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OA Week 2021 Project Spotlight 4

The Mill on The Floss#

As part of Open Access Week, Manifold is featuring interviews with the creators of exemplary projects that use Manifold's capabilities to the fullest. Our fourth installment in this series is an "Anthropocene Edition" of The Mill on The Floss. We interviewed its creators, Megan Butler, Francesca Colonnese, and Mara Minion, about this exciting project.

How did the project come together? Who was involved?#

Our Manifold project around George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss grew out of a suggestion from our professor, Jesse Oak Taylor, for an alternative to the classic quarter-end seminar paper. The project allowed us to flip the script: instead of incorporating the novel into our essays, we incorporated our research into the novel. This also gave us a useful perspective on what is involved in creating a scholarly edition of a text. What and how much should we include? How do we frame our edition as an ecocritical intervention into the novel? How can we bring to the novel a new understanding of the role of nature, including how that fits with modern concerns about the Anthropocene?

Our team included three graduate students and three undergraduate seniors, each with an assigned number of annotations to pair with the text and each with a section of the introduction to write. Two of us handled the coding and internal design of the project. By having a project that bridged many talents and levels of scholarship, we were able to produce something that felt valuable to have live on the internet at the end of single quarter.

What are your favorite aspects of this project?#

It is atypical in our graduate program that literary studies seminars invite experimentation. As a result of breaking free from the research paper, we were able to produce work that extended our skills at writing to a reader who was not known to us, one beyond the classroom. We still imagined our audience was an intelligent reader, which felt freeing and interesting and left us less nervous about taking some risks with our ideas. Particularly since literary studies often avoids collaborative models of producing critique, we enjoyed working together. Our annotations were a lot like weekly discussion board posts but more fun. This was a good reminder that knowledge production can come in bite size chunks rather than article or dissertation length works.

What Manifold features (i.e. reading groups, social media integration, etc.) did you use to achieve your goals for this project?#

We mostly used Manifold’s text digestion and annotation tools for this specific project. The ability to create a robust edition was simplified by the Manifold platform. We found the platform quick and accessible for a group using it for the first time. Although we didn’t use the reading group feature to bunch our annotations, that would have been another option.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?#

From time to time, we had some design challenges that left us feeling hemmed in. For example, we wished the annotations had more linking options—instead of jumping to a chapter head, we wanted to link right to a passage. Manifold also offers limited tools for locating the interactions of people with the text outside of reading groups. We can see from the number of comments that this edition has been of use to others, but it is difficult to interact with these comments, even as project authors, and we would love to ask the annotators if our edition helped them.

What sort of impact have you seen from this project being open access?#

We had a great time presenting our project to the class and stepping out of the seminar paper norm—the rest of the class and the professor were surprised at how we enlivened the novel in new ways. Manifold also let our work for the quarter live on, which is so different from the paper that gets dropped in a folder and is rarely seen again. We know that others have been able to enjoy and read our work but look forward to other methods of tracking usage, like Manifold’s new analytics tool.

Megan Butler is a PhD student at the University of Washington whose writing and research seek uses for literature in the ongoing crises of forced migration and refugee care. Outside of school, she is an avid triathlete and yoga practitioner who loves hanging out with her three not-so-young kids.

Francesca Colonnese is a PhD student at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on issues of temporal perception in 19th C poetry. When not working on George Eliot Manifold projects, she reads contemporary fiction at dog-friendly coffeeshops.

Mara Minion is also a substantial contributor on this project, doing much of the technical work.

OA Week 2021 Project Spotlight 3

The Negro and The Nation#

As part of Open Access Week, Manifold is featuring interviews with the creators of exemplary projects that use Manifold's capabilities to the fullest. Our third installment in this series is The Negro and The Nation. We interviewed Justin Rogers-Cooper, a Professor at CUNY LaGuardia and the Graduate Center, about this collaborative project.

How did the project come together? Who was involved?#

This project is partly a story about the network effects of the CUNY Graduate Center, where I got my PhD in English and was later appointed as a faculty member in the Master of Liberal Studies (MALS) program. In Spring 2019, I learned about Manifold from Krystyna (Krysia) Michael through spontaneous social and professional occasions common among Grad Center folks. At the time, Krysia was on the development team for Manifold at the Grad Center working as an open educational technologist. We both knew a mutual colleague of ours, Matt Gold, who was directing the Digital Humanities initiatives at the Grad Center. Through Krysia and fellow technologist Jojo Karlin, I discovered how to adapt Manifold into my upcoming class for the MALS program, “American Culture and Values.” Through their generous time and instruction, I learned more about the platform and its capacities, and was able to design an interactive assignment around the recovery of Hubert Harrison’s out of print book from 1917, The Negro and the Nation.

