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Tools and Technologies for Reuse of and Interaction with OA books

In this part, we explore various open source tools, software, technologies, platforms, infrastructures, guidelines, and best practices, that lend themselves to adoption by publishers and authors so as to support and enable interaction with open access books.

Published onOct 19, 2021
Tools and Technologies for Reuse of and Interaction with OA books
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The second part of this report outlines and showcases various open source tools, software, technologies, platforms, infrastructures, guidelines, and best practices, that could be adopted by publishers and authors (or by publishers and authors working in collaboration with each other) to support and enable further interaction around their books. For a more general overview of collaborative tools, platforms, and workflows that support the creation of experimental books, we would like to refer you to COPIM’s research and scoping report Books Contain Multitudes which we published earlier this year, with a particular focus on the report’s Part 3 “Technical Workflows and Tools for Experimental Publishing”. As outlined in this report, we decided to limit our exploratory scope to open source solutions so as to maximise the possibility of re-use, which is what we would similarly do in this report.

Similar to Sarah Kember’s assertion that “[e]xperimenting with academic writing and publishing is a form of political intervention, a direct engagement with the underlying issues of privatization and marketization in academia” (2014), we see this investigation of approaches of how to re-use digital long-form scholarship as a similar intervention. Following the different forms of interaction that have been identified in this report’s Part 1, we explore in this section forms of interaction such as open annotation, open peer review, remix and reuse, open social scholarship, and various emergent practices, on which we try and map the corresponding technological dependencies as well as tools and platforms that facilitate this interaction. Beyond dissecting the technical underpinnings of these different approaches to foster interaction with open access books, we also showcase potential re-use scenarios.

In the following paragraphs, we outline some of the affordances—and linked digital practices—of the tools and platforms we consider in this report, to provide an overview of their distinctive elements, but also to point to overlaps and conceptual entanglements where clear-cut separation of practices may not be desirable. As will become clear in the subsequent paragraphs, the tools and platforms presented here often do not directly mirror the forms of interaction that have been outlined in Part 1 in a one-to-one relationship. On the contrary, many platforms make a point of seeking to establish an ecosystem that offers and connects several workflows.

As outlined in the first part of this report, we use “interaction” as an umbrella term to denote a set of practices that enhance engagement with a publication and, to borrow from literary theory, to extend its meaning through, for example, hypertextual modifications that, as Kathleen Fitzpatrick notes, “produce texts that are no longer discrete or static, but that live and develop as part of a network of other such texts, among which ideas flow” (2011).

Open Annotation and Open Peer Review

Following the first part of this report, web-based annotation of digital books can be thought of as “a way to enrich a scholarly text through overlays and filters that sit on top of the text in order to show additional commentary and feedback.” On a technical level, annotation usually happens in situ, i.e., on top of an existing publication. With physical books, this usually happens in the margins of a book or manuscript. In the digital realm, though, this practice has proliferated: one common form of indirect annotation includes commenting at the end of a publication, separate from the main text body (see for example the comments section of blogging platforms such as blogger or WordPress) or what the W3C describes as being “maintained separately from annotation document” (2014). Due to the detached nature of this form of annotation, such commentary tends to be more conducive to summative feedback.

Other more creative forms facilitate direct annotation by adding an extra (digital) layer over the original publication—a layer that often allows direct referencing of granular elements (specific words, segments, paragraphs), thus enabling the reader to provide feedback via textual or multimedia means, or by adding contextual references such as metadata to enrich the underlying text, e.g., by creating a semantic network that sets a given publication in relation to other publications (hyperlinking, linked open data).

As discussed in more detail in Part 1 of this report, Open Peer Review is “an umbrella term for a number of overlapping ways that peer review models can be adapted in line with the aims of open science”, and “a diverse cluster of interrelated yet distinct innovations that aim to bring open science principles like transparency, accountability, and inclusivity to the peer review process” (Ross-Hellauer, 2017).

