Hybrid Visual Language System

Sutton Glyphs

Linear and Nonlinear Bliss
Military Chat?
Some Military Glyphs
Air Traffic Control Glyphs
Bunker and Targeting Glyphs
Where no Pen has gone, Before
Hybrid Visual Language System
Proposed Bliss Software

Any future universal visual language system will need to be the same everywhere and yet also adapt to local custom and culture to avoid offending the natives with images they are not comfortable with. It must also teach itself to anyone of any age, culture or educational level. So it must be the same everywhere and also different everywhere, a paradox. It must resist change to be universal, yet be a "free for all" of innovation to interest real people. Even more of a paradox.

The Solution? Two systems merged into one, where one system teaches the other. Natural images adapted to local custom and culture, human factors tested in each locality, could be augmented by an unchanging, highly integrated system like Blissymbolics. The natural images would introduce and teach the artificial glyphs to users during actual use. During the early phases of the learning curve for each user, the natural images would be carrying the communication burden, with the glyphs taking over this burden as exposure and experience is gained.

One aspect, the natural looking images, would be a very fluid system developed and led by users of the system. Search engine algorithyms would bring the popular images to the top. The other aspect of the system would resist change, but sometimes adapt to stubborn realities by adding or modifying a glyph in the official system of integrated glyphs. The official glyph system would change only by deliberation among experts/authorities. When a natural looking image rises to the top of the search results pile, indicating a possible user consensus about its meaning, or at least where to use it, that image would then be evaluated for stamping with an official glyph, nailing down its meaning officially for the time being.

A system like this could probably only be developed within a large military system where there is plenty of creative, chaotic energy available to fuel innovation, but where also, orders can be given and enforced without a lot of whining. Tampering with the official glyphs could be forbidden to all but the experts. Of course, there could be a lot of authorized experts as we move into the second and third generations of users. In the meantime, everyone could have fun trying to get their natural looking drawings to the top of the search pile for possible stamping with a glyph. Competition and rowdy fun are not unknown in military circles!

It wouldn't hurt, at the appropriate time, to give everyone a two week course in the fundamentals of the glyph system, and an advanced course for users who must be able to rely on the absolute definitions of visual messages which only the official glyphs would provide anywhere on the globe, in any domain and in any international situation. Favorite natural looking images would vary far too much from culture to culture, not to mention barracks to barracks, to ever offer any reliable definitions.

Wave opposite Particle

Wave Particle Duality

This visual language system would have, built in, a kind of wave/particle duality where a vast sea of potential (waves, all users of the system) would strive ceaselessly to actualize its visual versions of reality, but where only a relative few would achieve definition as actual particles (stamped by glyphs). The natural images would always be restlessly redefining themselves, a forever changing sea of potential, just like natural languages are today. Natural looking images would get to participate in the top tiers of the system as trusted, reliable reality (particles) only so long as consensus deems them the best match for an official glyph. The glyphs themselves though, would be virtually unchanging, as the laws of the universe change only by deliberation of the gods over aeons.

If a secret stealth aircraft exploded, and it was being discussed in a military chat, the chat system might automatically recommend these three augmented glyphs to visually summarize and enhance that part of the chat stream, making it quicker and easier to find this topic in the midst of many other conversations in the stream. Since these types of glyphs would likely only summarize and enhance the text message for the forseeable future, probably several generations at least, no grammar and syntax with verb tenses and such need be considered for now. In the meantime, familiarity with the glyphs will be accumulating in the personel, and the glyphs will not only become iconic for the specific cases where they are used, but the combinatorial logic of the glyph elements will begin to dawn in the minds of users.

Commonly used sequences of glyphs like those above could be integrated into single nonlinear glyphs which explain themselves better and interpret faster in the minds of users. The violet glyph in the upper left corner which means secret, is that color to indicate top secret. One level below top secret, merely secret, could be blue. And a further level down, confidential, could be green. You may notice I'm following the natural light spectrum. But who am I? Nobody. I'm sure those folks at the top have already long since worked out their protocols. These glyph suggestions are merely to show some of the potential of the Blissymbolics system. There are many aspects of these compound augmented glyphs that can be modified without damaging the integrity of the Bliss system. Just don't mess with the basic, geometrical shapes and their semantic assignments without carefully considering how this could weaken the integrity of the system as a whole. A soldier, with basic knowledge of the glyph system, coming across a new compound glyph he has never seen before, should be able to decypher it from its elemental parts even without the natural image augmentation. Still, better to augment, and allow easy lookup of explanations of glyphs.

