Looking Forward

As we move into the second half of our tenure on the Praxis squad, we are feeling the pressure to start actually making something. To that end, the SLab crew asked us to make a list of our priorities for Prism. Hopefully this will help us make a to do list in the coming weeks. The following was the list that seemed to come out of yesterday’s meeting, though it’s possible that other people could have gotten different impressions from the conversation.

These seem to be our priorities, in no particular order except roughly that in which they were brought up:

Types of texts – we’re interested in opening up the Prism framework to deal with pictures, music, etc.

Getting a crowd – we want to get a large group of people working with Prism, however that might be arranged.

Visualizations – we’re interested in expanding Prism’s visualizations to allow you to see the individual set of markings in relation to the crowd and to let you see one marking category’s visualization beside another.

User uploads – we want to make it possible for users/instructors to upload a text for marking themselves, which we see as essential for classroom use.

Complicating the sense of how we highlight – there has been discussion of complicating how the marking system works, allowing for a limit to the number of markings or a type of marking economy that is distributed across your selections to encourage different types of engagement with the data.

Design makeover – we want to remake the design of the site with an eye to usability.

I think my own priorities lie in making it possible for users to upload their own texts for marking and in possibly adding more visualizations. If forced to choose between the two, I would spend the time on making the tool capable of handling user uploads. As quickly became clear, any one of these goals spins off into dozens of other questions. What do we mean by “upload a text”? Will those texts be public? Private? How will we navigate copyright and fair use? In the coming days we’re aiming to get a sense of our collective ordering of the list.

Brandon is Head of Graduate Programs in the Scholars' Lab. His research focuses on modern and contemporary fiction, especially on Anglophone modernisms and the novel in relation to sound studies and musicology. Before coming to the Scholars' Lab, he was Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of English in the Washington and Lee University…


  1. Brandon—so glad that you’ve brought this conversation out of the lounge and onto the blog. I am excited about all these goals that we’ve articulated. The pragmatist inside me feels that user contribution and a more thoughtful user interface are the best ways that we can contribute to the DH world in the limited time that we have together as a team.

    But we’ve also discussed a side project exploring the possibility of including images for markup (I hope Chris or Cecilia will say more about this).

    I’d like to hear more from the DH people following this blog on the issue of prioritizing goals. What are the possible uses for an image-based tool? Where is the value in working on user interface? What are the implications of allowing for different methods of highlighting?