Dissertation Quick Video!

Here’s a quick, three-minute video about my dissertational project:

If you want to know more, the recent talk I gave at the Nebraska DH Forum is pretty thorough, or you can check out the feed of blog posts I’ve been writing as I work on the project. That sign-up form link at the end is http://goo.gl/qtcy6 !

Here’s a transcript of the video:

I’m designing, coding, and user-testing digital social reading interfaces for my literature doctoral dissertation. This is a novel approach; rather than write the traditional four-chapter monograph, my dissertation will consist of four pieces:

  1. The Infinite Ulysses participatory digital edition website
  2. Formal usability testing with volunteers reading Ulysses via my website
  3. Research blogging on the process of scholarly building throughout the entire dissertation, and
  4. A multimedia scholarly article

I’m using the site to pursue three main research questions:

1. How can we design digital archives and editions that are not just public, but invite and assist participation from both trained academics and non-academics in our love for the nuances of a text’s history and interpretation?

2. How can we borrow successful social mechanics from existing online communities (things like upvoting and tagging) to create reading experiences that adeptly handle not only issues of user-generated annotation quantity but also quality?

3. What happens to complex texts—especially those purposefully authored to be hypertextual, chaotic, and encyclopedic, like Ulysses—when a participatory digital edition places them under heavy and thorough annotation and conversation?

Let’s turn to discussing the site itself. Here’s the simple version of what my edition will let scholars and readers do: read the text online on their laptop, iPad, or tablet; when they run into something in their reading, whether that’s a question, or an interpretation or context they wish to share, or an answer for a question left by another reader, they’ll be able to highlight that piece of the text and add that as an annotation, which will then show up to the side of the text (like marginalia). Readers can also add tags to these annotations and up- or down-vote them, as well as have the option to fill out user profiles with fields for research interests, whether you’ve read the text before, and other details to aid in site customization for each reader’s interests, background, and reading habits.

I won’t read through all the examples what the site will be able to do (you can read a full list on this blog post), but here are a few examples of things you’ll be able to do on the Infinite Ulysses site:

  • You can filter the annotations on the novel to only show those notes on particular areas of interest to you (e.g. annotations that translate foreign words, or annotations aimed at first-time readers)
  • You can filter out annotations you don’t want to see (e.g. spoilers about something that only becomes clear later in the book)
  • And, you can easily create your own customized reading edition of Ulysses that shows only annotations aimed at a specific topic (e.g. an edition meant for use by a class focusing on the place of books, letters, and other written material in the Modernist novel), and/or only see annotations added by specific users, such as members of your literature class or book club

The site will open up for testing with individual volunteer readers this Fall 2014, and beta testing with teachers and their students, and book clubs, in early Spring 2015. I’m looking for volunteers with any interest in reading Ulysses, whether you’ve never read a word of it or are a Joycean scholar. You can sign up to be notified when the site goes live at by filling out this form, or feel free to tweet me @Literature_Geek with any questions or follow me to hear when the website goes live.

Please visit my research blog, LiteratureGeek.com, to read more. Thanks for watching!