Below are slides and notes for my Ignite Talk presentation at the 2016 Digital Media and Learning Conference at the University of California Irvine. My talk is titled “What Maimonides, Banksy, and Alexandra Elbakyan Can Teach Us About Open Annotation.”
A bit of context: Ignite Talks at DML are five minutes long and feature 20 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds. I chose to structure my Ignite Talk into five one minute-long “chapters” (four slides per chapter). The following is a summary of notes for each chapter of the talk in case my spoken presentation is entirely incomprehensible!
Introduction (slides 1 through 4)
I’m Remi Kalir, and this is guy – he’s Maimonides, a Sephardic rabbi who lived in the 12th century, mostly in Morocco and Egypt, and was an eminent philosopher and legal scholar. There’s someone else we need to meet. He still might be faceless, but many of you are likely familiar with Banksy, the British artist and activist whose graffiti art is recognizable around the world. And let’s also say hi to Alexandra Elbankyan, the Khazakstani computer programmer and neuroscientist, who made over 58 million academic papers freely available via the website Sci-Hub. I’m going to suggest that Maimonides, Banksy, and Elbakyan have something to teach us about web annotation. But before that, I’ve shared these slides and my notes via my blog – follow the bitly link “Remi times DML.”
Chapter 1: Knowledge (slides 5 through 8)
Let’s first consider knowledge, how it’s created, discussed, contested. Maimonides was one author of the Talmud, a Hebrew legal text structured by authors writing commentary in response to one another – a platform for layered discourse. Today, platforms like Hypothesis afford a conversation layer atop the web. Hypothesis was inspired by Vannevar Bush’s memex device envisioned in the 1930s as a way to augment memory. What’s web annotation with Hypothesis look like? Check out these climate scientists publicly annotating news about climate change, contextualizing and contesting reporting, adding an expert layer of knowledge to everyday media. Web annotation has been around for a while, it was built into Mosaic, the first web browser. With free, open-source platforms like Hypothesis we can all mimic Maimonides, contributing our knowledge to conversations growing across the web.
Chapter 2: Critique (slides 9 through 12)
What lesson does Banksy teach us about web annotation? Banksy confronts taken-for-granted realities, reminding us that platforms like Hypothesis can be leveraged to critique inequities associated with systems of schooling and learning. We see this when academics use web annotation to critique narratives about higher education, to question disciplinary conventions, and voice their opinions about agency – subverting an online comment form in favor of marginal conversation. We see this when youth author blogs, respond to peers via web annotation, and advance narratives of their choosing, about topics of consequence, shaping their learning pathways through curiosity and critique. And we see this when K-12 and post-secondary educators join web annotation conversations and flash mobs – to curate resources, reflect upon professional practice, and critically examine intersections of society, education, and equity.
Chapter 3: Access (slides 13 through 16)
If Sci-Hub was designed to remove all barriers in the way of science, perhaps web annotation removes barriers to conversation – making the web a bit more egalitarian and participatory for everyone. I want to give a shout out to Chris Gilliard. He writes about IT policy in K-12 and higher education, and has termed lack of access to information “digital redlining.” He’s an advocate of web annotation; go read our annotations atop this blog post via the link above. Let’s also consider how our technical systems are designed, and whether they provide greater – or open – access to data. And once data is accessible, how can web annotation layer on metadata, or comment on what’s missing, or direct analysis? And as for Hypothesis, everyone has access to their open source code, code for a platform designed in accordance with the W3C standards for open app development. Hypothesis models accessibility as a digital media organization.
Conclusion (slides 17 through 20)
In conclusion, web annotation is all about the con-… conversation, constructing and contesting knowledge, using tools and social practices to be contrarian and consequential. Web annotation is also about text: Text as a noun, a written word, a layered comment; and text as a verb, an action of self-expression, agreement or rebuttal, activity for teaching and learning. Web annotation creates contexts for learning. And not contexts that are orderly or prescriptive. Rather, contexts that are distributed, more democratic, grown and transformed by the voices of learners in conversation with one another. Web annotation is fundamentally a hybrid practice, blending formal with informal learning, stretching conversation across settings, positioning the margins as central to discourse. You want to mess around and geek out? Come annotate.
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It was an honor igniting up DML with this lovely crew! (And thanks Alan Levine for the great pics!)