The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture

Scalar Publication wins ATHE-ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Theatre and Performance Scholarship


Established to support, recognize and encourage digital scholarship, the Joint ATHE-ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Theatre and Performance Scholarship is awarded each year to an individual or team that demonstrates innovation and rigor in the use of electronic and/or digital media for the purpose of producing or disseminating knowledge about theatre and performance.

The inaugural award has gone to Erin Mee for her “Hearing the ‘Music of the Hemispheres,’” authored in Scalar and published in The Drama Review (57; 3). “Hearing the ‘Music of the Hemispheres’” uses Scalar as a tool to embody as well as analyze the multimodal and multi-linear ways that performance unfolds. In other words, it offers a performance-driven mode of scholarship aimed at better understanding spectatorship.

The subject of Mee’s article is a concert –Symphony for 100,000,000,000 Neurons- in which music was composed by sonifying fMRI scans made of subjects as they watched a stimulus film instructing them to imagine the sound of rain, listen to a recording of rain, and listen to a musical composition incorporating recordings of rain. This concert consists of multiple tracks of music, each corresponding to activity in the subject’s frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes and thus allows one to hear a sonification of one’s brain as they engage in an act of spectatorship. The concert is, as Mee sees it, “an aural rendering of spectatorship” and using Scalar Mee is able to herself render and analyze for the reader the myriad multimedia components which constitute and are associated with the concert—for example, fMRI scans and audio from the stimulus film but also lectures and interviews with neuroscientists and videos portraying the sonification of abnormal brain activity.

It is this innovative and expansive use of digital content in the service of scholarship, and of Scalar in particular, that no doubt has won her the award.

Congratulations to Erin.

Adding media and annotations in Scalar just got a lot easier.


If you’ve been authoring in Scalar lately you’ve no doubt noticed a small but significant change in the text editor. The two buttons once used to insert annotations are now gone (Fig. 1). That’s because we’ve streamlined the workflow for inserting media and annotations, and in the process, integrated new functionality that allows users to reformat existing media.

Figure 1. The updated toolbar in Scalar’s text editor. We’ve eliminated the two “paperclip” annotation buttons on the left. To insert an annotation in the new toolbar, click on one of the media buttons featuring a play icon, select the annotated media, and then pick which annotations you want to display in the media formatting options.

Inserting annotations

In the old toolbar one would insert an annotation by clicking on one of the “paperclip” annotation buttons and then selecting an annotation from all of the annotations in your project. In the new system, we’ve folded annotations into the overall display options for media. So now, one simply clicks on a media button, chooses the media to display and then, selects which of its annotations (if any) to show (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Scalar’s new media formatting options.

The eye icons allow you to toggle the visibility of each individual annotation, while the eye icon at the top of the menu, next to “Annotation Title,” toggles the display of all annotations in the list. Once you’ve selected to display at least one annotation, you’ll also be given the option to choose a specific “Featured annotation” to be highlighted once the page loads.

This new system offers much greater flexibility, allowing users to choose which, annotations, if any, they’d like to display. Want to insert a “clean” version of an image that has been annotated multiple times? Simply insert the image and select to display no annotations. Want to insert the same image twice, calling out different annotations each time? Simply insert the image and select your first set of annotations, then insert it again, selecting a different set.

Let’s use an example. You have an image for which you’ve created four separate annotations–that is, you’ve previously annotated that image by drawing out four separate areas to which you’d like to call your readers’ attention. You’d like to discuss two of those annotations in one paragraph (for example, two areas of a historical map) and the other two in a following paragraph (two other areas of the same map). Simply add the media object to the first paragraph by selecting the relevant text and clicking the first media button; after choosing the size, alignment and caption for the media, select the two annotations you’d like to discuss and then select whether you’d also like either one of those annotations to be featured–to be highlighted when the page loads. Then do the same on the next paragraph, this time choosing the other two annotations.

Reformatting media

Figure 3. Click the gear icon to reformat existing media.

We’ve also implemented a new option for reformatting existing media. Now, to change the size, alignment, caption, and annotation display options for media that’s already been added to a page, simply click on the hyperlink for linked media in the text editor and select the gear icon that pops up over the thumbnail of the media (Fig. 3), or, for inline media, click on the grey box for the media object and then select the gear icon that pops up over its thumbnail. Then simply change any settings in the media formatting options.

Removing media

It’s now easier to remove existing media as well, just by clicking the red “X” button that appears over the thumbnail when you click on a media link (Fig. 3). Before, you had to select the link in its entirety and click the “X” button in the toolbar to remove it.

Changing media

Finally, the new system also allows users to change the media associated with a given link. In other words, say you linked a particular image to a block of text but then realized you have another image that better illustrates your point. Simply follow the steps above to reformat existing media, but instead of changing the formatting options, click on “Change Selected Media” at the top and select the new image (Fig. 2).

