Copying, Identity, and WYSIWYG

David M Levy, Xerox PARC

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 15, 1991


The question of identity -- what makes something itself and not anything else -- is an age-old issue that continually presents itself in new forms. The Greek philosphers wondered which would be the original, which the copy, if a ship's parts were replaced plank by plank and the original planks used to construct an identical ship. Modern science fiction writers deal with this same issue when they wonder what relation an exact clone of me would bear to *me*. Closer to home, these issues arise when we photocopy a paper. What relation does the "copy" bear to the "original"? In this talk, I will describe recent work done with Ken Olson on the question of copying and identity. This work is helping us to understand, among other things, the nature of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), including its limitations. These ideas will be illustrated with examples drawn from the commercial editor, SuperPaint.


Dr. Levy received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford, 1979 and Diploma in Calligraphy and Bookbinding from Digby Stuart College (London), 1982. He has been at Xerox PARC since 1984 where his main research topic has been documents and document editors.


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