Open Peer Review of scholarly books can be facilitated through a variety of means, many of which make use of commenting, annotation and/or versioning, depending on the chosen mode of interaction with the publication under review. More traditional forms of peer review maintained a separation between the review and the book under review, for example by using structured review forms, or book reviews published post publication. Digital annotation enables reviewers to write directly in or on the book under review, creating a more immediate and interactive experience.

In the COPIM Report Books Contain Multitudes (2021), we broadly differentiate between tools and platforms: on the one hand, we consider tools that facilitate annotation as part of a larger collaborative environment that mainly focuses on the writing and publishing process (see platforms such as PubPub, CryptPad, etc. as discussed in the Collaborative Writing overview). On the other hand, there exist a variety of specialist platforms that focus on the facilitation of annotation as their main purpose, either within a given platform’s boundaries (see e.g., Rescogito, CATMA), or as tools that can be used across platforms and independently from their base text’s locations (e.g., Hypothes.is).

Platform-agnostic / Overlay Annotation Tools

The following tools are highlighted here because they work as platform-agnostic/-independent implementations. Adhering to the Open Annotation Guiding Principles, these tools facilitate an overlay service that can be used in conjunction with (almost) every existing website, platform and/or digital document.

hypothes.is

hypothes.is is an open source project that has evolved out of the development work undertaken in the W3C Web Annotation Working Group. As Mars et al. write,

“the project gathered a scholarly coalition (Annotating All Knowledge (AAK)1) — a group that includes more than seventy scholarly publishers and platforms. Their mission is to ‘deploy annotations across much of scholarship’ [and, to us] seems [a very] reasonable and hopefully sustainable [approach]. Hypothes.is has a special partnership program with publishers and educational institutions which often results in new features and spin-off projects, including a collaboration with the ReadiumJS team to bring annotations to EPUBs, initiated by NYU Press” (2021).

Hypothes.is is seeing wide-spread adoption across the Higher Education sector, and is featured in a variety of open publishing as well as open education projects to foster uptake of social annotation practices (see Kalir & Garcia, 2021,2 and Part 1 of this report), which is supported on a technical level through the provision of a set of tools to help integrate hypothes.is functionality in a variety of other platforms also used for open access book publishing such as WordPress, Omeka, Open Monograph System etc.3

The platform-agnostic nature of hypothes.is makes the tool a versatile candidate for implementation in third-party environments. One example use case seems particularly noteworthy in this context. The High Integration of Research Monographs in the European Open Science (HIRMEOS) infrastructure project (also discussed in Part 1)—sought to create a set of services to enhance re-use and integration of monographs into the larger European open science ecosystem. The project developed the HIRMEOS Annotation service, which facilitated open annotation for digital books for the publisher OpenEdition, based on hypothes.is. This service enhances capabilities towards creating annotations with an implementation of annotation-specific DOIs, and also enables storage and long-term preservation, re-use and sharing of the annotation record and associated data.4 The chosen approach is described in more detail in Bertino & Staines, 2019, as well as in the HIRMEOS Fact Sheet “Annotation Service for Digital Monographs”. An overview of the books selected for their annotation and open peer review experiment has been made available online.

Another use case that deploys the hypothes.is model for annotation is Fulcrum. This publishing platform, which is developed by Michigan Publishing and focuses on the integration of a variety of multimedia content types such as interactive maps, datasets, 3D models, images, timelines, etc.5 into digital open access books—while also taking into account the preservation of these content types—announced in 2019 that it would implement hypothes.is annotation features with books published by Lever Press on the Fulcrum platform, while also hinting at the possibility of making this feature available for other publishers’ output on its platform at a later date.

