Off Kilter: Annotation at the Atomic Level

Kevin Hodgson has been practicing annotation using  Anna Smith’s weblog has been his palette.  He wrote about his experience here.

Annotation using has become a routine matter in his circles, but the way he uses it here is very interesting.  In his own blog post he draws the highlighted and annotated together in a bulleted list.

a screenshot commentary about Kevin Hodgson's post
A screenshot of Kevin’s post about Anna Smith’s post using Hypothesis

Now what?  One of my continuing questions when I join what some have called “annotation mobs” is what is to be done with the notes after the fact.  Not much is done with them.  Which isn’t to say that there isn’t some intrinsic value to the close reading and sharing that constitute an annotation mob, but…I am left a bit cold emotionally and intellectually by the eventual abandonment of the post to the depredations of the web.

Kevin answers this critique by using Anna’s post as raw material for a riff.  Because Kevin is a musician he gets riffs. They are lines of melody, the ear worm like you get in AC/DC’s “Back in Black” or Doc Watson’s opening runs in “Deep River Blues”.

In this case the riff is a lone word from a paragraph of text along with a standalone annotation. Kevin notes that only one of his annotations refers directly to the original content. He is veering off from the traditional connection of the marginal note to the text. Interesting. An experiment. Glad to see it.

So this is what I am calling a “riff”, a way of dealing with text as much like a poetic form as a haiku is.  There are more riffs out there.  I would like to see Kevin take that riff and work each of the annotations together into something larger, an annotation story, poem, or…some new and wondrous turn. I want to see a thousand riffs explode across the text universe.

The ability to do this springs from an affordance in to share each annotation at what I am calling an “atomic level”.  In other words, each annotation has its own shareable url, the atom of annotation.  In this case, each single word hyperlink is an annotation. That affordance leads Kevin to explore adjacent possibilities like the one above.

He also asks a series of questions for reflection and I answer them in the etherpad embed below.




I think I would answer them differently tomorrow, but today…

BONUS: If you are interested in riffs, check out this classic from the net, “The Lick”


    1. // Reply

      Yeah, we are all stealing riffs….and this is mighty fine.

  1. // Reply

    Thanks for circling back.

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