What are your favorite aspects of this project?#

Manifold lends itself to different forms of collaboration, and that’s one its best aspects. The Manifold team, led by Krysia and Jojo, generously provided my class and me with tips, resources, and support from the planning stage forward. Jojo actually came to my class and started getting the students excited to learn more. Krysia provided tons of technical assistance that was necessary to actually realizing the project on the platform, and provided superb feedback on the assignment as it evolved around the Harrison text.

Of course, another layer of collaboration took place in and out of the class. The project, punningly entitled “The Manifold Harrison,” became a center of gravity for classroom discussion throughout the semester. Since one of the key aspects of our assignment was annotating the text, many of our discussions focused on how to connect passages from the text to other works of American Studies we were reading. As students read each other’s annotations, their comments and feedback led to recurring conversations between them. Many took place before and after class. Having a common, collective assignment on a core project like The Manifold Harrison thus spurred the sparks of collegiality one always hopes to ignite in a class.

What Manifold features (i.e. reading groups, social media integration, etc.) did you use to achieve your goals for this project?#

The main feature of this project is the annotation tool, where students could make formal comments on certain passages and link them to relevant media, and which allowed them to make connections, comments, and citations.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?#

As I share in an upcoming conference presentation with Matt, Krysia, and other Manifold scholars in the CUNY system, I encountered one expected challenge and a couple unexpected ones (by the way, check out the awesome work of Christina Katopodis, Jason Neilsen, and Paul Hebert!.

I knew that having CUNY students learn another online platform can sometimes be frustrating for them. I addressed this like most faculty address technology in the classroom: through patience, demonstration, encouragement, and modeling. If you’re not creating and sharing resources about how to use a platform, and not actively modeling how to complete the work in class, it can be difficult to have students meet one’s expectations and deadlines. This required that I use some class time somewhat differently than in prior MALS courses.

What I didn’t expect was the students’ initial intimidation at creating permanent annotations in a published text, which I attribute to the ‘imposter syndrome’ common among graduate students and to their respect for Harrison’s intellect. To address the former, I made clear that their reactions, connections, and comments upon The Negro and the Nation were necessary elements of ‘recovering’ Harrison and his work. They were not only ‘recent voices’ on the text, but some of the only ones, sadly, that were identifying passages of interest to American Studies and to a wider public. In short, their efforts were important, but also, inevitably, novel.

I also asked them to look upon the permanence of their contributions as a kind of meaningful gift to future students, who would learn from their annotations and add to them. Feeling like they were part of an on-going project ended up relaxing them, in part because they imagined they were writing to an audience like themselves.

What sort of impact have you seen from this project being open access?#

For one, it’s compelling to me that I was able to assign chapters from The Negro and the Nation to my students at LaGuardia Community College the semester after the recovery project in my Masters class. They read both Harrison and the annotations made by my MALS students, and that helped them understand the text.

Further, I committed to solely assigning OER texts at LaGuardia several years ago, and I was pleased to offer my two-year students a readable, accessible, and mobile-ready text to complement my traditional menu of PDFs and occasional commercial websites. Manifold is a powerful platform within the ecosystem of open access texts for both undergraduate and graduate students, in part because it models a kind of dynamic, media-rich, and mobile-friendly reading experience that students so often associate with for-profit apps and sites. For me, part of Manifold’s value comes from its ability to socialize the reading process, and to provide tools for collaboration around ‘academic’ reading practices that are competitive with, and more than equal to, the online experiences students naturally couple with platform capitalism.

In this respect, I think publishing Harrison’s book on Manifold as an open access text would make him smile. He was, after all, an avowed socialist. I have no doubt he would be delighted to learn that an advanced platform like Manifold was publishing and distributing his work to CUNY students, but also to readers everywhere. In a small way, I see that impact as part of his legacy, not just ours.

Justin Rogers-Cooper is an English professor at LaGuardia Community College, and a faculty member in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at the CUNY Graduate Center. He's a scholar of nineteenth century American Studies, and a regular guest on the history-themed podcast Nostalgia Trap.

OA Week 2021 Project Spotlight 2

The Greater Chaco Landscape#

As part of Open Access Week, Manifold is featuring interviews with the creators of exemplary projects that use Manifold's capabilities to the fullest. Our second installment in this series is The Greater Chaco Landscape. We interviewed Darrin Pratt, director of the University Press of Colorado, about this amazing project.

