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Lisa Gitelman

Associate Professor and Director of the Program in Media Studies, Catholic University in Washington, DC. (more…)

Flash Images

Here’s what we have so far:

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Sixth State: This is the presentation of the same text online.

The following are images that might be used to indicate the transformation and mutability of this text on the Internet:


Research Report by Alison Walker
(created 4/23/06; version 1.0)

Related Categories:New Approaches to Reading Print Texts

Original Object for Study description

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines bookcrossing as “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.” BookCrossing’s main principle is that the world should be a book lover’s library. After members finish reading a book and decide they want to share it, they register it for free on BookCrossing.com. This gives each book a unique ID number and an accompanying journal entry on the BookCrossing webpage where the reader can write his/her opinions about the book. The reader then affixes a BookCrossing tag to the book with pertinent information on how another owner can find out about the book’s travels. Finally, the reader “releases it into the wild” (a coffee shop, bus stop, café, etc). Each subsequent reader of a particular book can add to the book’s journal entry on the BookCrossing website, giving his/her opinions and listing where they picked up and dropped off the book. (more…)

Margaret Minsky

Researcher of interest who specializes in “haptic interfaces.”

“Margaret Minsky is an internationally-known researcher in the field of haptic interfaces (computational interfaces that simulate objects what you can touch and feel), as well as a contributor in computer graphics, educational technology, and human-computer interaction. She developed the first technique for creating haptic textures, a Lateral-Force Algorithm, while at the MIT Media Lab. Her comments on haptics have been featured in the New York Times and she now presents invited teaching and lectures in the USA and Japan, as well as serving on program committees and conference review boards.

Holding a doctorate from MIT, she was among the first ten technical staff at Interval Research Corporation, and is now a consultant. She also founded a design/manufacturing company to produce innovative clothing and textile processing. Her previous positions include Research Director at Atari Cambridge Laboratory. Her research has been published in conference proceedings in the fields of computer graphics, haptics, and mechanical engineering, and she served as editor and contributor to a book about the Logo programming language, LogoWorlds.� (From the web site).

Starter Links: Margaretminsky.com

Second Life

Online community owned by its residents.

“Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by nearly 100,000 people from around the globe.” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: Second Life | mouchette.org | Guardian Unlimited article about publishing in Second Life


Literary group interested in experimental poetry created by mathematical constraints.

“Oulipo stands for “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle”, which translates roughly as “workshop of potential literature.” It is a loose gathering of French-speaking writers and mathematicians, and seeks to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Other notable members include novelists Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, and poet and mathematician Jacques Roubaud.

The group defines the term ‘littérature potentielle’ as (rough translation): “the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy.” Constraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and ispiration, most notably Perec’s “story-making machine” which he used in the construction of Life: A User’s Manual. As well as established techniques, such as lipograms (Perec’s novel A Void) and palindromes, the group devises new techniques, often based on mathematical problems such as the Knight’s Tour of the chess-board and permutations.

Oulipo was founded on November 24, 1960, as a subcommittee of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique entitled Séminaire de littérature expérimentale. However at their second meeting, this first name was withdrawn in favor of today’s Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or OuLiPo, at Albert-Marie Schmidt’s suggestion. The idea, however, preceded the first meeting by roughly two months, when a small group met in September at Cerisy-la-Salle for a colloquium on Queneau’s work. During this seminar, Queneau and François Le Lionnais conceived of the society. (From the Wikipedia article about Oulipo.)

Starter Links: Oulipo | article about Oulipo (with links to poems) | wikipedia article

Living Book of the Sense

Diane Gromala’s experimental book project (2000-present; a semi-finalist for Discover’s award in technological innovation).

“*The Living Book of Senses* is a new media form that extends the traditional book into a radically new sensorially interactive experience.

Users are able to see their physical surroundings while dynamically engaging with three-dimensional mixed realities which appear on their headsets. Users can interact with the book in dynamic ways that go beyond mere clicking and pointing. They can ask the book questions (via voice recognition), and can influence the book through their sensory (bio) feedback. Thus, the book becomes a powerful new sensory experience.

Users wear a headset/head-tracker/color camera system that enables them to see physical reality enhanced with a virtual reality overlay. The camera inputs images/patterns and feeds them back into the ARToolkit software which then displays digital information associated with the physical markers onto the headset. The ARToolkit can calculate camera position and orientation relative to physical markers in real time for video-mediated reality.

