About | Project Members | Research Assistants | Contact | Posting FAQ | Credits

Announcement: Social Computing Working Group » Objects for Study

Objects of interest bearing on the relation between recent networked reading technologies/practices (e.g., email, blogging, text-messaging, instant-messaging, open tagging or editing, new portable digital devices) and the formation and conduct of social groups. Another way to phrase this topic is “collective reading” in the age of the network.


A “digital scholarly network,” MediaCommons focuses on bringing academic work into wide circulation for discussion and on refiguring the processes of academic publishing. Projects of MediaCommons include In Media Res and the MediaCommons Press.

“MediaCommons, a project-in-development with support from the Institute for the Future of the Book (part of the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a network in which scholars, students, and other interested members of the public can help to shift the focus of scholarship back to the circulation of discourse. This network is community-driven, responding flexibly to the needs and desires of its users. It will also be multi-nodal, providing access to a wide range of intellectual writing and media production, including forms such as blogs, wikis, and journals, as well as digitally networked scholarly monographs. Larger-scale publishing projects are being developed with an editorial board that will also function as stewards of the larger network.”

Starter Links: MediaCommons | In Media Res| MediaCommons Press | Institute for the Future of the Book

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Christopher Hagenagh

Google Notebook

Google Notebook is an annotation tool that allows users to clip excerpts of text or image from the web, comment upon them, tag them, and organize them into notebooks. Notebooks can be shared with other users or published as public web pages. The user may also use the notebook to type in their own notes.

Text in notebooks can be formatted using a rich-text editor, allowing the easy addition of links, formatting, etc. Notes can be re-organized via drag-and-drop and can be sorted according to tags. Browser extensions for Internet Explorer and Firefox allow access to notebooks from a corner of the browser window and allow the user to add content to a notebook with just a right mouse-click.

Starter Links: Google Notebook Tour | Announcement on Google Blog

CommentPress Transliteracies Research Report

Developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, CommentPress “is an open source theme for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text. Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with CommentPress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog.” (CommentPress home page)

Starter Links: CommentPress home page | Institute for the Future of the Book | Examples of CommentPress in action

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight

Google’s OpenSocial

“The web is more interesting when you can build apps that easily interact with your friends and colleagues. But with the trend towards more social applications also comes a growing list of site-specific APIs that developers must learn.

OpenSocial provides a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds.

Common APIs mean you have less to learn to build for multiple websites. OpenSocial is currently being developed by Google in conjunction with members of the web community. The ultimate goal is for any social website to be able to implement the APIs and host 3rd party social applications. There are many websites implementing OpenSocial, including Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.” (OpenSocial home page)

Starter Links: Video of highlights from the OpenSocial rollout event: Google Campfire One | OpenSocial home page | OpenSocial Getting Started Guide | Sample applications developed with the OpenSocial APIs

Google’s Knol

Knol is a new publishing platform in testing by Google. Compared to Wikipedia, Knol differs in one crucial aspect: authorial transparency. “Knols,” or pages, are created by one author who then has editorial control over the article. Other users may submit revisions to the author, but they may not edit the page on their own. Knol will include multiple pages on the same topic and will allow users to rate and comment upon individual “knols.” As of this writing, Knol is in a preliminary testing phase and there is no projected public release date.

Starter Links: Google Blog announcing Knol | C|Net Article |

History Flow

History Flow is a tool created by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenburg as part of the IBM Collaborative User Experience Research Group. Viegas’ and Wattenburg’s creation visualizes “dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors. In its current implementation, history flow is being used to visualize the evolutionary history of wiki* pages on Wikipedia” (history flow home page). The tool works by color coding edits according to the user who makes the changes. The result is a richly detailed visual overview of the life of a page. History Flow’s outputs allow visual analysis of issues critical to the credibility of Wikipedia, such as collaboration, vandalism, edit wars, etc.

Starter Links: History Flow home page | IBM Collaborative User Experience home page | Wikipedia

agoraXchange-Make the Game Change the World

“agoraXchange is an online community for designing a massive multi-player global politics game challenging the violence and inequality of our present political system. Phase I was launched as a commission for the Tate Online on 15 March 2004 and now contains a database of ideas for the rules, game environment, and site look-and-feel.”


Following is a quote from the game manifesto:

“Our present political institutions are not natural or inevitable, but an experiment gone awry, a utopia for the paranoid. We seek collaborators for bringing an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth. We call on all communities of and for the imagination, for creative thinkers and visionaries, including citizens, activists, artists, scholars, political leaders, and the stateless, to eliminate those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities. We seek to develop in agoraXchange and elsewhere laws that will privilege creativity, empathy, and freedom.”