We think you’ll find that these new changes improve and streamline your Scalar authoring—if you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch!

Special Issue of Urban History Released in Scalar


Urban History has long supported the publication of online-only, multimedia works. Since 2004 the journal, published by Cambridge University Press, has delivered a number of open-access, multimedia companions, both for special issues and for individual journal articles and in 2006 the journal released Urban Icons, a groundbreaking interactive special issue focused on urban visual history.

This week the journal once again demonstrated its commitment to born-digital scholarship, releasing a special issue, ‘Urban Sights: Urban History and Visual Culture,’ guest edited by Matt Delmont and authored entirely in Scalar. “Drawing on photography, painting, film, television and other visual and textual evidence,” Delmont summarized the special issue, “the essays explore how diverse visual forms not only shape metropolitan spaces, experiences and identities, but also shape the ways in which people imagine, remember and forget such spaces and events.”

Putting the study of the visual at the center of urban history, these born-digital essays examine a wide range of visual assets and, in the case of Bridget Gilman’s essay (see below), allow readers to explore interactive timelines and visualizations of Robert Bechtle’s paintings. Delmont, in fact, worked closely with the Scalar team, as well as Urban History’s Multimedia Editor (2004-2015) and Scalar Co-PI, Phil Ethington, to see that each essay took the greatest advantage of the platform’s affordances. Delmont writes:

By presenting the special issue in Scalar, we hope to offer both new research on urban visual history and also new models for the visual and textual presentation of such research. In contrast to a traditional print issue, Scalar affords the opportunity to present a large number of images, including color images; present selected clips from films and television that are analyzed in the essays; and create visualizations to present evidence in more dynamic ways. The authors have used digital technology to expand and extend their historical analysis of and to bring this sustained engagement with the past to a wide audience through an open access online format.

Urban Sights contains the following essays:

Scalar Webinars: Announcing Our Summer 2016 Schedule

The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture will offer another series of free online webinars this summer.

All webinars will feature our new interface, Scalar 2. Our “Introduction to Scalar” webinars will cover basic features of the platform: a review of existing Scalar books and a hands-on introduction to paths, tags, annotations and importing media. Our “Intermediate Scalar” webinars will delve into more advanced topics including the effective use of visualizations, annotating with media and a primer on customizing appearances in Scalar.

Our summer schedule will include four dates:

Introduction to Scalar: July 14, 4pm-6pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: July 28, 4pm-6pm (PST)
Introduction to Scalar: August 11, 10am-12pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: August 25, 10am-12pm (PST)

Register here.

Page Layouts in Scalar 2: Splash Pages and Image Headers

Figure 1. Book Splash Layout. Taken from Steve Anderson’s Bad Object 2.0: Games and Gamers.

This is the third installment in a series on our new page layouts in Scalar 2. If you missed the others, you can view them here, and here.

Many of you know how to use our splash and image header layouts. In fact, more and more, we’re seeing really stunning uses of splash pages in new Scalar projects.

But we still get questions, from time to time, about selecting images for splash pages and the image header layout as well as queries about the differences between our two types of splash pages. So let’s start there.

Figure 2. Styling Menu.

The Image Header layout displays the page’s “key” image as a header, with the title and description of the page overlaid. The rest of the page follows the Basic layout, with text and media interspersed (see Figure 3). Splash layouts display the page’s “key” image full screen, with either the page’s or project’s title at the bottom. If the page is part of a path or is itself a path, a navigation button is shown below that title (see Figure 1).

Setting a page to either a Splash or Image Header layout is a two-step process. First, choose the image you’d like displayed either full screen, in the case of the Splash layouts, or at the top of the page, in the case of the Image Header layout by selecting “Key image” under “Styling” in the page editor (see Figure 2). Second, select your layout from the “Layout” drop down menu, also in the page editor. In the case of Splash layouts, you’ll have two choices: Splash and Book Splash. The Splash layout will display the title of the current page over the image you’ve selected. The Book Splash layout will display the title and author(s) of the entire project, over your selected image. In addition, if the page you’ve set to either Splash or Book Splash layout is the parent page of a path, the layout will include a “Begin with…” button at the very bottom of the page (see Figure 1), or if the page is included within a path, a “Continue to…” button.

Figure 3. Image Header Layout. Taken from Alex McDowell et al’s Makoko 2035.

Book Splash layouts are perhaps best used for the landing page of a project while Splash layouts can be used to good effect in introducing sections, chapters or individual essays within a project. In fact, if you use the same image you’ve chosen for the splash page introducing a section as the background image for all the pages in that section, you can effectively visually delineate it from other sections within the same project. The Image Header layout can be used in a similar fashion.


