Annotator is a robust javascript library for annotating texts. Starting with version 1.2, it offered a modular code structure, to allow it to be more easily adapted to different uses. We used this version for our three-part MyDante MOOC offered through edX.  Since then, we’ve been working on a more generic set of annotation features which we could provide for various projects here at Georgetown. The UI for making and viewing annotations in MyDante differed significantly from the standard Annotator UI, so we had to build our own Adder, Editor, Viewer, and Store, which extended and redefined features of the originals. In the end, the annotation UI we developed looks more like Medium.com, but with more going on graphically.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.17.13 AM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.17.53 AM

We also added a Guide UI, which was for faculty to create annotations that functioned as a sort of Readers Guide to the poem, interspersed through out the cantos. We had separate modes for making personal annotations, sharing public annotations, and reading the guide-enabled text. We also had a read-only mode, which just presented the translated text of the poem, and optionally the Italian original, with a minimum of other page elements.

The modified UI featured a custom image browser, tied to our library of Dante-related images and their metadata. It also allowed a user to ‘send’ an annotation between private and public spaces, as well as replying to public annotations. It also featured a one-click selection for lines of poetry, by clicking on line numbers. This was especially interesting to implement for pages of the Vita Nuova, a separate, autobiographical text in which Dante weaves back and forth between prose and poetry.  For our more generic annotator application, we will also be adding the ability to reference other annotations from any annotation, allowing users to build an argument across widely-dispersed selections from within the pages of a text. Unlike some projects like MIT’s Annotation Studio (http://www.annotationstudio.org/), we aren’t interested so much in creating a standard space for annotating a variety of documents, rather, we’re interested in how a basic set of annotation functions can be customized to support differing flavors of a developing pedagogy of online close reading.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.20.53 AM

The newest version of our custom UI is built on Annotator 2.0. Our repo is at: https://github.com/CNDLS/annotator . We think this code could serve as an example for people who are interested in developing their own UI’s for Annotator. We’ve found that, although the developers have done a great job of decoupling the UI features from, say storage, they are still somewhat bound to one another. We ended up reproducing most of the UI elements again, but this time, we’ve implemented an event-based system that should allow us to include, omit, or replace UI features as necessary for each project we develop. We’re looking forward to generating a number of projects that really push on what it means to engage deeply with a text online, both in a personal reading, and as a social activity, and how co-ordinating between those different reading modes might contribute to a new kind of reading practice.