World Writing

World Writing

The system would function immediately everywhere, even for those who've never seen the images of this hybrid system. As generations pass, increasing numbers of people from all nations would increasingly understand the glyphs independent of the natural images. And they would innovate, leading us to the grammar and syntax of this new communication system. The natural images would continue to be used because there will always be people who haven't learned the system, there is always a new generation of children growing up, and because the glyphs look more appealing with the natural augmentation.

Now, if this same system, though lacking some of the military visabulary, were being promoted or even taught in the civilian sector, the military planners could anticipate that the next generations coming into military service would be ready to benefit to a far greater degree from the visual language enhancements. Perhaps then, the services could move toward more than enhancement. Perhaps the full content of messages could be delivered more concisely and reliably than with text? This is the big question.

Pretend for a moment that a visual language system is actually being deployed around the world, and that the system, by international agreements, is being implemented in ATMs, automated cashier systems, and in many government publications.

Now imagine a shopkeeper in Thailand, noticing that a lot of his customers are tourists, wants them to be able to read the displays in his shop and printed in his advertisements. He has an automated cashier system for his customers who want to use it, so he would like his ads and price labels to look the same as the images on the auto-cashier screen. Also, the state website provides an excellent online system for customizing and printing his labels, ads and signs, plus tax breaks for businesses who use them.

So he puts labels like this in his shop and in his printed advertisements:

$.29   $120   $50

Look around! This is already happening on every McDonald's menu above and behind the cashiers. The only difference is that they use only natural images of hamburgers with no potential for beginning the evolution towards an international visual language. All it would take is a tax break to get McDonalds to augment the natural looking hamburger images with the appropriate glyphs. And if they distort or stylize the glyphs, harming the integrity of the new international communication system, no tax break. Commercial vendors would be free to stylize the natural image augmentations, but not the international glyphs.

Now fast forward a few generations into the future. Children, having grown up seeing these images with glyphs, are now using the glyphs in all kinds of crazy ways among their friends, on websites, in chatrooms, texting on cellphones, and even innovating visual language grammar and syntax in video games. They do this already in video games so only players on their team understand them. Chaos will always be at the frontier of any system. But the natural image augmentation can provide guidance leading to continuing refinement of this language attempting to be born. Blissymbolics was stillborn, but it may yet have a vital role to play.

During these next few generations, a library of augmented glyph images will be accumulating, available for computer chat software to recommend whenever chat messages are parsed a certain way. And data will be collected about how users choose to arrange the glyphs and what text messages they tend to associate them with. The users will show us the way to visual language grammar and syntax.

Here at SuttonGlyphs.com and also Blissymbolics.us, I've settled on a standard shape for the images, roughly the shape of a wide screen monitor, and chosen 85 pixels for the standard height when stringing them in a line like a sentence. And when clicked they enlarge to a height of about 303 pixels. The larger size added to PDF files, prints each augmented glyph about the size of a playing card.

All true cultures have their games to inculcate (teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions) the medium and the message into the minds and hearts.

The nice thing is, the augmented cards are rather cool looking. Could they ever catch on?

I have a large deck of these glyph cards on my desk, each card is unique. As I wrote this I stopped right here,,, shuffled the cards well, and dealt myself three cards. Here they are:

Not bad, 2 matches: "Apple Computer". But this match deserves no points in our card game, perhaps even a penalty for laying these cards down. Players love to penalize each other!

One of the benefits of visual language is that it tends to test ideas relative to physical reality. "Apple" is just a meaningless name in this case, except of course it might refer to a mythical apple in paradise which symbolizes fruit from the tree of knowledge. Computers store and process knowledge. But this match does not pass the physical reality test: Computers are not constructed from apples, and apples cannot in any way describe a certain kind of computer in any literal, physical way. I suppose if an owner of an apple orchard used a computer in his business he might call it his "apple computer" as a private joke, but we cannot afford to allow private jokes to work their way into what is supposed to become a universal visual language system.

Card sequences considered to be true sentences or phrases (a unified idea involving all the selected glyphs) qualifying for points in a card game, and card matches which involve a penalty could be listed at a website where gamers could send in card sequences for official approval. Or gamers could negotiate with each other to settle arguments.