Working Through Ideas…

Hi Dr. Irvine,

I am posting some notes and a general outline for what I am thinking. I expanded a bit on some of the points where I thought that the connections I’m drawing might not be immediately clear. I’ve also included a running bibliography.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to find some method in the madness. Thank you for your willingness to take a look at this. Any feedback you might have is definitely welcome!


Abstract – 

Working idea...The concept of the smartpen and paper interface present a provide a more dynamic interface for end-user tailorability/mobility and a potential parardigm shift in the hybridization of analogue and digital interface.

In this paper I will provide an overview of Smartpen technology, using the Livescribe Echo as a primary of the example, in order to trace the conceptual development of this technology as an important progression of symbolic/computational mediation. While this technology is currently in a relatively rudimentary state, I will argue that its refinement and integration could lead to more advanced forms of symbolic abstraction and cognitive offloading. Most importantly, I will make a case for the potential paradigmatic shift that technology of this type may hold for the ways in which we use and understand the culturally ingrained artifacts of pen and paper.

Technical Overview/Definition of Smartpen/paper

  1. Hardware
    1. Pen
    2. Infrared Camera & Audio Recording
    3. Bluetooth
    4. Paper Grid 
  2. Software
    1. Bundle
    2. Apps

Conceptual Overview

  1. Sign formation (Pierce -Concepts /Anderson – Application)
    1. Iconic significance – the Smartpen allows for digital remediation of icons developed/identified by the user.
    2. Indexical Significance – The Smartpen software allows for unique restructuring/sequencing of handwritten notes. It also allows users to search for words in handwritten notes.
    3. Symbolic significance – The Smartpen personalizes notes by digitizing things such as handwriting, which carries symbolic significance
  2. Mobilization – (Moggridge pg. 191) – The Smartpen is more portable than a laptop or tablet. It has built in storage that allows users to use it when not connected to Bluetooth.
  3. Remediation/Meaning Stacks- (Irvine) – The Smartpen syncs handwritten notes to the computer which can then be transcribed into digital text. It also “instantly” hyperlinks or programs text on paper to perform command functions. For example, you can perform functions on the pen by drawing a small cross to use as arrow indicators. Also, text with which you have recorded audio will begin audio playback when tapped by the point of the pen on the piece of paper! 
    1. Signs grow (Irvine/Pierce?)
    2. abstraction? (Evans)
    3. recursion? (Evans)
  4. Sutherland’s sketchpad (Sutherland) – 
  5. Metamedium (Manovich)
    1. Smartpen as a simulation of prior media extended with new properties (Manovich 110)
    2. Hybridization (Manovich)
    3. Softwarization of Pen and Paper
      1. Encoding/Digitization – (Floridi?)
      2. Hypertext (Englebart)


    1. Issues (Murray/product reviews)
      1. Size of pen
      2. Lack of integration
    2. Suggestions

Longterm Trajectory

  1. Symbolic potential
    1. Personalization and control of images/text
    2. Alan kay’s vision
  2. Smart Textbooks?
  3. Integration/Tablet PCs – Moggridge (pg 198)
  4. Paradigm Shift for pen and paper

Running Bibliography

  • Andersen, Peter Bogh. 2001. “What Semiotics Can and Can’t Do for HCI.” Knowledge-Based Systems 14: 419–24.
  • Donald, Norman. 1991. “Cognitive Artifacts.” In Designing Interaction: Psychology at the Human-Computer Interface, 17–38. Cambridge University Press.
  • Engelbart, Douglas. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” In The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, 93–108. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
  • Evans, David. Introduction to Computing: Explorations in Language, Logic, and Machines. August 19, 2011 edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Creative Commons Open Access:
  • Floridi, Luciano. Information: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Irvine, Martin (2016). Semiotics, Symbolic Cognition, and Technology Key Writings. Compiled and edited with commentary by Martin Irvine. Communication, Culture & Technology Program, Georgetown University.
  • Irvine, Martin. 2016. “The Museum and Artworks as Interfaces: Metamedia Interfaces from Velázquez to the Google Art Project.” PowerPoint Presentation.
  • Johnson, Jeff. 2014. Designing with The Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines. Second edition. Amsterdam ; Boston: Elsevier, Morgan Kaufmann.
  • “Livescribe(TM) Connect(TM) Makes Handwritten and Spoken Information Easily Shareable with Facebook, Evernote(R), Google(TM) Docs and Email – all from Paper Livescribe Introduces the Affordable GBP99 2GB Echo Smartpen Starter Pack.” 2011.PR Newswire Europe Including UK Disclose.
  • Manovich, Lev. 2013. Software Takes Command: Extending the Language of New Media. International Texts in Critical Media Aesthetics. New York ; London: Bloomsbury.
  • Moggridge, Bill. 2007. Designing Interactions. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Murray, Janet H. 2011. Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Sutherland, Ivan. “Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System.” In The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, 109126. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.