Text, Context, and Wiscontext

April 29, 2020

Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors.

Hi WN@TL Fans,

A word about words.

Written words, in particular.

One specific word, especially:  Text.

Text is an ancient four-letter word with a modern renaissance born of the cell phone.

‘Text’ is no longer solely a tome, and it is no longer solely a noun: it is a verb on loan.

Text is the literal water of words we swim in; surrounded by it, yet I have to look up its definitions and roots.

Origin — late Middle English: from Old Northern French texte, from Latin textus ‘tissue, literary style’ (in medieval Latin, ‘Gospel’), from text- ‘woven’, from the verb texere.

And further, texere:   “to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build,” from PIE root *teks- “to weave, to fabricate, to make; make wicker or wattle framework.”

There it is:  text—woven. As in textile.   (Akin to tactile, no? Alas, no.)

Just as textiles can surround us, envelope us, wrap us in their warmth, so too context gives a feel for the words, it lets us weave together strands of stories, of ideas, of questions, of perceptions.  It is how, as Robert Bringhurst wrote, we intellectually go from fibers to fabrics, from one dimension to two.

This week a UW-Madison program called Wiscontext published a story by Samantha Nash based on putting into text, and into further context, the WN@TL presentation from this past January by Tony Goldberg.

Wiscontext.org weaves together stories and resources from Wisconsin Public Radio and from PBS Wisconsin, including some of the WN@TL talks PBS WI records, broadcasts and archives as part of the University Place series.

By putting the video story into text, and by gathering together many storylines from the presentation, we get the happy mix.  So now you can read the distilled story as well as watch the full presentation.

Whether we be readers, viewers, or listeners—

We are all learners, we are all weavers.

A note to my colleagues at Wiscontext: I continue to be grateful whenever you use WN@TL presentations as the jumping-off point for Wiscontext stories.  Your stories significantly amplify the reach of the presentations that researchers share in person at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.   The synergy is astonishing.

To WN@TL fans:  please check out all the stories in store at Wiscontext.org.  See what they’re hefting & wefting together.


Hope to see you sometime soon once we can resume Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H


UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at science.wisc.edu for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round.

Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide:

1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT (on hiatus as of March 11, 2020)

2. The live web stream at biotech.wisc.edu/webcams (also on hiatus)

3. The WN@TL YouTube channel

4. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin

5. WN@TL on the University Place website

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