Annotation Studio is a suite of collaborative web-based annotation tools currently under development at MIT.
Historical BackgroundAs a cultural and social practice, annotations have a rich history stretching back for millennia. The term marginalia, coined by Coleridge – a notable annotator – refers to writing in the margins of a book. Writing in books leaves traces of a reader’s progress, a reader’s interpretation, a reader’s response. Marginalia can record the collaborative efforts of many readers, as in this image of a page from Venetus A, a tenth-century manuscript of the Iliad that preserves layers of glosses, scholia, and critical marks. This annotated manuscript immortalizes the critical discourse around a text, and makes it possible to study it, a thousand years later. Readers also interact with their books in ways other than writing in the margins. Today, post-its or folded pages, for example, mark passages of interest. A common practice is to color-code these passages of interest. Personal organization is an alternative way of accessing the text, a more personal organization than the pre-defined taxonomy of the table of contents.
Annotation Studio in the Digital HumanitiesThe most significant difference between Annotation Studio and other digital annotation projects is its emphasis on student-centered design and pedagogy. Most other annotation tools assume user familiarity with TEI, and a well-developed understanding of the relationships between literary sources, manuscripts, editions, and adaptations. Annotation Studio makes sophisticated yet easy-to-use commenting tools immediately accessible to students with no prior experience with close textual analysis or TEI.
However, while we believe Annotation Studio provides many unique affordances, we also see it as part of a larger conversation concerning annotation in the digital humanities. Accordingly, we have listed what we think are some of the most exciting projects occupying the annotation space, which bear both similarities and differences to the aims and formal qualities of our tool.