Arts and Science Talk
My apologies to those who had wanted to view the presentation for the
Arts & Science Research Talk using Elluminate. We
lost the internet connection in Edmonton and so we had to continue with
just a face-to-face meeting.
Annotation: Collectives, Social Software & Self-Organizing
In this talk I will discuss a type of social software that might be
called social annotation. Such software enables individuals to add
annotations (underlines, highlights, other margin marks, comments)
while reading a text. Additionally, some aggregation of those
individual annotations is then added to the text. Individuals now gain
a sense of how the community of readers is responding to the text; what
they are noting as most relevant and what they have concerns about, for
In the educational context, where instructors typically select the
texts students must read, the main activity for the students is
understanding the selected texts, or reading comprehension. Social
annotation is a possible means of assisting students in this activity.
Currently, authors sometimes augment their texts using text signals
(e.g., bold typeface) to indicate important information for the
reader’s benefit. Research has demonstrated that text signals
do improve memory for the signalled information. In other contexts,
however, signals are not designed but rather emerge through the
unplanned, indirect, and collective efforts of a group of individuals.
As an example, walking paths emerge in parks as a by-product of
individual decisions; they are not designed by anyone. Social software
provides an opportunity to examine how text signals could emerge in a
text by aggregating individual annotations, through a self-organizing
In the talk a description of self-organizing (complex) systems will be
provided. How this idea applies to human groups, sometimes referred to
as collective intelligence, will also be explained. A social annotation
software application, designed by the presenter using principles from
self-organizing systems, and the results from a research study that
tested the software will also be presented.