Frequently Asked Questions

What is Texttotree?

Texttotree is a tool that generates a unique tree from any piece of text. By analysing the emotion in written language, Texttotree looks for a matching tree-shape. A connection between text and tree becomes visible as a piece of writing is reinforced with a visual dimension, a fitting image to a verbal expression.

Texttotree can magnify a comment or soften a message by providing the soothing image of a tree. It can represent a text without its words, of which only the creator knows its meaning. It can put things in perspective, by setting up a personal forest of daily expressions. To trigger a response and cause reflective action. Whether it's a laugh, a moment of wonder or light frustration.

How did this project start?

Texttotree has its roots in the therapeutic context. The project developed from the challenge to visualise personal growth, to find a matching image that can represent a state of mind, a process, a progression. In an environment dominated by verbal-cognitive expressions, we looked for a visualisation that can accompany a piece of text but can also stand without it.

So why would you choose a tree?

Because trees are absolutely fascinating. We arrived at the image of a tree as a fitting symbol as it represents not only growth but also decay and regeneration. Texttotree uses the symbol of a tree to bring about the rooting potential of nature into the digital sphere. To be surrounded by trees, also when being online.

Texttotree experiments with shapes that resemble existing trees but also explores non-existing, more open interpretations of tree-like forms. It’s more about trees as a symbol than trees as a biological phenomenon. Although that’s the very bridge Texttotree hopes to build—between nature in the virtual and the physical world.

Texttotree matches written messages with the shape of a tree. It has no immediate intention to assign human emotions to existing trees. It does not want to brand some bushes as bad and some big trunks as good. It does make use of recognizable images to elicit an effect. Texttotree tries to emphasize the weight of words in a playful, poetic, and visual manner.

How are the trees made?

To generate the trees, we use an algorithm called Space Colonisation. We build templates of different trees through an interface with various parameters.

Why are there no leaves?

Because we haven’t gotten there yet. Until now, Texttotree focused on getting the branching structure right. Since we are building our own system to create 2D trees with Javascript, we are developing the tree-shapes step by step. Adding leaves will be the next.

How do you get emotions out of text?

By using a process called Sentiment Analysis. Every text is analysed and scored according to four basic emotions (Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger) , their magnitude (tentative, confident, analytical) and two general states (Positive, Negative). It gives an estimate in percentage on how much a particular emotion is present in the text.
EG: I enjoy the evening in good company → 100% positive, 64% joy

Can I accurately read emotions in the tree?

Texttotree does not try to be completely accurate in the analysis and comparison of emotion in written language. It uses automated processes to retrieve some form of information from a text. Information which becomes the starting point to generate a unique virtual tree. Texttotree does not aim for scientific validity but does try to excite its users.

What is the menu item ‘forest’?

The forest is a public collection of trees and corresponding expressions made by users.

How can I use Texttotree?

That’s completely up to you. You can test out the tool by copy-pasting a random bit of text—but that won’t feel very rewarding. You can put in a message you received from a friend and give them a tree back. You can start a conversation in the family chat by sharing a quote or expression together with a tree. You can ask your coworkers at the weekly check-in to all share a tree and start a conversation from there. You can keep a diary of trees and print them out at the end of every month, setting up your own forest of expressions. You can ask your pupils in class to give feedback on the last exams by sharing trees instead of only words. You can make your sister laugh by writing something silly and sharing it as a texttotree.

What could it be used for?

Texttotree is a project in development, situated at the intersection of art, mental health, nature and technology. As a team, we envision multiple contexts of use.

1. Texttotree as a conversation starter. By adding a visual layer to a written message, a new piece of communication arises that leaves room for wonder, for interpretation, creating entry points to start sharing and where deeper meaning is to be found by users themselves. Trees as engagement artefacts that can be shared digitally or can be printed, passed around and exhibited on a wall.

2. Texttotree as a reminder of a process. With its origins in the therapeutic context, Texttotree has been conceptualised as a means to visualise personal growth. By asking to write a personal statement at various steps in a therapy process, a collection of trees, of expressions, can eventually represent a progression, a path of personal growth. The trees then portray a momentary state of mind and act as reminders of a process.

3. Texttotree as a one-off incentive to start writing. For most people, writing anything down is a daunting task. Especially when it’s about their personal experience. By rewarding someone with an animation of a growing tree which is generated from the meaning of your words, Texttotree can function as an encouragement to write. Whether it’s evaluating a moment, registering some feedback or jotting down a memory or feeling you don’t want to forget.

4. Texttotree as a continuous incentive to write at regular intervals. Texttotree becomes increasingly triggering when trees and their corresponding texts can be compared. When creating a personal account, one can make as many trees in a day and collect them over time. This way, a personal forest of expressions emerges, a visual diary that exists out of singular trees on the one hand, and snippets of text on the other. Texttotree can be seen as a means to capture expressions over time, to collect self-reports, statements, reflections, observations not only in a verbal but also in a visual manner.

5. Texttotree as a research project. Texttotree is a research project on two levels: 1. We are drawing trees with mathematics (in a web environment) and want to develop our methods further. 2. We keep looking for systems to analyse human language and to accurately recognise emotion in text. Generally, Texttotree contributes to investigating the translation of text into imagery.

6. Texttotree as generative data art. Every tree has a direct relation to a piece of data.

7. Texttotree as an integrated feature of writing tools and messaging apps. On a global scale, interpersonal communication seems to become completely dependent on messaging apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat.
Also writing and translation tools such as Grammarly and DeepL are growing their user base. Texttotree could find an entrance as an integrated feature in messaging environments, where text is already omnipresent. Similar to how emojis are used for expression, Texttotree can be deployed to give a new dimension to texting.

8. Texttotree and the connection to nature. Currently there is no partnership with any organisation that works with real trees. We hope to establish such collaborations in the future, to strengthen the human connection to nature.

9. Texttotree as a gift, present or wish.