PressBooks is another interesting use case to mention here because it integrates hypothes.is in their WordPress-based publishing platform via the annotation tool’s excellent plugin to facilitate reader feedback. As PressBooks is also used as a platform to publish and disseminate OER textbooks, the integration of an annotation layer is also key to fostering student engagement with a given text.6

Pundit Annotator

Similar to hypothes.is, Pundit Annotator has existed for quite some time, and is currently in the early stages of being re-developed from scratch to ensure full implementation of the W3C Annotation standard that came into effect in 2017.7 Conceived as a peer-review platform that leverages openly-available open access content via arXiv, OAPEN, and Knowledge Unlatched, and supported by the European Commission-funded TRIPLE project that is part of OPERAS,8 Pundit will become a service offered as part of the GOTRIPLE platform, which in turn is conceived to play its part in the European Open Science Cloud ecosystem, and is thus seeing integration of multi-platform sign-on capabilities,9 which will allow researchers to use the annotation service Pundit Annotator. While the project used to have its own open source repository, it is not clear at this point whether the new version 3.0 will also be made openly available.10 What is also interesting is the fact that the development team hint at a collaboration with hypothes.is, which will potentially lead to more cross-platform interoperability in this space — with both tools soon being envisioned to enable re-use of each other’s annotation data.

“Standalone” Fixed-ecosystem Annotation Platforms

Many annotation experiments in scholarly communication happened in the early 2010s, when the development of a key javascript library (AnnotatorJS) meant that an introduction of annotation functionality would be rather easy to facilitate. Nonetheless, the creation of an efficient and sustainable annotation environment was not trivial. The subsequent inclusion of the work that had informed AnnotatorJS into the W3C Annotation framework in 2017 was welcomed by the community, but also meant that much of the earlier javascript-based development work had become obsolete. As evidenced in the overviews provided by Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) and AnnotatorJS’s own showcase page, many of the platforms that had been established during the early 2010s to enable annotation subsequently ceased active development, while a smaller subset decided to invest and re-build their platforms to implement the new W3C annotation standard.

Overview of annotation-specific standalone tools

An overview of open source annotation platforms: table at https://tiny.cc/copim-annotation-overview

While annotation-specific platforms such as Rescogito, CATMA, Annotation Studio and eMargin are definitely worthy of further exploration, we’d like to take the opportunity here and highlight three emerging platforms that follow an integrated approach to collaborative writing and annotation and that also specifically accommodate books or long-form texts, focusing on the social aspect of collaborative interaction with the text, and thus aim to provide a seamless experience across many steps of the publishing workflow.

Scalar

Scalar, the multimedia publishing platform hosted by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC), provides options to annotate video, audio, images, source code, and text. By establishing relational links between various kinds of content, Scalar introduces an elaborate taxonomy to facilitate a wide range of potential connections between annotations and base content. In practice, this means that one can establish links between existing content types in a Scalar book , or add new content (a note, a video commentary, etc.) to an existing content type.11 Scalar also features an API through which—as the manual states—“You can mashup your Scalar content with other data sources, build your own visualizations, or create completely new interfaces for your materials.”12 While such a feature might not be relevant for every user, it is noteworthy because it offers possibilities for re-using Scalar content outside of the platform.

Manifold

Developed as a successor to the Debates in the Digital Humanities hybrid print/digital book publishing platform (Kasprzak & Smyre, 2017), Manifold leverages the social aspect of collaborative interaction through its annotation Reading Groups. As the developers note, Reading Groups “are a way for readers to annotate and comment on Texts as a cohort and is geared toward classroom and peer-review use cases.” (n.d.) Athabasca University Press and University of Minnesota Press are already using bespoke Manifold instances to foster engagement with their published books,13 and pilot projects between the University of Washington Press and University of Washington Libraries, at City University New York (CUNY), and at Affordable Learning Georgia, are using the platform to explore the potential of extending student engagement with open texts through social collaborative practices, including annotation.14

Screenshot collage of Manifold annotation and peer review cases, displaying segments of Metagaming (2017) and the Middlemarch 150th Anniversary Symposium collaborative edition project (2021), in which parts of the text are annotated.

Manifold annotation and peer review cases: Metagaming (2017) and the Middlemarch 150th Anniversary Symposium collaborative edition project (2021).

PubPub

As outlined in more detail in Mars et al. 2021, PubPub is a collaborative writing platform that also integrates an annotation layer to facilitate commentary and peer review. In an exemplary Open Peer Review process via PubPub, Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia made the manuscript of their—now published—Annotation volume, available online via the PubPub platform, and invited feedback via in-platform annotations and comments from the wider scholarly community.