How did the project come together? Who was involved?#

The Greater Chaco Landscape originated with a seminar held at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in August 2017. This seminar brought together academics and Native scholars from the tribal communities who have a vested interest in Chaco Canyon to address "potential conflicts between energy development and Chacoan archaeology across the San Juan Basin.” Individual seminar presentations, which provided the underpinnings for the volume’s written chapters, were filmed, and after the initial seminar, Durango filmmaker Larry Ruiz recorded additional footage—at Chaco Canyon itself—of Acoma (Haaku), Diné (Navajo), Hopi, and A:shiwi (Zuni) tribal elders and scholars talking about the significance of Chaco to their people. The seminar, filmmaking, and book production were funded by the National Park Service and organized by Steve Lekson (University of Colorado Boulder), Ruth Van Dyke (University of Binghamton) and Carrie Heitman (University of Nebraska). Ruth Van Dyke and Carrie Heitman served as the volume editors for both the online and print editions of the book.

What are your favorite aspects of this project?#

My favorite aspect of the project is the integration of the video and book content, particularly the inclusion of video only chapters that are referenced in the print book but can only be viewed by visiting the Manifold edition. This format made possible the inclusion of the perspectives of the Acoma (Haaku), Diné (Navajo), Hopi, and A:shiwi (Zuni) tribal elders and scholars.

What Manifold features (i.e. reading groups, social media integration, etc.) did you use to achieve your goals for this project?#

Following on my last answer, obviously Manifold’s ability to handle multimedia publications was crucial, but we also made use of the site as an informal preprint server, following the example of some early Manifold projects that were posted as works in process. We made the seminar videos available three years before the book was ready and the later videos about six months before publication, along with the table of contents and a brief synopsis of the forthcoming book, making the material publicly available in a far more timely fashion than is typically the case with our scholarly titles.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?#

In all honesty, the biggest challenges for us involved integrating the videos—which were quite large files—into the EPUB. This was such a challenge that we initially published the book on Manifold with the same print links via DOI out to the Manifold resources while we continued to try to resolve the issues we were having. Ultimately, thanks to the help of Manifold staff, the problem was resolved and the videos are now fully integrated into the book.

What sort of impact have you seen from this project being open access?#

We have seen two impacts thus far. The first is that the book won the 2021 AAA Engaged Anthropology Award, and the fact that the video chapters were available open access almost certainly factored into the book’s winning the award. In addition, the Field Museum in Chicago is designing a new exhibit around Chaco, and they are going to be featuring clips from some of the films in the book. So one public resource is building on another, which is fantastic and exactly what one hopes for with open access publications.

Darrin Pratt is Director of the University Press of Colorado, a position he has held since 2000, and a past President of the Association of University Presses (2016-2017).

OA Week 2021 Project Spotlight 1

As part of Open Access Week, Manifold is featuring interviews with the creators of exemplary projects that use Manifold's capabilities to the fullest. Our first installment in this series is Race &/ in America. We interviewed Allison Levy from Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship about this impressive project.

How did the project come together? Who was involved?#

Over the 2020-21 academic year, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, undertook a systematic investigation of the foundational and enduring contemporary effects of anti-Black racism via a pioneering panel discussion series featuring Brown faculty on the role that racism plays in American public health, democracy, punishment, and more.

Recognizing an opportunity to amplify and extend the reach and benefits of these urgent discussions designed to deepen knowledge and awareness in the service of promoting a more just and inclusive community and world, the University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative developed an eight-volume open access series, ‘Race &’ in America. Created in Manifold, the digital series re-presents the compelling original panel discussions with expanded content and resources in an innovative, interactive format, heightening understanding and broadening these critical conversations.

The core development team for the digital series included Brown’s Designer for Online Publications, Crystal Brusch; an advanced graduate student in Africana Studies, N’Kosi Oates; and Special Collections Librarian Holly Snyder.

What Manifold features (i.e. reading groups, social media integration, etc.) did you use to achieve your goals for this project?#

Each of the eight volumes in the digital series includes:

  • A recording of one of the 90-minute panel discussions that took place throughout the 2020-2021 academic year
  • Student Voices podcast episodes in which Brown University students engage the panelists in follow-up discussion
  • Recommendations for entry-point materials on the subject
  • Multimedia resource collections of readings, online exhibitions, podcasts, and other materials referenced during the panel discussions
  • Suggestions for further exploration

Thus, we took full advantage of Manifold’s most innovative features, especially multimedia integration, supplemental Resource Collections, eBooks, reading groups, and annotation tools.

