Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

By pbrantley | 9 June, 2014

Detail of an incunable leaf The Project is pleased to announce an award for $752,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to investigate the use of annotation in humanities and social science scholarship over a two year period. Our partners in this grant include Michigan Publishing at the University of Michigan; Project MUSE at the Johns Hopkins University; Project Scalar at USC; Stanford University’s Shared Canvas; the Modern Language Association, and the Open Knowledge Foundation. In addition, we will be working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and edX/HarvardX to explore integration into other environments with high user interaction.

This grant was established to address potential impediments in the arts and humanities which could retard the adoption of open standards. These barriers range from the prevalence of more tradition-bound forms of communication and publishing; the absence of pervasive experimentation with network-based models of sharing and knowledge extraction; the difficulties of automating description for arts and disciplines of practice; and the reliance on information dense media such as images, audio, and video. Nonetheless, we believe that with concerted work among our partners, alongside groups making steady progress in the annotation community, we can unite useful threads, bringing the arts and humanities to a point where self-sustaining interest in annotation can be reached.

The range of our partners permits us to explore various types of scholarship:

1). Serving traditional scholarship. Working with Project MUSE and Michigan Publishing, We will ensure that the digital annotation technologies deliver the essential affordances—services, support for specific data formats, etc.—needed for deployment in traditional scholarly publishing venues across the arts and humanities. “Traditional” in this sense does not mean print-bound: Michigan has already implemented annotation services in the latest version of its online publication, Vol. 17, Issue 2, the Journal of Electronic Publishing. From JEP, we plan on moving outward to additional journals, and exploring integration between Michigan Publishing and the HathiTrust digital repository.

2). Serving scholarship in transition. There are many instances where publishing platforms are investigating new types of products and services, but have not yet fully migrated to Web-native communication and publishing. We are looking forward to working with the Modern Language Association’s MLA Commons, and Project MUSE’s newly released Commons could support the ability to support discussion via open annotation across linked infrastructures for collaboration and knowledge sharing. In addition, with MUSE we will also integrate annotation into a multi- volume set of critical edition titles comprising T.S. Eliot’s prose, forthcoming from the Johns Hopkins University Press.

3). Serving new scholarship. We are particularly interesting in engaging with efforts that push the boundaries of what constitutes scholarly publishing. One of these opportunities is in supporting annotation within Project Scalar’s multimedia academic publications, and permitting their importation from external sources. This enables us to demonstrate the integration of annotation into an independent web-based publishing service providing enhanced media support for scholarly work that is not well served by current publishers. With Shared Canvas, will deliver annotations that work with IIIF-compliant image viewing services. A REST-based model for annotations that incorporates support for addressing regions within a Shared Canvas will enable the association of image content with commentary and highlighting.

In addition, the W3C recently approached to help them deliver a workflow that fully integrates annotation to their working groups and the process of developing and reaching consensus on web specifications. A trial of the annotation process is now underway. Finally, edX is integrating Annotator software, the underlying basis for’ services, into its codebase. We look forward to exploring the use of annotation in online educational environments through Harvard’s edX implementation, HarvardX.

Throughout the period of the grant, we will disseminate the evidence generated by our deployments throughout the arts and humanities, encouraging a broader array of organizations to take equivalent steps, which hopefully our work will have made easier, less risky, and more affordable going forward.

Share this article