If you look at the history of written communication and the types of symbol languages used, you notice that phonetic based symbols have flourished. Phonetic symbols represent sounds that we make in everyday speech. Before phonetic symbols became the de-facto standard for written communication, more abstract, artistic, and meaningful symbols were used. However, they were often complex and inaccessible to people who lacked the basic cultural knowledge of the society that authored them.
Hieroglyphs are a perfect example. The combination and relative position of the different elements of a hieroglyph can signify a multitude of deep meanings. The depth of meaning in a single hieroglyph can be akin to tens of thousands of phonetic symbols or multiple print books. Despite their abstract nature, these hieroglyphs are effective tools for communicating deep knowledge between members of that society. However, for people from other cultures or distant time periods who do not have the same base knowledge or cultural understanding, these hieroglyphs are hard to understand. The underlying information is not easily deconstructed, and the information they contain is not readily accessible.
Imagine if hieroglyphs were digital. What if you could deconstruct them into their various elements and access the underlying information that they represent? What if anyone could browse the underlying information that makes up a hieroglyph while filling in any gaps of understanding using culturally relevant elements and phonetic symbols in the reader’s native language? For a hieroglyph inscribed on a stone surface this would not be possible, but if we transition the hieroglyph to the digital world these barriers disappear and a new world of possibilities emerge. In a digital medium, other forms of symbol-based communication become accessible, efficient and potentially more meaningful than phonetic symbols. The digital medium enables us to explore, understand and reconstruct these digital glyphs to transform how information is communicated and stored while making it accessible to different cultures.
When you enter the digital world and depart from relying on phonetic symbols many other pervasive problems can be solved. With the volume of symbols necessary to communicate something in a phonetic symbol language, layout, organization and sequencing becomes a challenging problem. If you abandon the constraints of phonetic symbol language and the print-based paradigm, you start to realize that your screen can be a viewport into the digital world. A viewport that enables you to browse an infinite space that contains digital glyphs that can be deconstructed, where the relationship between information can be explored, re-structured, expanded and shared.