What are your favorite aspects of this project?#

There are so many, but I’d have to say the podcast, Student Voices. The episodes feature student-led interviews of the panelists, an approach that elevates different voices and perspectives, and productively flips the conventional classroom model of conveying knowledge. We paired 17 undergraduate and graduate students with faculty, and asked each group to talk for about 10 minutes. All exceeded the limit, with some engaging in lively, compelling conversation for half an hour, so clearly the podcast provided a welcome forum for both students and faculty to continue critical discussions on key issues of today.

What sort of impact have you seen from this project being open access?#

We’ve had a very strong response to the digital series, both on campus and off. In fact, we designed the series to be inclusive and accessible for all communities. When selecting library resources, for example, we made sure to strike a balance between those available to Brown users and those that are publicly available. We chose Manifold precisely because it provides enduring, barrier-free access to information, and it supports universal design principles for equitable use by all persons, including those with disabilities. Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative creates exciting new conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge, and is committed to disseminating that knowledge to the broadest possible audience for the greatest possible impact. Manifold helps make that possible!

Finally, I’m delighted to announce that the Library will again partner with the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Office of the Provost on the Race & in America series, bringing out five new digital volumes over the course of the 2021-22 academic year.

Allison Levy is Digital Scholarship Editor for the Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative, launched with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Serving in this role since 2017, Allison brings together key organizational, academic, and technological resources across the University to support new forms of faculty-driven scholarship, namely born-digital, multimodal works intended for publication by a university press. Beyond the Brown campus, she spearheads efforts at the industry level to advance the conversation around the development, evaluation, and publication of digital scholarship in the humanities. Allison_Levy@Brown.edu

Fall 2021 Accessibility Sprint!

At Manifold, we treat accessibility as a top-tier concern. Our developers at Cast Iron Coding are accessibility experts who design and develop the application with accessible functionality foremost in mind. In addition to the extensive testing they do in-house using screen-readers and browser add-ons, we’ve had the benefit of collaborating with the University of Washington’s library, press, and accessibility office over the past three years. The Washington team has performed an ongoing audit of Manifold over that time, and our two groups meet regularly to discuss new ideas and strategies for making the application even more performant for readers and content creators using assistive technologies.

Born out of this collaboration, we have recently been engaged in an accessibility sprint that has involved the following:

  1. We reworked the user notification preferences interface for better screen reader UX. Dana’s extended commit message on this issue is indicative the care and expertise we bring to accessibility concerns.
  2. We refactored all collapsible content on the site to follow the correct ARIA design pattern. These are commonly used in the backend to add search filters and sorting options, so this was a widespread change. This will resolve issue #2755.
  3. We added missing keyboard interactions to the Reading Group homepage editor. This is an improvement to the OER work, which currently exists in our main branch.
  4. We added missing keyboard interactions to project text sorting. We already had keyboard interactions on our drag and drop lists in the backend in most cases. However, for the specific case where an entity can be dragged and dropped between two distinct lists (such as moving a text from one text category to another rather than within a category), we did not have keyboard controls. These lists, and all drag and drop lists now have full keyboard controls (including the new drag and drop lists for managing content in reading groups). This refactor resolves issue #2678.
  5. We added alt text to project resources, which resolves issue #2428.
  6. We applied accessible modal dialog patterns to all drawers and overlays in Manifold. This change resolved issue #2434. It also resolved issue #2754. Issue #2425 should also be resolved by this revision.
  7. We resolved a header hierarchy issue in the reader. This resolves issue #2757.
  8. We fixed a tab index issue in search results that made it difficult for keyboard users to navigate the content. This will resolve issue #2969
  9. We fixed a bug that had been introduced, which prevented some notifications from being rendered when certain backend forms were submitted. This error led to the problem reported in issue #2559, which was about the lack of screen reader notification when projects are saved.
  10. We added screen reader support to ingestion, which resolves issue #2743.
  11. We refactored the resource card markup with a focus on removing nested interactive buttons. We also improved link and button text for screen readers. This resolves issue #2732.
  12. We're working on supporting annotation with caret browsing. This work is currently in PR #3086. This will resolve issue #2326 when it's finished.

All of this work will eventually be part of the version 7 release. For an up-to-date look at our work on accessibility concerns, we maintain this dashboard on Github.

Hand-drawn honeycomb covered with bees. Each cell of the honeycomb names a new Manifold feature

Manifold v6.0 is available now!