Sample screenshot of Kalir & Garcia’s Annotation prepublication manuscript on PubPub.

In a similar vein, with her preprint version released as open access text on PubPub, Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need invites readers to share thoughts and comment on her MIT Press monograph that has been published under the same title in 2021.

And the Frankenbook project, presented by the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, has likewise employed PubPub’s annotation capabilities to engage in a “collective reading and collaborative annotation experience” to reframe Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s original 1818 text of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

As a caveat, it remains to be seen if PubPub’s annotation framework will, in the future, allow export and re-use of its annotation-specific data so as to more formally comply with the Open Annotation Guiding Principles15 and corresponding calls to make peer review data available independently from its publishing platform. Next to that, for the authors of this report, the mandatory sign-up / registration step that is required prior to gaining access to the interaction options of a given base text in PubPub poses an additional barrier that might deter some users from interacting with the text. Nonetheless, PubPub’s support of annotation and peer review on the technical level of the tool and its affordances, but also on the level of fostering social interaction and community-building on and with PubPub (e.g., through the Commonplace publication outlet, led by Knowledge Futures Group, the community tasked to provide development of and user support for the platform)16 makes for a rather convincing case of an emerging publishing ecosystem.

CommentPress

Leveraging a WordPress + CommentPress plugin setup that had been pioneered by The Institute for the Future of the Book (If:book, Fitzpatrick, 2007a), Jason Mittell’s Media Studies publication Complex TV had been publicly available for close to two years prior to its publication via If:book’s MediaCommons platform, and the manuscript has subsequently undergone a thorough “Peer-to-Peer Review”(Fitzpatrick, 2007b) process together with publisher NYU Press. Although it has already been published nine years ago, Mittell’s book still is an interesting exemplar to consider here because it also conceptually combines a variety of open source platforms, drawing on Scalar to provide additional digital material to support the arguments made in the main publication.

Review platform of Jason Mittell’s Media Studies publication Complex TV, powered by MediaCommonsPress.
The manuscript has been published in 2015 with NYUPress.

Similar processes have been employed for example by McKenzie Wark for her monograph GAMER THEORY, by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki for their 2011 open review volume of Writing History in the Digital Age (published in 2013 by University of Michigan Press), and again by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who had also used this process to invite feedback on her book Planned Obsolescence (2011) via MediaCommons, while her more recent book Generous Thinking (Fitzpatrick, 2019) has been made available with a more up-to-date CommentPress setup hosted at Humanities Commons (see below).

Humanities Commons / CommentPress-based review process for Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s monograph Generous Thinking, published with Johns Hopkins University Press in 2019.

RavenSpace

RavenSpace is a collaborative publishing space developed by University of British Columbia Press in close collaboration with University of Washington Press, and focuses on digital workflows to extend the collaborative writing experience towards the provision of a robust peer review workflow that can also facilitate what they label “Community peer review”. Through Community Peer Review, Ravenspace

“seeks to extend the collaborative relationships of research and authoring into the publication process and to publish works that are meaningful and relevant for distinct communities of readers, both inside and outside academia, and specifically Indigenous peoples. It recognizes that expertise resides in many places and that publications benefit from Indigenous consultation or review beyond collaborative authorship. Because of the varied nature of collaborative relationships and the diversity in Indigenous customs, laws, and approaches to intellectual property and cultural heritage uses, flexibility is essential; the form of review and consultation responds to the nature of community protocols and the needs of each publication.” (n.d.)

Mukurtu

Developed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University, Mukurtu is an open-source Content Management System and publishing and archiving platform that has “the unique needs of Indigenous communities, libraries, archives, and museums in mind.” Relying on Drupal as its host system, Mukurtu has developed a strong community over the years, which is organised via a network of regional and local “Hubs and Spokes” (Christen et al., 2017) that fosters exchange of situational knowledge and practices. While it is not a book publishing platform per se, we are including it here as an interesting example of how communities can collaborate on digital collections and experiment with intriguing, novel ways to present, share and curate content.

