How Lacuna Works

Lacuna logoLacuna is a digital platform for reading, annotating, and writing designed for use in flipped and blended classrooms where discussions center around textual documents. A critical, though too often neglected, part of digital humanities and open source projects is the documentation of how all the pieces fit together and some of the history of the technology. In this post, I will attempt to avoid this gap for our project by explaining what technologies we have used and how they combine to create the Lacuna platform.

Text-Mining the Middle Ages

In the always lovely Austin, TX, where MLA 2016 was held, I presented a paper on the challenges for medievalists who want to do quantitative textual analysis. To spoil the conclusion a bit: the sub-title might have "Why TEI is so great and you should use it." Here's the paper and some of the more relevant slides (I'm not included the sign-posting slides).

On the Horizon

This will be a very brief post (unlike the last three). Here are some of the major projects I'll be working on for the next few months:

The Problems with Genius, Part Three: Connected Learning with Lacuna Stories

[Note: This post is the conclusion to a three part series on digital annotation. You might want to read Part One and Part Two.]

The Problems with Genius, Part Two: Annotating Literature in the Classroom

Is it possible to annotate literature in a digital environment? Certainly, the answer is "yes." Is it possible to do so well and in a way that respects the ambiguity, complexity, and polyvocality of both the texts and the readers’ responses? If the annotations are, like a Wikipedia article, a single text composed through consensus, then I argue in this post that the answer is almost certainly "no." Yet, this model is the one that Genius wants to impose upon literature, as it expands beyond rap lyrics into several other realms. As another signal of their grand ambitions, the company’s founders have compared Genius to a digital Talmud, but the Talmud, like other rich traditions of exegesis, is not a single narrative. Instead, it is divided into multiple sections discussing different aspects of the Torah and includes explanations, interpretations, and practical applications written by a large number of rabbis throughout history. Moreover, the original "annotations" have in turn been annotated (Mishnah and Gemara, respectively). Far from a series of univocal, authoritative explanatory notes, the Talmud thus comprises a complicated, structured, and rich history of commentary.

The Problems with Genius, Part One: Online Annotations, Consensus, and Bias

Academic Technology Specialists, Innovation, and Skunkworks

As part of a coordinated series of blog posts among my colleagues in the Academic Technology Specialist Program, I recently wrote a post comparing what we do to the skunkworks model and how that enables the innovations we're able to shepherd. The blog post that frames my own and my colleagues' posts is Reflections on the ATS Program.

Towards a Front Page for the Digital Humanities #dhthis

In partial response to the issues raised about the publishing model of Journal of Digital Humanities and an apparent lack of transparency, several scholars banded together to create DHThis, an experiment in open sharing of DH-relevant writing online that follows the Slashdot/Reddit model that allows use

Alt-Ac Notes: Building Towards the Fall and Winter Quarters

Given the interest in alternative academic (alt-ac) careers and the remarkable variety these positions can take, I thought it might be helpful to others looking beyond the tenure-track if I were to provide a sense of what my particular instantiation of an alt-ac job entails. I am currently working on several noteworthy new projects that will launch in the Fall or Winter Quarters. In this post, I highlight three projects and explain how my role in each touches upon (often vastly) different aspects of my responsibilities. These three do not encompass everything I work on in a typical week, but they do indicate some of the breadth and the multiple challenges I regularly have the good fortune to encounter.

Digital Humanists’ Responses to Surveillance

Recently, I made a plea that the digital humanities community direct its collective expertise, both as humanists and technologists, to respond to the revelations about the NSA's surveillance, a post inspired, in part, by my feelings of frustration and anger (justified and righteous, I believe) at our constant status as objects of surveillance and potential analysis.1 Clearly


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