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What is digital text annotation? Text annotation is simply the process in which one adds notes to a text. These notes can vary from highlights to comments, footnotes, tags and even links.  A question that one might ask is why is text annotation so important? Since the advent of revolutionary tools for communication, like social media and image or video sharing, the Internet has become a huge collection of resources, created by millions of people from all over the world.  The Digital Humanities community has understood than just exposing a resource is not enough; people should be able to contribute with their own knowledge.  This not only leads to a more engaging experience, but it can also serve a lot of different purposes like education, social reading and so on.

The trend of text annotation is not new; it has been studied before, but more importantly is that people still try to improve this field. Some interesting papers about digital text annotation have been presented at the “Digital Humanities” conference, held at the University of Hamburg, between the 16th and the 22nd July, 2012. To read more about the conference go to: http://www.dh2012.uni-hamburg.de

One of the ideas regarding text annotation is the use of ontologies. The “NeDiMAH workshop on ontology based annotation” gives an insight on ontology-based annotation showing the impact of such an approach given the existing experience in ontological systems.   The element of novelty in this approach is the way in which text is modeled. Instead of having a coherent and clear representation, the text is represented in order to highlight consistencies and inconsistencies. Such a model is stored together with some tools that allow the user to detect and examine such inconsistencies or contradictions.  The basic assumption for such a model is that when somebody, the reader, reads a book or a text, firstly he creates a model in his mind. It has been proven that it doesn’t matter of what kind of text it is, the representation is somewhat similar and it can be expressed using ontologies.

Another interesting paper is “Enriching Digital Libraries Contents with SemLib Semantic Annotation System”. Unlike existing annotation tools, which either provide poor semantics or use proprietary / non-interoperable formats to represent data (this means that the knowledge create by more advanced users is lost), this paper provides a tool which can be easily integrated with existing Digital Libraries. Developed within the SemLib EU project, this tool can also annotate generic web pages, addressing annotations at different level of expressivity and complexity.  Users are able to write simple comments and tags, or if they want more complex features, complex data structures can be created.  These annotations are stored as RDF data, which is stored on a remote annotation server.

Last but not least, the paper “A flexible model for the collaborative annotation of digitized literary works” presents another model for text annotation.  This model was used in @Note 1.0, a system developed at Universidad Complutense de Madrid.  @Note 1.0 allows users to retrieve digitized work from Google Books and to add annotations to enrich text for research and learning purposes (e.g. reading activities, e-learning tasks etc.). The model proposed in this application allows the collaborative creation of annotation schemas on literary works. The result obtained is very flexible and adaptive, being used in different communities of literature experts.

If you want to find out more about text annotation, you can also read these articles: “Literary Wikis: Crowd-sourcing the Analysis and Annotation of Pynchon, Eco and Others”, “Texts in Motion – Rethinking Reader Annotations in Online Literary Texts” and “Bringing together markup and semantic annotation”. If you want to read about other trends in digital humanities or maybe just see some of the topics discussed at the “Digital Humanities” conference from Hamburg, open this link: DH 2012 Hamburg.