Self Organizing Maps

“The SOM is an algorithm used to visualize and interpret large high-dimensional data sets. Typical applications are visualization of process states or financial results by representing the central dependencies within the data on the map.

The map consists of a regular grid of processing units, “neurons”. A model of some multidimensional observation, eventually a vector consisting of features, is associated with each unit. The map attempts to represent all the available observations with optimal accuracy using a restricted set of models. At the same time the models become ordered on the grid so that similar models are close to each other and dissimilar models far from each other.”

The map that can be seen through the following link is a great application of the SOM idea made by Andre Skupin:

In Terms of Geography

“Description of Content:
Visualization of the geographic knowledge domain based on more than 22,000 conference abstracts submitted to the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (1993-2002). Landscape features express the degree of topical focus, with elevated areas corresponding to more well-defined, topical regions and low-lying areas corresponding to a mingling of various topics. Dominant terms are used as labels for topical regions.
Description of Unique Features:
The most unique aspect of this visualization is its combination of intense computation with geographic metaphors and cartographic design considerations. From a computational perspective, the use of a self-organizing map consisting of a large number of neurons (10,000) is fairly unique. The final map presented here aims to explore how far we can go in the design of map-like information visualizations. Its use of a range of label sizes (from very large to very small) on a large-format map and the omission of a legend are aimed at challenging traditional notions of interactivity, by encouraging viewers to vary their distance from the map and instigating discussion.”

LibraryThingTransliteracies Research Report

A website that allows users to catalogue their personal libraries.

“LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere–even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth” (LibraryThing website).

Starter Links: LibraryThing website

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight

ConceptNetTransliteracies Research Report

Software program that culls meaning from searchable text.

“ConceptNet focuses on semantic meaning in a text, analyzing concepts and the contexts in which they are found, offering a unique approach compared to traditional keyword or statistical evaluations of texts.

ConceptNet has been used as the basis for several programs designed to distill particular meanings from texts (affect, for example) and provide intelligent feedback about the text’s content.” (From Katrina Kimport’s research report.)

Starter Links: ConceptNet

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Katrina Kimport

BlogdexTransliteracies Research Report

Blogdex is a research project from the MIT Media Laboratory that traces the diffusion of content, represented in the form of hypertext links, over time, through blogs.

“Programs such as Blogdex offer a window into the networking structure of the blogging community, an opportunity to systematically analyze large textual datasets, and a way to think about meaning in the online environment.” (From Katrina Kimport’s research report.)

Starter Links: Blogdex

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Katrina Kimport


Free online blogging hosting.

“A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world… Since Blogger was launched, almost five years ago, blogs have reshaped the web, impacted politics, shaken up journalism, and enabled millions of people to have a voice and connect with others.â€? (From Blogger.)

Links: Blogger


LiveJournal is an online journal community.

“LiveJournal is a simple-to-use communication tool that lets you express yourself and connect with friends online.

You can use LiveJournal in many different ways: as a private journal, a blog, a social network and much more.� (From the LiveJournal homepage.)

Starter Links: LiveJournal

Television Without Pity Transliteracies Research Report

Online community and forums for fans of television shows, particularly reality shows and hour-long dramas.

“Our mandate is, more or less, to give people a place to revel in their guilty televisual pleasures. In most cases, we have a complex love/hate relationship with the show, and this site is a way for us to work through those feelings. If we plain hated a show, we wouldn’t pay it any attention at all. (Becker, are your ears burning?)â€? (From FAQ section of TwoP site).

See also, for discussion of the relation between the forums and television executives, “The Remote Controllersâ€? by Marshall Sella, NYT 10/20/02.

Starter Links: Television Without Pity

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Katrina Kimport


Free online community, with multiple local chapters, hosting classifieds and forums.

“Q: What is craigslist?
A: Local community classifieds and forums – a place to find jobs, housing, goods & services, social activities, a girlfriend or boyfriend, advice, community information, and just about anything else—all for free, and in a relatively non-commercial environment.