Each reader can view AR scenes from their own visual perspective. Users can fly into the immersive world and see each other represented as avatars in the same virtual scene. Readers remaining in the AR scene have a birds’-eye view of other readers as miniature avatars in the virtual scene displayed through their headset. User-controlled dialog with the book elicits responses/answers from the book (expressed in digital data: visual, textual, auditory). As the users simultaneously interact with the book in the physical and virtual realms, the book responds to individual and multiple physical states (via biofeedback) to express resulting changes in narrative. The narrative is a cultural history of the senses. The Living Book is an enhanced learning tool that enables users to become aware of their sensorial experience and bodily states. Collaborations using this book enable distance learning with multiple user interactions. The living book can be used in any narrative-based media to create dynamic communication between any number of people.â€? (From the web site).

Starter Links: Living Book of the Sense

BioMorphic Typeâ„¢ Transliteracies Research Report

Diane Gromala’s responsive font types (2000-present).

“BioMorphic Typography is Gromala’s term for a family of fonts that respond, in real-time, to a user’s changing physical states, as measured by a biofeedback device. Rather than one typeface, it is a postmodern pastiche of many different fonts that are continually morphing. So, for example, the font “throbs” as the user’s/writer’s heart beats. In this way, users become aware of their autonomic states. This project is part of a larger initiative, Design for the Senses. The goal is to develop new approaches to experiential design that focus on the senses and the history of the body” (From the web site).

Starter Links: BioMorphic Typeâ„¢

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

The World Generator / The Engine of Desire

Bill Seaman’s 1996 interactive and computer-mediated reading environment/ art exhibit.

“The World Generator / The Engine of Desire is an interactive computer-mediated environment which enables viewers to construct and navigate poetic worlds in real time based on an interactive template of potential choices. The system is facilitated through a new interface metaphor. At the bottom of the screen is a rotating set of container-wheels. These container-wheels house a variety of selections. One mode allows the viewer to observe a full screen blow-up of this menu. The menu system contains the following set of wheels: 3d models; poetic text fragments; texture maps – both still and video; location sensitive audio objects (musical loops); behaviours; and function menus which enable the viewer to center themselves in the world; to scale objects and texture maps; to make objects and texture maps transparent; to construct random worlds; to make a series of different “random” choices including random text, random sound, random object, random texture map, random movie, random world, random behaviours; as well as to clear the world. The still and moving texture maps can either be applied to objects with an “aura” or be placed in the space as pictures and/or movies on flat screens.

The work functions in a two stage process: The viewer first constructs a “poetic” environment based on selections from the template of variables. When the viewer chooses the “objects wheel” from the main menu, a set of container-wheels housing pre-rendered 3D objects, rotates. The actual storage is in the form of long “virtual” rotating belts which can have great length (based on available memory) although the viewer only sees the curved front edge of the belt. The following manipulations can be made: Layout – placement of the object on the site; Scale – scale of object on the site; Texture Map – attach still or video texture map to an object with an aura, as well as place “screens” of stills and video into the space, when the aura is toggled off; Behaviours – attach behaviours to selected objects, texture map screens, and/or sounds. Once this process has been completed (or anytime during the construction process) the viewer can enter the space and navigate. An elaborate object-based text is included in The World Generator. A viewer can choose any single line from the text and place it in the space as a visual object with a “location sensitive” audio text triggering mechanism.

Recombinant Music -The sounds included in the system are made up of hundreds of techno ambient loops, composed by the author, consisting of synthetic rhythms, drones and tonal loops. Specific tonal sax loops have been played by Tony Wheeler. These sound object loops are placed by the viewer on the site. As the viewer navigates, a location sensitive audio mix is generated.

The work can be interacted with from multiple locations. Two or more users can be involved with poetic construction and/or navigation in the space at the same time, currently via modem, and in the near future via the WWW. I have coined the term “RE-I” (pronounced RAY or Re—I) short for Re-embodied Intelligence, as the term to describe the visual representation of these alternate, multiple users. A “RE-I” is potentially visible in the space, showing the location of the alternate userâ€? (from the Project Description).

Starter Links: Project description | “Recombinant Poetics” | bio | links to the artist’s work| exhibition notes | about the artist

The Tilty Tables Transliteracies Research Report

The Tilty Tables are part of Xerox PARC’s reading experiments of 2000. The experiment consists of three “tilty tables” that explore different aspects of reading. Tilty Table #1, The Reading Table, provides a non-linear interface to a text as a way to explore reading extraordinarily large documents. The second, The Tall Tale Table, uses the syntactical rules of the English language in order to construct nonsense tales. The Peace Table, the third in the experiment, translates the word “peace” into different languages as a way of exploring whether reading can bring about peace on Earth.