Page Layouts in Scalar 2: Google Maps

Figure 1. Google Map Layout. Taken from Larry Landis’ A Photographic History of Oregon State University.

This is the second installment in a series on new layout options in Scalar 2. If you missed our prior piece on Media Gallery layouts, you can always view it here. Today we’ll be discussing the new Google Map layout.

The Google Map layout plots the current page plus any content it contains or tags on a Google Map embedded at the top of the page. Every item to be plotted must include either dcterms:coverage or dcterms:spatial metadata in the format of decimal latitude, decimal longitude. Each pin shown on the map will reveal the title, description, thumbnail and link for its content when clicked (see Figure 1). The rest of the page follows the Basic layout, with text and media interspersed.

Let’s walk through an example. I’m writing about architecture in Los Angeles. At this point my project contains several paths each of which cut through my material along a different vector. For instance, my readers can move along one path containing pages relating to individual architects; another related to design movements; and yet another containing pages related to specific architectural icons in the Los Angeles area. This third path is arranged chronologically, acting as a kind-of timeline for cutting-edge architecture in LA. But I’d also like my readers to be able to navigate those same pages discussing individual architectural structures geographically, not just chronologically. That is, I’d like my readers to be able to navigate those same pages -those same architectural icons- by way of a map.

Here’s how I’d go about doing this in Scalar.

Step one: Gather metadata. First, I’d collect the latitude and longitude, expressed in decimal degrees, for each of the architectural structures I’d like to plot on a map.

Step Two: Add metadata. Second, I’d go to each of the pages discussing individual architectural icons and add metadata to those pages. In other words, I’d (1) go to the page in my Scalar project where I discuss the LAX Theme Building; (2) click on edit to go to the edit page; (3) click on “Metadata” just below the text editor on the edit page; (4) click “Add additional metadata”; (5) within the dialogue box that pops up, tick the box under “dcterms” for either “spatial” or “coverage”; (6) click “Add fields” at the bottom-right of the dialogue box; (7) enter the latitude and longitude for LAX (in this case, 33.9425° N, -118.4081° W) into the new field that I just added under metadata called either “dcterms:spatial” or “dcterms:coverage” (depending on which field I selected); (8) save the page. I’d repeat these steps for each of the pages I’d like to plot on the map, in each case, inputting the appropriate latitude and longitude. I’d then have several pages in my Scalar project, each discussing an individual architectural structure with geospatial metadata for the location of that structure added to its respective page.

Figure 2. Google Map layout using a tag structure.
Click on graph to enlarge.

Step three: Create a page that pulls your material together. Third, I’d create a page, called, for example, “Architectural Icons in Los Angeles” and then either (1) tag that page (“Architectural Icons in Los Angeles”) to all the pages for individual architectural structures to which I just added geospatial metadata (see Figure 2) or (2) make that page (“Architectural Icons in Los Angeles”) a path and select as items in that path all the pages for individual architectural structures to which I just added geospatial metadata (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Google Map layout using a path structure.
Click on graph to enlarge.

Step four: Select the Google Map layout. Finally, I would set “Architectural Icons in Los Angeles” -the page that tags or contains the other pages- to the Google Map layout. To do this, I’d click edit on “Architectural Icons in Los Angeles,” and, once in the page editor, select “Google Map” from the drop-down menu under “Layout” (see Figure 4).

In addition, the Google Map layout will also plot the current page -in our example here, the “Architectural Icons in Los Angeles” page- if it too has geospatial metadata associated with it.

Figure 4. Layout options in the page editor.

But pages aren’t the type of Scalar content one can plot on a map. Once again, Scalar’s unique organizing principle in which everything is equal to everything else means that anything can do everything to anything else. In this case, it means all elements in a Scalar project can be plotted on a Google map. Or more specifically, it means that all items in a Scalar project can both have metadata associated with them and be added as a path or tagged to a page that is set to the Google Map layout. Have a set of photos taken around Los Angeles? Add geospatial metadata to those photos in Scalar and tag them to a page set to a Google Map layout. Have a video clip of twenty famous scenes all shot in Los Angeles? Annotate the video calling out those locations, add geospatial metadata to each of those annotations and then tag those annotations to a page set to the Google Map layout. Have ten short stories that each take place in a different area of Los Angeles? Make each of those stories a path in Scalar, add geospatial metadata to each of those paths (i.e. to the parent page of each path) and then tag those paths to a page set to the Google Map layout. Because tags, paths, pages, annotations, media objects and readers comments are all equivalent in Scalar, structural features -in this case, the Google Map layout- are incredibly flexible and extensible.

See you next time, when we’ll talk about the Image Header and Splash layouts.

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The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture was created with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.