The latest version includes a new analytics feature, improved Word ingestion, global stylesheets, and more.

The Manifold Team is proud to announce the release of version 6.0.

Our complete list of release notes for this version details all of the new additions, but here are some of the highlights, with links to the corresponding sections of our documentation.

Analytics. Built from the ground up, our analytics tools provide usage data at the site, project, text, and text-section levels. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy, so all reported data is anonymized.

Word Ingestion. With version 6, we’ve transitioned from PanDoc to Mammoth to power our Word to HTML conversion. The Mammoth engine produces better results and allows us to map Word styles to HTML styles. This means that if you use a custom style in Word, it will persist into Manifold, where you can assign it a specific type of rendering using a stylesheet.

Global Stylesheet. In addition to existing text-level stylesheets, Manifold now includes a global stylesheet that is applied to every new text as it is ingested. Utilizing our new Word engine and our capacity to export any text to EPUB, you can create an EPUB file from a Word document within Manifold.

Because we upgraded a number of underlying systems in v6, there are quite a few data migrations included in this upgrade. Please be sure to backup your installation prior to upgrading. If you run into problems, please feel free to get in touch with us.

Our next version, 7.0, will focus on helping teachers and students get the most out of Manifold, including OER work funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a localization feature funded by Melusina Press and the University of Luxembourg. For more on where we’re going, check out our development roadmap.

As a community-driven, open platform, we depend on our users’ feedback to improve and develop Manifold for everyone. We welcome discussion and suggestions through GithubSlack, and email.

Thank you for being part of our community,

The Manifold Team

Illustration of a colorful robot looking over a tablet device with a dinosaur. Illustration credit Jojo Karlin 2020.

Manifold Moves Toward Sustainability, Promotes Learning and Equity with Two Major Grants

The digital publication platform Manifold Scholarship will enter a new phase of its development, supported by two major grants, one from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and one from the National Endowment for the Humanities, allowing Manifold to solidify its structure for future sustainability and to expand its work as a leading provider of digital Open Educational Resources (OERs). Manifold, a collaboration between the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the CUNY Graduate Center, Cast Iron Coding, and the University of Minnesota Press, is an open-source platform that enables publishers to create media-rich, interactive digital publications and extend the educational benefits and access of this scholarship to more communities. “Manifold is an innovative platform that exemplifies the University’s vision of integrated research and teaching,” says Chris Cramer, Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota.

sketch of a friendly cartoon robot holding palm out, which shows a Manifold logo

Access Granted: Manifold 5.0 Is Here!

We are delighted to announce the release of Manifold version 5.0, which is available for download here! The centerpiece of this release, a new Access Controls feature, will allow users to limit access to selected projects on a Manifold installation.

With this feature, publishers can switch on restricted access to any existing or new Manifold project, and can grant project access to any number of registered users on a Manifold site. The potential use cases are indeed manifold: Publishers of scholarly journals and conference proceedings can share publications with a base of subscribers or members. Teachers can create educational materials that can be shared only with students in a particular class. Works in progress can be shared with a select group of peer reviewers. Creators of collaborative projects can share drafts with a team for feedback. University presses can use Access Controls to serve exam and review copies or potentially offer paid access to course texts, opening up new revenue streams through the platform.

sketched image of multiple cartoon animals holding holiday items and a Manifold logo

Happy holidays from Manifold!

Here's to 2019! The Manifold Team sends good wishes to all as we head into the shortest day of the year and turn toward 2020. I've asked each team member to share a good memory from the year, a Manifold gift (be it moment with someone in the community, a favorite feature, a resolution). We're happy to be working together and with all of you.

Doug#

I’m excited that two of the “iterative,” work-in-progress book projects we launched in 2017 on the Manifold platform — Whitney Trettien’s Cut/Copy/Paste and Darren Wershler, Lori Emerson, and Jussi Parikka’s The Lab Book — are now on the verge of being completed projects, to be launched on the platform and in print this coming year.

Illustration of a gopher reading a book in the geometric shape of the Manifold logo with a pointer superimposed on an iPad behind

Manifold Digital Services Spotlight: Affordable Learning Georgia

In the last training of the season, Terence met with Jeff Gallant, Program Manager of Affordable Learning Georgia; Joy Woodson, Assistant Director for Marketing Communications; and Lucy Harrison, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Library Services and Executive Director of GALILEO.

Great to be back in Athens this week. Really looking forward to kicking off @ManifoldScholar training and talking about open textbooks with @jeffwgallant and the @ALearningGA team.

— Terence Smyre (@tremayning) November 19, 2019