Q: What is craigslist trying to accomplish?
A: Provide a trustworthy, efficient, relatively non-commerical place for folks to find all the basics in their local area.� (From the Fact Sheet on main Craigslist site)

Craigslist has been involved in a recent lawsuit regarding the legality of some of its housing postings in regard to fair housing legislation (see “IDEAS & TRENDS; The Ads Discriminate, but Does the Web?â€? by Adam Liptak, NYT 3/5/06). Additionally, many have argued that the Craigslist free format has made newspaper classified ads–a primary source of print revenue–obsolete (see “The Media Business, Advertising: The Newspapers Offer a Case for Keeping Them Aroundâ€? by Julie Bosman, NYT, 12/8/05).

Starter Links: craigslist

MediaWiki Transliteracies Research Report

MediaWiki is a free software package originally written for Wikipedia but is now run on other projects of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation and many other wikis. (from MediaWiki)

“MediaWiki is a free server-based software, that is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It’s designed to be run on a large server farm for a website that gets millions of hits per day. MediaWiki is an extremely powerful, scaleable software and a feature-rich wiki implementation, that uses PHP to process and display data stored in its MySQL database. Pages use MediaWiki’s wikitext format, so that users without knowledge of XHTML or CSS can edit them easily. When a user submits an edit to a page, MediaWiki writes it to the database, but without deleting the previous versions of the page, thus allowing easy reverts in case of vandalism or spamming. MediaWiki can manage image and multimedia files, too, which are stored in the filesystem. For large wikis with lots of users, MediaWiki supports caching and can be easily coupled with Squid proxy server software.” (from MediaWiki’s “How does MediaWiki Work?”)

MediaWiki should not be confused with Wikimedia: “Wikimedia is the collective name for a group of inter-related projects, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikibooks, and others, which aim to use the collaborative power of the Internet, and the wiki concept, to create and share free knowledge of all kinds. Like “Wikipedia”, “Wikimedia” is a trademark, and should not be used for projects which are not officially affiliated. Wikimedia is also used as a shortened form of The Wikimedia Foundation.” (from MediaWiki’s “Names” page)

Starter Links: MediaWiki Homepage | List of Sites that use MediaWiki

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Mike Godwin


Edubuntu is a Linux-based operating system that specifically targets young adults and families in an educational context.

”’Ubuntu’ is an ancient African word, meaning ‘humanity to others’. Ubuntu also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. The Edubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to schools, through its customised school environment.

Edubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with community based support. The Edubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Edubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit. These freedoms make Edubuntu fundamentally different from traditional proprietary software: not only are the tools you need available free of charge, you have the right to modify your software until it works the way you want it to.” (from Edubuntu.org)

Starter Links: Edubuntu.org | Ubuntu.org (the parent project) | Jay Allen’s review: “Is Edubuntu Truly the Operating System for Families?” on BloggingBaby.com

Inform.com Transliteracies Research Report

News portal site from Inform Technologies LLC that uses advanced algorithms to sift news, blogs, audio, and video; analyzes them according to structure and relationships through “polytope” mathematical/geometrical relations; and then “channels” the results adaptively (according to evolving “discovery paths”) for particular readers:

“Inform is creating a free online tool that we believe will revolutionize how people read news on the web. We not only provide thousands of news sources, including blogs, video, and audio, in a convenient single interface, we process the news for you, allowing you to get at what you’re interested in more quickly, intelligently, and comprehensively.

Inform’s differentiating technology uses a series of information structuring techniques and natural-language interpretation to auto-categorize and group news stories into thousands of categories, and then shreds the text of the stories to isolate the important elements of each. Once the elements have been identified, you can easily connect and read news on any person, place, organization, topic, industry or product quickly, successfully, and easily right from the article you’re reading, or by utilizing a custom news channel you create, all for free.” (from “About Us” on Inform.com site)

Starter Links: Inform.com | Business Week article discussing Inform.com and related, math-driven information and business technologies (.pdf)

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Lisa Swanstrom

Wikipedia.orgTransliteracies Research Report

Collaborative online knowledge base that allows readers and users to contribute to and edit its encyclopedic-like entries.

“The content of Wikipedia is free, written collaboratively by people from all around the world. This website is a wiki, which means that anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer can edit entries simply by clicking on the edit this page link. Begun in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference website on the Internet…Because Wikipedia is an ongoing work to which anybody with Internet access can contribute, it differs from a paper-based reference source in some very important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this in order to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation which has been recently added and not yet removed.” (from Wikipedia)

Starter Links: Wikipedia.org | Article about the contraversial use of wikis

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight


Free online matching service. Users of the site define their personalities and those whom they wish to meet through a plethora of traditional and very-non-traditional personality tests. Users can create a profile page, upload photos, define “real friends,” and search for people with similar interests. OKCupid is distinctive because of its emphasis on semi-recreational test-taking and creative test-writing.

