Phase I Executive Summary

We will begin this effort with a systematic multi-perspective analysis of current annotation models, application designs and system architectures, performed in concert with an examination of a broad range of scholarly practices and scholarly-focused use cases involving annotations. This analysis will inform the development of the first draft of a shared annotation data model supportive of interoperable annotations, adaptable by existing systems, and rooted in scholarly practice. In parallel, and also informing the definition and development of our shared, interoperable data model of scholarly annotation, we will integrate the Ajax XML Encoder (AXE) annotation libraries created by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities into the Zotero digital collection and citation management application created by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. This integration will provide Zotero with a new embedded scholarly annotation tool. The process of preparing for and doing this integration, in addition to informing the development of our interoperable annotation data model, ensures the ability to add interoperable annotation features and services to Zotero in a subsequent phase of work. The capstone deliverable of this initial project phase will be the public release with request for comments of an alpha-stage annotation interoperability specification, embedding our interoperable annotation data model and defining the read annotation interfaces required to implement this data model in practice.

Phase I will lay the foundation for subsequent development, implementation and deployment efforts, leading to the emergence of a ubiquitous Web and Resource-centric interoperable annotation environment that allows leveraging annotations across the boundaries of annotation clients, annotation servers, and content collections. This work cannot be done in a vacuum and must be fully cognizant of scholarly context, existing applications and real-world technical environments. Any new standard must make sense in the context of scholarly needs, dominant Web technologies, existing tools, and existing resource collections. The team assembled for this project includes scholars conversant with humanities scholarly practices -- both traditional print-based and emergent digital-based, technologists experienced in the successful creation of standards and data models conformant to the Web Architecture, repository and collection managers familiar with a range of media types and formats, and application developers with a proven track record for creating useful applications, tools, and services.

Ultimately, our overriding goal is to advance the quality and functionality of widely available annotation applications as a way to encourage and facilitate use of digital resources by scholars, while simultaneously enhancing the immediate and potential long-term value of annotations as Web resources in their own right by providing a framework and a set of rules for sharing them across annotation applications.

See the Phase I Proposal and the Phase I Announcement Press Release.