Gather project, State Library of New South Wales

Remix and Adaptation

While still focusing on the technical implementation of remix and adaptation via tools and platforms, we will, in the following paragraphs, also look at examples of academic publishing communities that are working with these tools to put the promise of remixing long-form publications such as monographs into actual practice.

A vital point towards enabling re-use and interaction with one’s content is to create amenable conditions for engagement. On the level of permissions, this is usually done in the form of open licensing.

Licenses are the most widespread way to signal what kinds of re-use and interaction are permitted by the original content creator / author. Releasing a book under an open license ensures that those interested in re-using your book (or contents thereof) would not have to reach out to you to ask for permission to do so.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses are a way to express different levels of such permissions, with the general rule being that those licenses with the least exceptions are those most amenable to fostering re-use. An additional benefit of Creative Commons licenses is that each license comes in three versions — a clearly understandable summary of the terms ("human readable"), the license text ("lawyer readable"), and the metadata ("machine readable"). For more on the permissiveness of the six main Creative Commons flavours, see the infograph on the left.


Licensing Tools for Easy Attribution

Creative Commons license chooser

The CC license chooser enables authors and contributors to select a Creative Commons license that appropriately reflects their intended use cases. Through a set of questions, the tool can identify main criteria and permissions that an author wants to grant, and then presents the creator with a variety of media-specific license attribution options with corresponding copy&paste templates (text-based, text/hyperlink, or HTML code that includes machine-readable licensing metadata)

Wikipedia & Wikimedia Commons attribution tool
Flickr image re-use attribution generators

Guidelines and Tools for Open Licensing:

On re-using third-party material in your research publication

As the 2019 Universities UK’s Open Access Monographs: Evidence Review report states,

Technical issues of inclusion of illustrations in an academic monograph is not the problem; rather, it is acquiring clearance permissions for the re-use of third-party material that adds an extra layer of complexity to publication, potentially making it very expensive to publish books with significant quantities of third-party copyright material (2019).

The following resources provide help along the often-difficult way through obtaining proper licensing for your third-party material.

Alternative License Models

Although Creative Commons is one of the most widespread licensing frameworks, there are alternative (e.g., copyleft) licenses that indicate permissions to reuse and remix. In the following, we will highlight two alternative license models.

Traditional Knowledge licenses

Inspired by Creative Commons, Traditional Knowledge (TK) seeks to address the diversity of Indigenous needs to retain control of their cultural heritage and resources TK “embraces the content of knowledge itself as well as traditional cultural expressions, including distinctive signs and symbols associated with TK.” Traditional Knowledge licenses are

“a tool for Indigenous communities to add existing local protocols for access and use to recorded cultural heritage that is digitally circulating outside community contexts. The TK Labels help non-community users of this cultural heritage understand its importance and significance to the communities from where it derives and continues to have meaning” (Program for Open Scholarship and Education, 2021).

The University of British Columbia provides further details on the uses of Traditional Knowledge licenses.

CC4r - Collective Conditions for Reuse

Understood as a critique on conceptions of property and copyright of the neoliberal system, the Collective Conditions for Reuse (CC4r) license is a reimagined copyleft license specifically geared towards reuse or remix scenarios in which collaborators do not want to "contribute to oppressive arrangements of power, privilege and difference." Constant, the Brussels-based non-profit organisation behind this license, notes that “CC4r was developed for the Constant worksession Unbound libraries (spring 2020) and followed from discussions during and contributions to the study day Authors of the future (Fall 2019). It is based on the Free Art License and inspired by other licensing projects such as the (Cooperative) Non-Violent Public License and the Decolonial Media license(Constant, 2020).

