How can I try Annotation Studio and sign up for an account?

You can sign up for an account at app.annotationstudio.org.  If you wish to learn about signing up for a university specific subdomain or installing a hosted version of Annotation Studio, please contact us at hyperstudio-support@mit.edu.  For more information about becoming a member of the Annotation Studio community, please consult our Levels of Involvement document.

How does Annotation Studio differ from other annotation tools?

Our main goal is to facilitate pedagogy. We see students as junior scholars, and seek to support their efforts by giving them tools that let them interact with texts in intuitive and novel ways. With Annotation Studio, we offer readers the ability to record and organize their reactions to a source text. They can filter their reactions and visualize the threads of many reader interactions. Readers can make multimedia arguments by linking to images or videos.

How do we define annotation?

Annotation Studio derives at a model of annotations from a close personal relationship with texts, not necessarily from the model of an annotated bibliography. We’re interested in making that close personal relationship visible, while drawing from resources developed for any kind of annotation. What this affects is the pedagogy (under the control of the professor), and the design in some limited ways. Any kind of annotation requires markup of text and commentary on text, and while all of these annotation models rely on a similar markup, the commentary is different. The storage and display of this commentary is different. Based on use cases that emerge from actual user testing, we will be able to further refine our model of annotation. But we require a starting point, a vision, and that vision is to make apparent a personal relationship with a text.

What technologies does Annotation Studio use?

Annotation Studio is developed as an open source web application, based on state of the art web design and development technologies.

To the user’s browser, we deliver a rich UI written entirely in HTML, CSS and Javascript. AnnotationStudio will be usable on a majority of mobile devices in the near future.

On the server side, the latest Ruby on Rails framework accelerates development, and is hosted on Heroku’s “Platform as a Service”, which enhances and accelerates deployment and scaling.

Technologies used include:

  • All user and group management and document organization is built in Ruby on Rails
  • Annotation data is stored in the MongoDB database, via a REST API written in Node.js
  • The Annotator editor, built by the Open Knowledge Foundation in Javascript
  • The annotation environment uses Backbone.js to provide user data display and navigation
  • We use the Twitter Bootstrap and jQuery for user interface controls, layout and design.
  • Github and Heroku serve as platforms for collaboration and deployment.

Why are annotations important?

Throughout history, marginalia have been used to record reader interactions with texts. From recording oral traditions to preserving glosses, from quick notes to new theorems, the margins of the page have offered a space for readers to get up close and personal with their texts. Margins have also been a space for communication; a thriving practice in the eighteenth century involved entire social circles sharing a print copy of a text, and writing to one another.