The above image is from a research project I am developing with a professor in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta. An image of the program’s proper use and an explanation of its purpose is after the link.
The program is called the Mandala browser, as the concept for its design is based on the Mandala diagram, common in many cultures most notably Buddhism and Hinduism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala). Anyways, it is a way to search and view texts that are encoded in a consistent xml style. Shakespeare’s plays, for example.
In the image below an xml file containing the texts of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest has been loaded into the Mandala browser. You can search for specific speeches in the text by adding ‘magnets’ to the browser and assigning them a search value. The speeches of the plays are held in dots that can be attracted to magnets with the correct search value. In the image below the blue magnet attracts speeches spoken by the character “Prospero”, the green magnet attracts speeches found in “scene 3”, and the pink magnet attracts speeches that contain the word “sea”. The smaller, multicoloured magnets attract speeches that match more than one magnet. It is also possible for the user to select one or more of the dots to view the text of the speeches in the lower right hand panel. Here is a link to a 1 minute video describing its use: http://www.ualberta.ca/~sruecker/mandala_demo.mov
The program is still unfinished. I’m fixing the bugs and adding some enhancements. The Mandala browser may not have so much use for the layman but it may help scholarly types spend more time being scholarly and less time being search engines.