As the Pelagios project’s Common Ontology for Place References (COPR) is based on the Open Annotation Collaboration ontology, JISC (in the person of David Flanders) suggested a blog post on the growing use of OAC in HE and research. It’s a bit late – blogger’s block – but here it is. Many thanks to Rob Sanderson for his useful input.
A lot of the work being done is in the humanities, where research practice is more human-centric and “annotation” – with various meanings – is a core component of research, or a fundamental “scholarly primitive”. Textual studies is a particularly active area:
Stanford University has been using AOC for work on annotating digitised mediaeval manuscripts. As these are frequently illustrated, this involves annotating structured text (maybe already marked up using TEI XML) and images within the texts. This has been taken up more widely in the SharedCanvas project, whose results are being used by various libraries and universities for annotating mediaeval manuscripts, including the British Library, Bibliotheque National de France, and the Bodleian in Oxford, among others.
Emblem Books are another fruitful area for annotation. These form a genre of book, popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, containing collections of emblematic images with explanatory text, usually aiming to inspire the reader to contemplate some moral issue or other. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel have been collaborating with the Emblematica Online project on using OAC for annotating digitised emblem books. This also involves annotating structured text and images, although in printed books rather than manuscripts.
The AustLit project, based at the University of Queensland in Australia, has been applying OAC to the development of scholarly critical editions, specifically for annotating variations between different versions of a literary work.
An analogous approach could be used with variants within a “stemma” or family of manuscripts. In fact a use case of our own may be provided by the HERA-funded SAWS project, which is looking at complex relationships between mediaeval Greek and Arabic manuscripts of “wise sayings”, so-called gnomologia. I will be looking into this further.
A little (but not entirely) beyond textual studies, OAC is also being used for annotating historical maps – the Digital Mappaemundi project at Drew University is looking at methods of dealing with mediaeval maps and related geographical texts – in fact these maps can be thought of as complex images with original annotations, so the model may fit very well. Also at Cornell, the YUMA Universal Media Annotator (YUMA) tool has been used with OAC to annotate historical map collections.
OAC has also found applications in the digital libraries and archives world (the applications are not entirely disjoint from the above):
The US National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the Internet Archive have launched an initiative for developing standards for creating and sharing bookmarks and annotations in e-books (announced October 2011), with various publishers interested. This will take on board the work done in OAC, although the standards developed will go beyond this.
Brown University Library is developing an annotation framework for the Fedora digital repository software based on OAC, linking the annotations created directly with TEI-encoded texts in their repository, and exploring how annotations can be attached to structural and semantic elements within those documents. Brown’s Women’s Writers Project will provide one of the initial test cases.
MITH (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities) have been collaborating with the Alexander Street Press on using OAC to store annotations on their streaming library of educational videos. As an example of what they intend, they have produced a working prototype that allows shapes to be drawn so as to select regions of video for annotation.
And just to show that the sciences are not being ignored here, BIONLP at the University of Colorado – who work on natural language processing of biological texts – are investigating the use of OAC with entities and relationships automatically mined from such texts, and the FP7 Wf4Ever (Workflow Forever) project is using OAC for annotating research objects.