into acts, scenes, and individualized lines of dialogue, I designed the novel to break down into chapters, paragraphs, and finally sentences. So, the novel’s chapters were individual nodes which could then be atomized into radials of paragraph nodes which can then further be atomized into sentence nodes. The first problem that was apparent with this structure was that there was no clear standard for how long or short a sentence or paragraph could be. Under this system, a sentence of a single word would have its own node as would a sentence that consisted of multiple lines. Further, what should be done with a sentence that is a paragraph in itself? Most troubling, however, was that such categorical divisions did not seem like an appropriate system to visually display a novel.

The way we sought to remedy this is to go back to the concept of pages being the most basic form of the node. The idea behind this is to look at the way we already break down different textual genres when we reference or cite them in various academic formats such as MLA. The play format I outlined in my last blog works well because we already think of plays as being divided into acts, scenes, and lines. When we cite a novel, however, the page is all that is necessary.

Given that a node in the current prototype of NewRadial already represents a page, our team lead, Jon Saklofske, suggested that we think of the node as not just a representative icon, but as containing and displaying the page’s text within the node itself? This way, when we wish to look at the text users simply zoom into the node and are able to look at the text directly without having to first activate another section of the interface. It might be then possible to allow users to highlight passages on the page and to make connections with other pages or entire chapters. This would create a system that functions well within NewRadial’s already established interface while keeping the familiarity of the printed page intact. The challenge now is to see if this can be accomplished within the NewRadial interface.


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