Remix in Action: Tools and Communities

pirate.care

The pirate.care.syllabus, which maps the increasingly present forms of activism at the intersection of “care” and “piracy,” showcases a combination of remix, versioning and updating where its platform draws on a git-based single-source publishing workflow that makes use of gitea, a lightweight open source git environment, to host markdown-based content that is then rendered as HTML via Hugo, a static site generator. The platform’s web layout is realized via CSS and Javascript adapted from a popular Hugo theme, while print layout is made possible via paged.js, a Javascript library that allows for the structurisation of web content in a way that facilitates output of paginated and styled PDF output mimicking a book layout. The syllabus

“espouses a certain technopolitics. We have developed an online publishing framework allowing collaborative writing, remixing and maintaining of the syllabus. We want the syllabus to be ready for easy preservation and come integrated with a well-maintained and catalogued collection of learning materials. To achieve this, our syllabus is built from plaintext documents that are written in a very simple and human-readable Markdown markup language, rendered into a static HTML website that doesn’t require a resource-intensive and easily breakable database system, and which keeps its files on a git version control system that allows collaborative writing and easy forking to create new versions. Such a syllabus can be then equally hosted on an internet server and used/shared offline from a USB stick” (Graziano et al., 2020).

Grafoscopio

In a similar vein to pirate.care, the Grafoscopio community seeks to comment on the perceived omnipresence of closed publishing platforms by way of reconstructing open monographs. It has developed “a moldable tool for interactive documentation and data visualization, that is being used in citizen, garage & open science, reproducible research, (h)ac(k)tivism, open & community innovation, domain specific visualization and data journalism.” With a Free and Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) philosophy in mind, Grafoscopio “integrates simple and self-cointained "pocket infractures", that can be execute On/Off-line, from a USB thumb drive, a raspberry-Pi alike computer, a modest server or any hardware in between and beyond.”

One instantiation of the community’s approach, is a creative remix of the Data Feminism publication (D’Ignazio & Klein, 2020), which has been published by MIT Press and was made available openly via PubPub. The Grafoscopio Community describe the motivation behind their approach as follows:

“It is our way to make a (meta)comment on the book, by using alternative infrastructures and processes, developed for/from the Global South, and build on top of software that is mostly done in the Global North but not trendy, hyped, Big Data, crypto or artificial intelligence powered or buzz worded. [...] by moving the book from PubPub to our own pocket infrastructures and open sourcing it in the process, we hope to increase participation and make it happen more accordingly to the conditions in Global South, where connectivity (band width or other), huge computing resources or even proper leisure time are not a given” (The Grafoscopio Community, 2020).

Through a creative remix that makes the book’s text available in a git- and Markdown-based publishing workflow, their approach seeks to liberate the content from its original platform,17 while also establishing a multilingual conversation as part of this process. All processual details have been documented on the community’s website, with links to meeting logs, a timeline, and agile teamwork organisation via a Kanban board.

Photomediations

Photomediations - introduction to the variety of outputs created as part of the project.

Photomediations deserves a special mention here: conceived as an experiment in open and hybrid publishing that celebrates open remixing, the concept developed into a variety of outputs including a reader, a report, an exhibition, a set of jam cards, a reflective guide to open hybrid publishing, and an image portal developed in collaboration with Europeana. All of this is culminating in the experimental project’s core output published as a digital remediation & reimagination of a coffee-table book. Noting on remix’s promise of potentially-endless permutability, the team of collaborators highlight that this collection is seen as only a small fraction of the iterations that might develop out of the the larger discursive space that gets introduced with Photomediations, and encourage others to explore this space to make their own versions of it.

As Joanna Zylinska, one of the project’s co-leads notes in her introduction to Photomediations: An Open Book,

The framework of photomediations adopts a process- and time-based approach to images by tracing the technological, biological, cultural, social and political flows of data that produce photographic objects. [...] The notion of photomediations has made its way to an online platform called Photomediations Machine, set up by Joanna Zylinska and Ting Ting Cheng in 2013, which has served as a first practical testing ground for its conceptual and visual working. [...] Photomediations: An Open Book is the next step on this experimental journey with and across the photographic medium. [...] The curatorial paths proposed in the book (as evident in the chapter headlines), which bring together sequences of images from Europeana and other open repositories available on the Web, and which also go back to various spaces on- and offline, are only one possible way of tracing such a new story of photography (Zylinska, 2015).

