Gerhard M. Buurmann

Theme Machine - A Prototypical Literature Data Base Query and Analysis System

lecture given at the workshop "online-archives: perspectives on networked knowledge spaces"

Gerhard M. Buurmann

Gerhard M. Buurmann

Media Files


The system called ‘Theme Machine’ (abbreviated as ‘TheMa’ in the following text), is a prototypical literature data base query and analysis system. It was developed within the framework of a larger research project at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Zurich (1999 – 2000).

The core function of the system is the structuring of monumental texts (full texts) and their presentation as so-called ‘TheMa’ structures with referential text elements (subsystems) and their references and sources. With the aid of ‘TheMa’, the structural content elements (text parts) of scientific texts can be presented as relational text systems of a discourse. ‘TheMa’ can present these superstructures and opens up a detailed view into the inner logic, the causality and the integration of a text in scientific discourse. Functionality is guaranteed via a manual indexing function. The writer indexes the headings of a text using the option style sheet. Via a Word add-in the function of a section of text can be defined according to a globally defined superstructure (e.g. text section equals hypothesis of text). In this way the system can display the argumentative structures of texts and visualize cross references between different texts and qualitatively determined text parts. For example, it would be possible to display that the hypothesis of text A refers to the conclusions of texts B and C. Thus the system increases the quality of the quoted statements by displaying the argumentative function (opposing evidence) in which a structural element refers argumentatively to another. This is not possible with other solutions. As a further option, the system can also be used to continue the writing of the discourse sections presented. Scientific debates and arguments could be directly attached, so to say, to their predecessors and continued here. The ‘TheMa’ system could therefore also be described as an approach to creating a dynamic, collaborative, discourse system.

Within the framework of the research work we attempted to find a practicable approach without intelligent functions (automatic indexing etc.), which make visible and therefore "computable" the argumentative structures of a text. The possible sources of error in case of insufficient (because uncontrollable) automatic processes were excluded here by a small manual (and therefore controllable)
effort on the part of the writer.

Artists / Authors



Fraunhofer Institute for Media Communication MARS-Exploratory Media Lab



Schloss Birlinghoven, Sankt Augustin, Germany


» http://http.//netzsp…hops/online-archives/


, Apr 10, 2003