I love the idea of annotation. To be able to add layers of history and interpretations and notes and all sorts of other layers onto a text (or image, or video, or whatever). It’s a great way show sources to ideas, or links to other thoughts. The challenge, always, is giving access to these annotations in a way that’s natural, doesn’t let you loose your place in the original core, and helps you understand the relationships between all the elements. (Right now I’m thinking about footnotes in books, or appendices in books, which can be more a burden and distraction — as it’s so hard to keep the context of where you came from in your mind.)

Lines, a really interesting project from The Cafe Society, is an examination of this situation. Lines is based on writing techniques used in medieval times where they used empty areas on a page, around the source text, to make their annotations. They’ve built a tool that lets you build fairly complex relationships between a wide range of ideas and sources. And it looks beautiful.

But as I watch their videos I get a little confused about what this tool actually offers. This may be because there is an emphasis on the features of the tool, rather than the bigger ideas. And many of their examples aren’t in English. But there’s something there which is exciting, and full of potential. It’s worth investigating further — and that’s on my to-do list. 🙂 And I’d love to see how a set of “lines” might connect to other sets — to show relationships between different sources, and spark serendipitous discovery.

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