Electric Book

Electric Book uses a git-based toolchain and single-source publishing workflow that leverages Markdown-based content and Jekyll as static site generator to create visually pleasing epub and PDF book-form output that is also remixable due to its repository-based nature that allows for versioning and forking of base texts. A prominent example of a textbook produced with the Electric Book template is the introductory The Economy textbook, for which the print version has been published in the UK by Oxford University Press.

Electric Book example The Economy - pop-up footnote.

25 Years of EdTech: from book to audio

Using Manifold as their digital platform, Athabasca University Press has made Martin Weller’s book 25 Years of EdTech available as an openly-licensed digital resource. The monograph has itself evolved out of an ever-growing collection of blog posts written by Weller, who provides insightful reflections on and critique of the developments happening in education technology over the past two and a half decades.

25 Years of EdTech: The Serialized Audio Version on https://25years.opened.ca/

Following in the footsteps of Weller’s book publication, a group of open researchers has taken it upon themselves to remix the book in the form of an audiobook and podcast, which in 2021 culminated in the project 25 Years of EdTech: The Serialized Audio Version. Produced by Clint Lalonde and Laura Pasquini and providing chapter readings as well as critical reflections on each chapter, the resulting podcast / audiobook collection has just recently received an Open Education Award in OEGlobal’s Open Reuse / Remix / Adaptation category.

Remix caveat: A note on the classificatory separation between academic books and OER

The intricacies of creating open content apply to both textbooks and research monographs, so it seems noteworthy that many of the practices underlying the creation of OER can also be applied to research monographs, and vice versa.18

Image by BCOER Librarians CC 4.0  Taken From https://nsufl.libguides.com/oer

The facilitation of remix is a key affordance of open content in more general terms, and for both open access books and OER in very particular ways. According to David Wiley’s influential definition (2010), open content is defined by their permissiveness along the lines of the “5R”, that is open content (including OER) explicitly permits users to retain and to redistribute copies of said content, while also openly allowing revisions, remix and reuse of the content.

For more on the 5Rs and their relevance in remix practice, see e.g. Jisc’s excellent Open Educational Resource guide, with a particular highlight the “Barriers/enablers to OER use, reuse and re-purposing” section, which might also be relevant for considerations of barriers and enablers to interaction and remix of open access monographs.

Versioning and Forking of Books

“Versioning” is the practice of documenting diachronic changes in a publication—a publication is updated until an an agreed-upon amount of edits has been included; this then becomes fixed & time-stamped (“frozen” reference to content and corresponding time) in a new version.

On a conceptual level, Versioning and Forking can be seen as instantiations of the Remix paradigm. While the use of version control can be applied on the level of collaborative text writing,19 the principle can similarly be applied on the level of an entire book, under the precondition that the book creation process is entirely based on a git-based workflow and its files stored in a version-control amenable repository such as GitLab, GitHub, or gitea.20 In this context, forking denotes the act of remix realised by a third party that is not identical with the original author. Versioning, on the other hand, is the provision of a time-stamped update under the same general provisions of the original text.

An exciting use case of book forking has been initiated by Winnie Soon & Geoff Cox, who, with their book Aesthetic Programming (2021, just recently published with Open Humanities Press), invited readers to create new versions of said publication. In response to said call, Sarah Ciston and Mark C. Marino created their own fork of the book via the GitLab repository, and introduced a new conversational layer—what they label “Code Confessions” and “Code Comments”—to engage with both the original text and their own remix practice (Ciston & Marino, 2021).

