Hypothes.is in education

[here’s something I wrote for one of my professors about Hypothes.is. I thought it might be of more general interest.]

One of the strengths of scientific publishing is that other experts may comment on documents before the publication. This allows other experts in the field to vet ideas. However, for others who are not part of the review process, when they see the research paper, they don’t have access to the comments and questions raised about the research study. In addition, connecting the research with other sources is difficult because there is not a way for researchers and students to add notes in-context.

Vannevar Bush wrote an essay “As We May Think” in the Atlantic in July 1945. One of the ideas the essay described was a device he called “memex.” The memex would make knowledge available to anyone by displaying it on a screen. It allowed cross-references and hyperlinks. In many ways, it foreshadowed the world wide web. However, in addition to the documents, users could create trails of their exploration through the system. These trails would be able to be shared and published, just like original documents.

The vision of being able to share information trails about one’s studies on the internet hasn’t been available. Either the technology was not adequate or the ideas required the cooperation of the hosts of a website to allow the annotations to be stored. Information was not available in a standardized way. Annotation is the implementation of the memex idea by allowing web text to receive comments, links, images related to the original text.

A photograph of the hypothes.is logo on a tshirtHypothes.is offers “To enable a conversation over the world’s knowledge.” https://hypothes.is/about/ The project is creating software and pushing for standards in annotation. They want to “foster community.” It’s a non-profit organization that is funded by the Knight, Mellon and Sloan foundations as well as others. They allow direct linking to information in-context so that one does not need to locate the connections on a blog or other website.

Some of the principles that they espouse include that the annotation system is free, non-profit, neutral and lasting. They hope to “standardize annotation” as another component of the Web. There is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working group actively developing these standards.

There is a coalition of scholarly publishers, libraries and others cooperating to make annotation available on scholarly publications. They include MIT Press, The University of Illinois Libraries, Carnegie Mellon University, Oxford University Press, Stanford University Libraries and many others. They’re developing the ability to collaborate on the web and allowing one to write to the internet just as you can read from it now.

According to their terms of service, annotations that are created as part of a group are reserve all rights from copyright law for the content added to the group. Publicly released information is released as public domain. They encourage using their platform in education. https://hypothes.is/education/ has information about using the platform in different levels of education.

It is possible to use the Annotator platform by Hypothes.is without installing software by using a portal that lets you paste URLs. However, the Chrome extension makes accessing the annotations much more convenient. By using annotations, the class can enrich the content of the documents we are reading bryomd to what is possible with written analyses or summaries.

Bush, Vannevar. “As we may think. Atlantic Magazine.” (1945)
Original image: Hypothes.is Shirt. By Ryan Ozawa [Image license]

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