“There are three Tilty Tables placed across the front of the gallery. Each Tilty Table is a three-by-three-foot-wide white square resting on a metal podium. The table is attached in such a way as to allow it to be tilted in all directions. Projected on to the white surface of each table is a high-resolution image, so that it appears as if the table is itself a glowing screen. When visitors tilt the table the images on its surface change in direct response.

How does it work? The tables sit on pneumatic shock absorbers, much like the ones used in cars to smooth out the ride. Also under each table is a digital device called “an accelerometer” which measures how quickly something is getting faster or slower. (Acceleration means rate of change. For example, a car going from 0 to 60 is accelerating. A car moving at a steady 60 miles per hour is not accelerating at all.) As it turns out, an accelerometer can also measure tilt, much the same way that the bubble in a carpenter’s level can measure tilt. This is because gravity is really acceleration (as Newton discovered 400 years ago). The tilt information from the accelerometers is sent to computers that use this information to determine the correct image to send to the video projectors. These projectors are mounted in the ceiling and are precisely aligned with the tables beneath them so that the images fill the white surface of the tables.” (Matt Gorbet, 2000)

Starter Links: tilty tables

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

As Much as You Love Me

Orit Kruglanski’s 2000 art installation.

“an interface which allows words to manipulate the user physically as well as emotionally.â€? (Utterback 2004: 225) The interactive poem uses a specially designed force-feedback mouse; the more the “nonapologiesâ€? (“don’t forgive me for…â€?) collect, the stronger the magnetic force on the mouse becomes. “In Kruglanski’s piece the symbolic or emotional weight of words is brought to bear on one’s physical freedom of motionâ€? (Utterback 2004: 225).

Starter Links and References: artists’s web site | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Drawing from Life

Camille Utterback’s 2001 art installation.

“The Drawing from Life installation was developed as a commission for the ‘Genomic Revolution’ show at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The exhibit opened in May 2001 and ran through January 1, 2002. In this piece viewers see a live video of themselves composed completely from the letters ‘ATGC’–the letters symbolizing the 4 proteins of DNA. This piece appears in the last room of the exhibit on the human genome and helps raise questions for visitors ‘am I more than my DNA’? ‘Does my DNA define me?’ The light or dark value of each letter is determined by the light or dark value in the incoming video, but the characters themselves change randomly–hinting at the vitality and chaos of life itself.” (From the web site.)

The text’s behavior is even more tightly coupled to the viewer; their images are completely transformed into the letters A, T, G, and C, representing the four proteins of DNA. (222) “By distancing this connection through the abstracting of the live image into letters, viewers become more aware of the discrepancy between the abstraction and their bodies […] Viewers recognize that this abstraction is simultaneously ‘them’ and ‘not them’” (Utterback 2004: 223).

Starter Links: Drawing from Life

Text RainTransliteracies Research Report

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s 1999 art installation.

“Text Rain is an interactive installation in which participants use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical–to lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist. In the Text Rain installation participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. On the screen they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants’ heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants’ motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. The falling text will ‘land’ on anything darker than a certain threshold, and ‘fall’ whenever that obstacle is removed. If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase. The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. ‘Reading’ the phrases in the Text Rain installation becomes a physical as well as a cerebral endeavor.” (From the web site.)

Text takes on the behaviors of objects that respond to forces in the real world and also to the physical gestures of viewers. (220) “Similarly to the text in the Poetic Garden, the text here continues to serve its symbolic function as an decipherable code, but also as an ‘object’ viewers can engage with as if it were a real physical entity […] the physical act of catching letters is necessary in order to read the text at all […] Because most of one’s body is visible in the virtual space of the screen as well as in the physical space in front of the screen, a pleasurable confusion results between the screen space and the real space.” (Utterback 2004: 221)

Starter Links and resources: Text Rain | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

Stream of Consciousness: An Interactive Poetic Garden

David Small and Tom White’s 1997-98 art installation.

“A six foot square garden sits in the middle of an otherwise ordinary computer lab. Water briskly flows down a series of cacsades into a glowing pool. Projected on the surface of the pool and flowing as if they were caught in the water’s grasp are a tangle of words. You can reach out and touch the flow, blocking it or stirring up the words causing them to grow and divide, morphing into new words that are pulled into the drain and pumped back to the head of the stream to tumble down againâ€? (From the web site).