Two of the earlier-mentioned platforms—PubPub and Manifold—have also integrated their own approaches to versioning within their respective publishing workflows. Reflecting on the iterative process of developing a set of versions over time on a variety of platforms that have accumulated into a book manuscript, Adema has written about her experience with versioning :

“Over the last decade my book Living Books. Experiments in the Posthumanities, has developed in an iterative way. From blogposts to papers and conference presentations, and eventually to a thesis, a wiki, a CommentPress version, and several articles, Living Books further evolved into a book published by the MIT Press, in addition to an online PubPub version that can be updated, remixed, and commented upon. [...E]xperimenting with different versions, platforms, and media to communicate my research, served as an opportunity to reflect critically on the way the research and publishing workflow is currently (teleologically and hierarchically) set up, and how it has been fully integrated within certain institutional and commercial settings” (Adema, 2021).

For a more expansive overview, may we refer the inclined reader to the typology developed as part of our Books Contain Multitudes report, with particular reference to the segment on Versioned Books in Part 2 (2021).

Semantic Web, Linked Data & Citations

Citing scholarly works is one of the fundamental re-use practices established in academic culture. Making citation data available in an open and machine-readable way is yet another way to invite re-use of one’s work.

As Frosio notes,

“empirical data collection and processing through advanced computational tools—that define research in digital humanities—may empower a discourse about the complex matrix of influence, borrowing, and reuse that characterizes creativity at large as “remix” creativity, while defying entrenched modern assumptions on the immutable, individualistic nature of creativity” (2021, p.30).

That said, while the practice of using open references and citations in one’s output is seeing considerable uptake particularly in the STEM fields (see e.g., Hutchins, 2021), an adaptation of workflows that make reference and citation datasets openly available is still lagging behind in the world of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

OpenCitations

Leveraging the principles of open data through PIDs and Semantic Web (Linked Data) technologies, OpenCitations seeks to collect citation data to create semantic, machine-readable networks that link citations and references across individual research outputs. Implementing OpenCitation standards in one’s monograph creation workflow can be another way to improve and invite re-use of original content, as machine-readable, standardised metadata promises to make proper attribution of sources more readily available. As the provision of open reference lists plays an important part in the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), this practice will surely see even wider-spread uptake across HE institutions and publishers against the backdrop of the larger move towards facilitating uptake of practices on the spectrum of Open Science and Scholarship. For a very recent discussion of the benefits and obstacles regarding OpenCitations, see e.g., Ayers & Klein, 2021.

Open Syllabus

One application use case of an open citation graph has evolved out of a project hosted at Columbia University’s Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities: the Open Syllabus project collects and scans openly-shared course syllabi for references, and makes the connected dataset and generated visualisations available via its dedicated not-for-profit platform at https://opensyllabus.org/. All scholarly references included in the scanned syllabi can be mapped across research fields (see e.g. the below visualisation of the most prominent texts across syllabi for media studies).

Open Syllabus Galaxy - focus on Media Studies.

Building Blocks: H5P

If you are planning to include interactive elements in your book publication, one of the best ways to foster engagement with interactive content is to rely on openly available elements that are amenable to reuse and remix. Following Wiley’s open content paradigm, this can be achieved through having one’s interactive content—such as images, tables, videos, slides, etc.—also accessible in an open and permissive way, i.e., in open formats and under open licensing .

One way to do this is through open web standards and re-usable building blocks. H5P (short for HTML5 Package) is an interesting example here because the tool supports exactly that: it fully relies on open, platform-independent standards including HTML5 and Javascript and supports metadata input to facilitate easy attribution of authorship and licensing. H5P has a variety of interactive elements available, from remixable timelines to quizzes, graphs, image sliders to presentations to interactive videos (see examples one and two below). H5P elements can be created on the tool’s main platform or be self-hosted on one’s own WordPress or Moodle site. The resulting H5P compilation package output can then be embedded in any iframe-amenable environment, or get integrated through the variety of existing platform implementations.

Example of an embedded interactive H5P timeline.

Pressbooks is using H5P for many of its publications, a variety of examples can be found on the Pressbooks Directory. The University of Edinburgh’s Interactive Content team provides an excellent in-depth overview of the existing content types that can be created with H5P.

Compare the painting overlays by sliding between the two images.



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Header image: COPIM remix of “AntiTagging” by Doctor Popular on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic.

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