A reflection on annotations and context at OLC Innovate & Liquid Margins

It’s fascinating to look back on the Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B” that a group of us annotated this morning in the context of exploring Hypothes.is as part of OLC Innovate and Liquid Margins.

Reviewing over some notes, I’m glad I took a moment to annotate the context in which I made my annotations, which are very meta with respect to that context. Others’ annotations were obviously from the context of educators looking at Hughes’ work from the perspective of teachers looking back at an earlier time.

I’ve just gone back and not only re-read the poem, but read through and responded to some of the other annotations asynchronously. The majority of today’s annotations were made synchronously during the session. Others reading and interpreting them may be helped to know which were synchronous or asynchronous and from which contexts people were meeting the text. There were many annotations from prior dates that weren’t in the cohort of those found today. It would be interesting if the Hypothes.is UI had some better means of indicating time periods of annotation.

Is anyone studying these contextual aspects of digital annotation? I’ve come across some scholarship of commonplace books that attempt to contextualize notes within their historic time periods, but most of those attempts don’t have the fidelity of date and timestamps that Hypothes.is does. In fact, many of those attempts have no dates at all other than that they may have been made +/- a decade or two, which tends to cause some context collapse.

Crowdlaaers may provide some structure for studying these sorts of phenomenon: https://crowdlaaers.org?url=https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47880/theme-for-english-b. It provides some time-based tools for viewing annotations to help provide context. Looking at it’s data, I’m particularly struck by how few people today took advantage of the ability to use taxonomies.

As always, it was fun to see and hear about some uses of annotation using Hypothes.is in the wild. Thanks again to Nate Angell, Remi Kalir, Jeremy Dean, and all of the other panelists and participants who spoke so well about how they’re using this tool.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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