“What is OkCupid? It’s a totally free matching service. It’s also extremely accurate, as long as (a) you’re honest, and (b) you know what you want. We don’t claim to evaluate you perfectly, but we do claim to find someone who claims to fulfill your claimed requirements, exactly. We firmly believe that most matching sites are just personals services; their “matching” systems are nonexistent or overly subjective.

While we have a small team here, we all take math (and all that math implies) very seriously. OkCupid is a fun project for us for a variety of reasons, only one of which is the actual content. We aim to be the best matching service on every front: superior technology, better math, better psychology. And of course, it’s free, unlike all the others. ” (from OkCupid.)

Starter Links: OKCupid Homepage | OKCupid Wikipedia Entry

Transliteracies Research ReportFacebook

Popular social-networking site serving college students (a second branch of the site was later created to serve high school students):

“Facebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at schools…. You can use Facebook to:

  • Look up people at your school.
  • See how people know each other.

Transliteracies Research ReportMySpace.com

Popular social networking site that spread from its origins in the music/band scene to college, high-school, and even middle-school communities:

“MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends’ friends.
Create a private community on MySpace and you can share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends! See who knows who, or how you are connected. Find out if you really are six people away from Kevin Bacon.” (from About on MySpace.com)

Starter Links: Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Garnet Hertz


Influential as one of the original social-networking sites:

“Find old classmates and co-workers. Provide an easy way for your friends to find your blog. Share photos with your friends. Never forget your friends’ birthdays or lose their contact information. Check your friend compatibility on any given day using joint horoscopes. See your relationship to any member on Friendster, allowing you to safely meet people through your friends.” (from Overview on Friendster site)

Starter Links: Friendster home page


Second-generation open-tagging system for sharing multimedia, links, files, and blogs in a way that allows users to annotate them as belonging to shareable categories:

“TagWorld is helping build the Social Web by providing a unified set of easy-to-use, web-based services that will let users create and engage in a more meaningful, social experience.
        The Social Web empowers people’s ability to engage in self-expression and communicate and share information with whomever they choose. As the Internet’s influence evolves, a new social phase is emerging that calls for enabling people to place and have access to a broad range of personal information that they wish to place on the web. To support users, TagWorld sees five fundamental components for building out this new social web infrastructure: people, photos, blogs, tags and storage.” (from About on TagWorld site)

Starter Links: TagWorld home page | PC Magazine review


One of the paradigm-setting open-tagging systems that allows users to share links to “favorite” online resources and annotate them as belonging to particular categories of interest:

“del.icio.us is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. Use del.icio.us to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, restaurant reviews, and more on del.icio.us and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite – they’ve already done the work of finding it. Explore and enjoy.” (from About on del.icio.us site)

    Starter Links: del.icio.us home page


Paradigm-seting open-tagging system for organizing and sharing photos. Though it does not bear directly on the Transliteracies problem of online reading, Flickr is relevant because it helped establish the model for open, shareable metadata—that is, for allowing users to annotate online resources in common:

“Part of the solution is to make the process of organizing photos collaborative. In Flickr, you can give your friends, family, and other contacts permission to organize your photos – not just to add comments, but also notes and tags. People like to ooh and ahh, laugh and cry, make wisecracks when sharing photos. Why not give them the ability to do this when they look at them over the internet? And as all this info accretes around the photos as metadata, you can find them so much easier later on, since all this info is also searchable.” (from About Flickr on Flickr site)

Starter Links: Flickr home page

Academic Commons

Web site devoted to discussion about information, literacy, and new media. Publishes essays, reviews, and interviews, and showcases educational tools.

“Academic Commons publishes essays, editorials, thought pieces, screeds, and musings about digital tools and innovative practices for teaching, learning, and publishing with technology.” (from Academic Commons.)

Starter Links: Academic Commons | LoLa (learning objects-learning activities) Exchange

Open Content Alliance

Organization of various entities devoted to the digitization of books in the public domain.

“The Open Content Alliance (OCA) represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content. Content in the OCA archive will be accessible soon through this website and through Yahoo!

The OCA will encourage the greatest possible degree of access to and reuse of collections in the archive, while respecting the content owners and contributors. Contributors to the OCA must agree to the principles set forth in the Call for Participation.” (from the Open Content Alliance web page.)

