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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)

On-Demand, Digital Academic Publishing

Story from Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 Dec. 2005, on digital, on-demand academic publishing:

“Harvard University Press was one of the first academic publishers to use digital printing. After the press found success in reprinting sold-out books that way, officials started doing first print runs digitally about two years ago. ‘It actually changed our whole reprint philosophy,” says John F. Walsh, assistant director of Harvard University Press. “It allows us to keep books in print that normally we wouldn’t be able to keep in print.’ ” (from article)

Starter Links: Dan Carnevale, “Books When You Want Them,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 52.16 (9 Dec. 2005): A27; available online (requires subscription)


Java-based tool from the NINEs project and Applied Research in Patacriticism for the comparison of texts:

“Juxta is a cross-platform tool for collating and analyzing any kind or number of textual objects. The tool can set any textual witness as the base text and can filter white space and/or punctuation. It has several kinds of visualizations, including a heat map of textual differences and a histogram that can expose the filtering results. When collations are being executed, Juxta keeps the textual transcriptions keyed to any digital images that may stand behind the transcriptions as their documentary base. Juxta also allows the collations and analyses to be annotated and saved for further use.” (from Juxta site)

Starter Links: Juxta home | NINEs Tools & Interfaces

NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship

Project for publishing scholarship on 19th-century literature and create scholarly or pedagogical online reading tools:

“NINES will liaison with interested publishing venues on behalf and in the interests of scholars and educators and the work we produce. NINES will include various kinds of content: traditional texts and documents – editions, critical works of all kinds – as well as “born-digital” materials relating to all aspects of nineteenth-century culture. NINES will be a model and working example for scholarship that takes advantage of digital resources and internet connectivity, while allowing scholars to integrate their contributions fully into their local IT environments. It will provide scholars with access to a federated digital environment and a suite of computerized analytic and interpretive tools. A key goal of NINES is to go beyond presenting static images or transcriptions of manuscripts on-screen. Software tools that aid collation, comparative analysis, and enable pedagogical application of scholarly electronic resources expose the richness of the electronic medium.” (from NINEs site)

Starter Links: NINES home | Tools & Interfaces

Open Journal Systems

Initiative from the Public Knowledge Project to facilitate the creation and editing of open access journals (includes the development of reading tools):

“Open Journal Systems (OJS) is a journal management and publishing system that has been developed by the Public Knowledge Project through its federally funded efforts to expand and improve access to research. OJS assists with every stage of the refereed publishing process, from submissions through to online publication and indexing. Through its management systems, its finely grained indexing of research, and the context it provides for research, OJS seeks to improve both the scholarly and public quality of referred research. OJS is open source software made freely available to journals worldwide for the purpose of making open access publishing a viable option for more journals, as open access can increase a journal’s readership as well as its contribution to the public good on a global scale.” (from Public Knowledge Project description)

Starter Links: OJS site | OJS Version 2 Release Announcement | Public Knowledge Project home page

Public Knowledge Project

Project to develop open-access systems and technologies for scholarly publication:

“The Public Knowledge Project is dedicated to exploring whether and how new technologies can be used to improve the professional and public value of scholarly research. Bringing together scholars, in a number of fields, as well as research librarians, it is investigating the social, economic, and technical issues entailed in the use of online infrastructure and knowledge management strategies to improve both the scholarly quality and public accessibility and coherence of this body of knowledge in a sustainable and globally accessible form. The project seeks to integrate emerging standards for digital library access and document preservation, such as Open Archives and InterPARES, as well as for such areas as topic maps and doctoral dissertations.” (from project website)

Starter Links: Public Knowledge home page | Open Journal Systems (OJS)

Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (Verso, 2005)

Book demonstrating Moretti’s quantitative, “distant reading” (rather than close reading) approach to novels:

“Professor Franco Moretti argues heretically that literature scholars should stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead. He insists that such a move could bring new luster to a tired field, one that in some respects is among “the most backwards disciplines in the academy.â€? Literary study, he argues, has been random and unsystematic. For any given period scholars focus on a select group of a mere few hundred texts: the canon. As a result, they have allowed a narrow distorting slice of history to pass for the total picture. Moretti offers bar charts, maps, and time lines instead, developing the idea of “distant reading,â€? set forth in his path-breaking essay “Conjectures on World Literature,â€? into a full-blown experiment in literary historiography, where the canon disappears into the larger literary system. Charting entire genres–the epistolary, the gothic, and the historical novel–as well as the literary output of countries such as Japan, Italy, Spain, and Nigeria, he shows how literary history looks significantly different from what is commonly supposed and how the concept of aesthetic form can be radically redefined.” (from publisher’s blurb)

Starter Links & References: Verso, 2005 (ISBN: 1844670260) | Publisher’s blurb for the book | Inside Higher Ed review

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Recent Activities

The launch event for the Transliteracies Project was a conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on June 17-18, 2005. Open to the public, “UCSB Conversation Roundtables on Online Reading” focused on a series of discussions among leading figures in the fields of history of the book, literary theory, new media studies, education, literacy studies, digital art, computer science, the sociology and political science of online culture, communication studies, film studies, and organizational psychology. (See conference site for details)

Current Working Groups

Currently, Tranliteracies is in the process of convening three working groups:


Established in 2005, the Transliteracies Project includes scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering in the University of California system (and in the future other research programs). It will establish working groups to study online reading from different perspectives; bring those groups into conjunction behind a shared technology development initiative; publish research and demonstration software; and train graduate students working at the intersections of the humanistic, social, and technological disciplines.

An example of an initiative upon which the Project may work is the design of a technology to improve the community experience of reading while accommodating different experiences of texts according to age, literacy level, nationality or background, professional or personal interests, and so on. Technological development will be integrated with humanistic and social-science research (empirical, historical, interpretive, critical, aesthetic) that explicitly questions what “improve” or “community” might mean. The idea is to exploit cross-disciplinary expertise to approach online reading from multiple angles simultaneously, rather than just as an engineering problem, just as a hermeneutical problem, or just as a social problem. The goal, in other words, is avoid producing a quick-fix extra “feature set” for online reading, but instead to create a demonstration technology founded upon deep, wide reflection on the issues.

Tranlisteracies is a UC Multi-Campus Research Group with funding from the University of California Office of the President as well as from its host campus with the UC system, UC Santa Barbara.


Project Leader

Alan Liu, Professor

Department of English,
University of California,
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3170

Fax: (805) 893-4622
English Dept. Receptionist: (805) 893-8711

Email: ayliu at english.ucsb.edu
(use ”@” in place of “at”)

Administrative Research Assistant (2005-2006)

Kimberly Knight, Graduate Student

Department of English,
University of California,
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4130

Email: kimberly_knight at umail.ucsb.edu
(use ”@” in place of “at”)