An installation in which texts escapes from the flat screen and spills out into the viewer’s physical space. The installation consists of a garden with rock slabs, plants and water flowing from one level of a multi-tiered fountain to the next. (219) “While the text still carries its symbolic weight as words, it also becomes the physical objects of leaves or detritus carried along by the water’s flow.â€? (Utterback 2004: 220) “The tension between the intangibility of the projected text and its behavior as a tangible object (which you can ‘touch’ via the interface) parallels the tension between the text’s position as a signifier for a real object and the real object it represents.â€? (Utterback 2004: 220)

Starter Links and References: Stream of Consciousness | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Research Reports Blue Box

Research Report by Author’s Name
(created 4/12/06; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories:

Original Object for Study description

Visual Thesaurus

Online dictionary and thesaurus that visually displays words within a network of related terms.

“The Visual Thesaurus is a dictionary and thesaurus with an intuitive interface that encourages exploration and learning. Available in both a Desktop Edition and an Online Edition, the Visual Thesaurus is a marvelous way to improve your vocabulary and your understanding of the English language.

The Visual Thesaurus’s intuitive interface helps you find words through their semantic relationship with other words and meanings. This focus results in a more precise understanding of the English language. ” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: Visual Thesaurus

BookcrossingTransliteracies Research Report

Contemporary book exchange enabled by online tracking.

“BookCrossers register a book by going to the website atBookCrossing.com, entering the ISBN number of the book, and getting a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number) that is then written inside the cover (or on a bookmark) along with the website address. Convenient and eye-catching BookCrossing bookmarks can be printed from the website, making the registration process quick and easy.

“It’s really quite simple,” Hornbaker continues. “And even if you don’t want to give your books away, you can register them at BookCrossing.com to have your very own free, virtual bookshelf, complete with your personal reviews, to show the world the books you’ve read.”

Adventurous BookCrossers release their books “into the wild” on park benches, in coffee shops, in phone booths… wherever the interplay of distance and chance can make things interesting. They’re fascinated with the fate, karma, or whatever you want to call the chain of events that can occur between two or more lives and one piece of literature.

More conservative BookCrossers give their books to friends, relatives, or charities, and enjoy reading the resulting journal entries from person to person.” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: research report by Alison Walker | BookCrossing | Wikipedia’s Entry on BookCrossing | CNN srticle on BookCrossing

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Alison Walker


Web site devoted to various contemporary writing and alphabetic systems.

This site contains details of most alphabets and other writing systems currently in use, as well as quite a few ancient and invented ones. It also includes information about some of the languages written with those writing systems, and multilingual texts.” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: Omniglot | A review of Omniglot

Smith and Taylor, eds. Women and the Book: Assessing the Evidence (The British Library Studies in Medieval Culture). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

This collection of essays analyzes the many relationships between women and books during the Middle Ages, and pays special attention to images of women with books. It is divided into three parts: Images of Women, Images and Books By Women, and Images and Books for Women. (more…)

Cavallo and Chartier, A History of Reading in the West. Cambridge UK: Polity Press, 2004.

This book provides an in depth history of reading practices from Classical Greece and Rome; the Middle Ages and Humanism; the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries; and on up to the present day. Each chapter, written by a different scholar, analyzes how reading changes over time. (more…)

Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication
(Ronald A. Rice, Maureen McCreadie, and Shan-Ju L. Chang)Transliteracies Research Report

Book that reviews the research and studies the practices of accessing and browsing information; culminates in a model of the browsing process:

“Rice, Ronald A., Maureen McCreadie, and Shan-Ju L. Chang, Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication. Cambridge: MIT, 2001. This book synthesizes literature in relevant fields of information and communication studies to articulate an interdisciplinary framework for understanding the way users access and browse.” (From Nowell Marshall’s research report.)

