And because I’m so overcome with love for Swype right now, let me write a little bit about it.
It reminds me of calligraphy.
Not many people are aware of this, but I used to do a lot of Chinese calligraphy and painting (link points to a gallery of like, 0.5% of my total output). So when I Swyped, I recognized the same feeling of fluidity; I felt myself pausing before each word, planning the trajectory of my fingertip.
Some self-apparent facts:
1. You can Swype the same word many different ways.
I picked a fairly elegant word: poetry. Let’s see how I can write that.
(FYI: The blue traces indicate the paths that my finger took.)
Here are 4 different ways to Swype “poetry”; I’m sure there are many more. Each trace is the physical embodiment of my movement; the word “poetry” spelled above is the meaning of that trace. Much like calligraphy, except here trace is divorced from meaning. Which means that meaning is only marginally dependent on the form of the trace, and vice versa!
Swype also does some spell checking, so you can choose to omit letters or misspell words strategically for a better looking trace.
2. Trace can reflect emotive aspects of meaning.
Ahh, if only I took Intro to Linguistics. Unfortunately, that class required a final project in the form of a video, and goodness knows I have had enough video editing in my life.
Anyway, what I mean by this is that the form of the trace can evoke the emotional texture of a word, or present new dimensions of meaning. The trace for “elegance” looks like an ornate signature, that of “love” looks like a platonic sine* curve and that of “hate” like it’s been slashed onto the screen. Notice that, as per (1), I could have made these traces differently, with different results.
*okay, a cosine curve.
3. Order matters, but Swype doesn’t tell you about it.
“Scum” and ”muse” (and “love”!) have similar traces, but one’s a compliment and the other is not. The question is, which is the beginning of the trace and which is the end? For “scum”, the trace goes from left to right; for “muse”, it’s the opposite way.
In traditional calligraphy, brushes produce strokes that communicate movement more completely; you can tell which way the brush went based on the stroke’s thickness and its wetness or dryness. (Usually the brush would run out of ink near the end of the stroke, producing the so-called dry-brush effect.)
Swype traces don’t contain directional information – at least not explicitly. I can imagine visual poetry that takes advantage of that fact… but having pressure sensitive traces would be really cool.
4. Trace can dictate meaning. Or, meaning can follow form.
I tried drawing on the Swype keyboard, just to see what would happen. Here are a few examples.
I’m sure if I adjusted the heart a little bit I could have gotten “Bruins” (for you those of you in Boston). I got these results entirely by accident on my first few tries, so it would be really cool to see what other accidental associations Swype can make between symbols and words.
Finally, I tried doing actual Chinese calligraphy but for once, Swype couldn’t come up with a good response.
Does not compute? (That’s “love” in Chinese. Man I’m so out of practice.)
Haha I don’t know why I felt the need to spend hours on this (mainly gone into installing Android SDK just so I can take screenshots of my phone) but OH WELL.