Starter Links: OCA | “Microsoft, Joining Growing Digital-Library Effort, Will Pay for Scanning of 150,000 Books,” Jeffrey Young’s article in the Oct. 27, 2005 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education | “Scribes of the Digital Era,” Jeffrey Young’s follow-up article in the Jan. 27, 2006 issue of Chronicle of Higher Education


Browser designed with integrated social-networking features, including integration with Flickr, del.icio.us, and blogs (still in “developer preview” release as of Jan. 2005):

“We believe that it should be easy for everyone to contribute to and participate on the web. To that end, we’ve started with integrating tools that make it easier to blog, publish your photos and share and discover things that are interesting to you.” (from Flock home page)

“Flock did a good job at sticking to the basic structure of a browser and basically looks like a beautified Firefox, but with extra features. The buttons on the navigation bar has the basic back, forward, refresh, and home button. But you also get a few new buttons such as a button to open the blog editor, the favorites manager, and the star button to star a site…. There are only two topbars as of now. The “Flickr Photosâ€? and ‘Blog Topbar.’” (from detailed review of 18 Oct. 2005 on Solution Watch site)

Starter Links: Flock home page | Solution Watch review, 18 Oct. 2005


One of the current, leading open-source blog-engines and content management systems. (The Transliteracies site is created and managed in WordPress):

“Software that provides a method of managing your website is commonly called a CMS or ‘Content Management System.’ Many blogging software programs are considered a specific type of CMS. They provide the features required to create and maintain a blog, and can make publishing on the Internet as simple as writing an article, giving it a title, and organizing it under (one or more) categories…. WordPress is one such advanced blogging tool and it provides a rich set of features. Through its Administration Panels, you can set options for the behavior and presentation of your weblog. Via these Administration Panels, you can easily compose a blog post, push a button, and be published on the Internet, instantly!” (from “Introduction to Blogging” on WordPress site)

Starter Links: WordPress home page

PieSpy Social Network Bot: Inferring and Visualizing Social Networks on IRC

Software from Jibble.org to visualize the social network created in an IRC channel:

“PieSpy is an IRC bot that monitors a set of IRC channels. It uses a simple set of heuristics to infer relationships between pairs of users. These inferrences allow PieSpy to build a mathematical model of a social network for any channel. These social networks can be drawn and used to create animations of evolving social networks. PieSpy has also been used to visualize Shakespearean social networks.” (from Jibble.org’s PieSpy site)

Starter links: Jibble.org PieSpy page | Visualization of the social network implied in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, treated as a communicational network

pStruct: The Social Life of Data

Self-organizing graphing program for visualizing large bodies of data, including Web forum posts; being developed at UCSB’s Four Eyes Lab:

“pStruct enables content to organize itself dynamically, based on similarities to other pieces of data, as well as users’ interaction with the forum. The result is an unstructured graph that responds in life-like ways to the interaction of data and users…. pStruct is built on a multithreaded Java architecture designed to maintain system responsiveness when faced with hundreds of users and millions of pieces of content. Every post to the forum is stored in a database for archival purposes. A subset of the posts are kept in memory as ‘live’ content which users are presented with and can interact with. When a post is no longer live, it is saved to the database for later retrieval. Each live entity runs as a separate thread, maintaining connections to other entities (posts, users, etc.), responding to requests and seeking out new relationships. While pStruct is currently built to act as a web forum backend, the architecture is general enough to allow for management of any data storage and content retrieval system.” (from UCSB Four Eyes Lab site)

Starter Links: UCSB Four Eyes Lab description of pStruct

MIT Media Lab’s $100 Laptop Transliteracies Research Report

Project to design and produce a $100 laptop to be distributed to users through government programs:

Why do children in developing nations need laptops?
Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to “learn learning” through independent interaction and exploration.” (from MIT Media Lab $100 Laptop site)

Starter Links: $100 Laptop site | CNET News.com articles (1 | 2) | Chronicle of Higher Education article

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight

National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

Dec. 2005 report by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics on changes in literacy between 1992 and 2003 (including a finding that just 25% of college graduates are functionally “proficient” in reading):

“On the prose scale, the percentage of college graduates with Proficient literacy decreased from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003. For adults who took graduate classes or completed a graduate degree, the percentage with Proficient prose literacy fell 10 percentage points between 1992 and 2003.” (from NAAL report, .pdf)

Starter Links: NAAL Report (.pdf) | Inside Higher Ed article on the report (16 Dec. 2005)