“This book contends that accessing and browsing information and communication are multidimensional and consequential aspects of the information user’s entire experience and of general human behavior. Problems in information creation, processing, transmittal, and use often arise from an incomplete conceptualization of the “information seeking” process, where information seeking is viewed as the intentional finding of specific information. The process has traditionally been considered to begin with some kind of search query and end with some kind of obtained information. That, however, may be only the last, most easily observable—and perhaps not even primary—stage of a complex sequence of activities.
        This book reviews related theory, research, practice, and implications from a wide range of disciplines. It also analyzes converging forms of information, including mass media, online information services, the Internet and World Wide Web, libraries, public spaces, advertisements, and organizational communication. Extensive case studies illustrate the theoretical material.” (from publisher’s blurb)

Starter Links and References: MIT Press, 2001 (ISBN 0-262-18214-9) | Publisher’s blurb | Table of contents & sample chapters | Nowell Marshall’s research report

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nowell Marshall

Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication
(Ronald A. Rice, Maureen McCreadie, and Shan-Ju L. Chang)

Research Report by Nowell Marshall
(created 6/13/06; version 1.0)
[Status: Draft]

Related Categories: Browsing Practices

Original Object for Study description

Rice, Ronald A., Maureen McCreadie, and Shan-Ju L. Chang, Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication. Cambridge: MIT, 2001. This book synthesizes literature in relevant fields of information and communication studies to articulate an interdisciplinary framework for understanding the way users access and browse. Specific fields included in the study are described below. (more…)

Format Templates

The following are various formatting guidelines for different aspects of the site.


TextArc is a program designed to display patterns in textual data in a visually accessible format. The program displays each word in a text twice: once in a spiral that contains all the lines, as they appear, in the text and once in larger font to represent its average position within the text.

TextArc promises to convert large texts into a format that allows users to discern patterns in the text. These patterns, however, are based purely on word frequency and, to that extent, limited in what they can reveal about the text.

The designer of TextArc has been invited to use TextArc in several museum exhibitions, including the online gallery of the Whitney Museum of American Art. (more…)

Clifford Siskin

Professor of English, New York University (more…)

Television Without Pity

Research Report by Katrina Kimport
(created 4/2/06; version 1.0)

Related Categories: Online Reading and Society

Original Object for Study description

Television Without Pity (TwoP), first launched in 1998, is an online community that hosts recaps and forums on television shows, primarily reality shows and hour-long dramas.

This site is among the most well-known of a large number of fan websites that convert content from a non-text-based medium (television) into text. In so doing, they offer a reading format–specifically, an interactive reading format–for content that is generally viewed. Television executives and writers regularly read and react in future scripts to critiques provided in these sorts of communities. (more…)

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


ConceptNet is a 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. (more…)

Canadian Symposium on Text Analysis (CaSTA)

Conference series that brings together computer scientists and humanities computing researchers to share research on “the linguistic, visual, and aural manifestations of text.”

  • “What textual research methodologies can be automated or assisted by computing?
  • How can computing assist us in visualizing electronic texts?
  • What data mining techniques are there for answering interesting questions relevant to humanist enquiry within large bodies of texts?
  • How can text analysis research benefit and learn from applied text systems in such areas as science, law, and digital libraries?
  • What new models are there for navigating and displaying textual information, including multimedia?
  • What is some of the current research in computer science that may have an application in humanist enquiry?
  • What roles do genres (both traditional and digital) play in the development of
  • and use of digital text?
  • How are new interaction devices (from handhelds to tabletops, wall displays and
  • wearable devices) changing the way that we interact with text?
  • How are they changing design models for digital text?
  • How do we evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of new methodologies and
  • technologies for using and studying text?
  • What open questions in Humanities Computing can be addressed by further computer science research?”
    (from Overview of CaSTA ‘06)

    Starter Links: CaSTA home page | Overview of CaSTA ‘06

Credibility Commons

MacArthur Foundation-funded initiative by the American Library Association’s Office of Information & Technology Policy and the University of Washington to conduct research into the credibility of information on the Internet.

“The credibility of Internet information is a problem. While the credibility of Information in general is an issue, the Internet presents a new set of challenges. Today the public is expected to book their own airline tickets, decide on their own retirement plan, even decide on life and death medical treatments with the tools and information on the web. With a disappearing paper trail in voting, with no one official copy of government documents, with a lack of common criteria in presenting and consuming credible information there is a great need to research and develop real tools to help the citizen. Addressing these issues now, as tools are being developed and more critical information is becoming exclusively Internet information, will prevent larger and more dire consequences in the near and long-term future.” (from About the Commons)

A notable goal of the initiative is to “incorporate new credibility tools and mechanisms into a wide array of information products.” Initial tools include Reference Extract, Digital Reference Face Off, and Credibility Repository.

Starter Links: Credibility Commons home page | About the Commons | Projects