Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tagginganna progress

I'm feeling rather stalled on this project after an initial flurry of activity and the good news that we got the funding, so I'm hoping that forcing myself to write a blog post about it might focus my thoughts (it will also mean that the slightly inane Twitter fixed my dishwasher post isn't sitting at the top of my blog any more).

I've written a couple of times before about our tagginganna project and there is a growing list of items that we've tagged on delicious (there's also a tagginganna friendfeed group that's aggregating everything).

The project team

The project team is made up of Mark Rawlinson, Alex Moseley and me. So when I refer to 'we' that's who I mean.


The project is officially called Text Tagging: Searchable Reader-Commentary on e-Texts, and a Pedagogy of Implicit and Explicit Meaning - so you can see why we're shortening it.

The problem we're trying to address

Reading novels takes a long time and a good discussion about a long novel takes much longer than the time available in one tutorial. Additionally, when students are reading a novel they are expected to make the meaning of the narrative explicit (in order to be able to discuss it in a tutorial) but during their private reading they are experiencing the richness of the text's language implicitly. There is therefore often a disconnect between the meaning of a text and their experience of it. Add to this the fact the experience of the text is 'available as a rapidly diminishing memory' and you begin to see some of the problems faced by both tutors and students in reading and talking about novels.

The solution we think might work

This is best explained by quoting directly from our bid document.
Text tagging (marking up textual elements, and adding searchable tags which make the implicit explicit) is a procedure for bridging the gap between narrative experience and narrative analysis, between private study and seminar discussion. Readers could share an online text, and through individual acts of tagging (either concurrent with the initial reading, or retrospectively, in a guided rereading) contribute to a social network of interpretive acts which can be retrieved by searching the text and/or the tags. The social network of tags is a meaning map of the narrative under study, and crucially, a map that always takes discussion back to the territory of the text being analysed (discussion invariably tends to abstraction where the evidence is as apparently inaccessible as the fine details of a very long book).

Project aims

The aims of the project are:
  • to test the pedagogical benefits of tagging and commenting on a shared online work of fiction (Anna Karenina) by a small group of third year undergraduates, and using this collaborative markup as a discussion point in face-to-face seminars: this is focussed on making meaning explicit;
  • to test the pedgogical and community-development benefits of sharing comments and tags across multiple cohorts, focusing on the new meanings and affordances offered by pervasive and incremental tags;
  • to determine the technical suitability of a number of freely available tagging/commenting tools to support the above activity;
  • to test the pedagogical benefits of tagging and commenting on a shared e-book within the BlackBoard VLE, by a small group of distance-learning postgraduates;
  • to develop one or more pedagogical models for the use of tagging and commenting on online texts within a higher education context;
  • to report on the technical suitability of a number of freely available tools and platforms to enable pedagogically-effective tagging and commenting within a higher education context;
  • to form the basis for discussions with publishers (initially Routledge) on the use of e-books within academic courses.

We need a researcher

The majority of the funding for the project will be spent on a research assistant. So if you're interested or know anyone who might be - please get in touch.

Right, now I've reminded myself what the project is about I'm off to have another think about and Diigo.


  1. Stu, well done for getting this together.

  2. [...] of to make it more suitable for the the purpose for which we are wanting to use it (see Tagginganna progress). The developments we need are the ability for readers to tag comments and search comments, and the [...]