By Josh Cowls on October 24, 2016
At a time when it’s commonplace to see a movie trailer embedded in a tweet, or photos posted in a message thread, it’s clear that the experience of using the web involves an immersive mix of text, images and video. Of course, underlying what appears a seamless combination of media content is a huge amount of technical sophistication. The story is no different for annotation programs, which allow users not only to view but also to comment on various types of content. Integrating different annotation programs is the work of our latest HyperStudio Fellow, Daniel Cebrián Robles, who was spending September visiting us from the University of Málaga, where he is a Professor of Science and Education. I recently sat down with Daniel to talk about his work, and what he hopes to achieve in his time with us.
One of Daniel’s areas of expertise is his development of technology designed to meet the needs of students and researchers. This makes him a natural fit as a visitor to HyperStudio, given our focus on both research and pedagogy in the context of Digital Humanities. Daniel’s focus while at HyperStudio will be on integrating the Open Video Annotation project (OVA), for which he is the Lead Application Developer, with our own online annotation tool, Annotation Studio. OVA, an initiative originally based out of the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard, enables the annotation of online video material, allowing students and teachers alike to create, collate and share tags and comments at different points in a video. Given the explosive growth of online video in recent years, the project serves to make watching video online a more interactive and immersive experience.
As noted, here at HyperStudio we have our own online annotation tool, Annotation Studio, which is also designed for students, researchers and others to collaboratively annotate online material. The crucial difference, however, is that Annotation Studio is currently designed for annotating text, but not – as yet – video. This, then, is the basis of Daniel’s work with us – to integrate the video annotation capacities of the Open Video Annotation Project with Annotation Studio. Doing so undoubtedly poses several technical challenges, which will require Daniel’s depth of experience in this area. Daniel explained that his ambition for this month is to develop a first working version of the integrated functionality.
As both a developer and educator, Daniel is perfectly placed to negotiate between what users want and what is technically feasible, allowing him to swiftly fix bugs and incorporate suggestions made by instructors and students. This ground-level engagement thus guides his development efforts, serving a similar function to the workshops and trials we regularly hold with users of Annotation Studio. These engagements are often the most rewarding part of the development process: Daniel mentioned the time that one of his users, a teacher in training, told him that he would use the program with his future high school students.
Looking further ahead, Daniel believes that his work integrating the Open Video Annotation project with Annotation Studio is only the beginning of a much wider process of bringing diverse forms of media together for annotation into one platform. Daniel speculates that beyond just text, photos and videos, potentially also maps and even 3D objects might belong to such a platform in the future. And the impact on user experience could be empowering and inspirational. Giving students, teachers and the general public the ability not only consume media online, but also share opinions and perspectives on it through annotation, could revolutionize how we experience the vast catalog of content available online. Daniel’s work marks just the start of this process, but we are excited to have him on board!