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The Civic Media Project

Eric Gordon, Associate Professor in the department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, and Paul Mihailidis, Associate Professor in the department of Marketing Communication, also at Emerson, have just finished editing one of the most extensive Scalar projects to date: The Civic Media Project. Consisting of over 100 case studies, by as many contributors, the project is an online companion to a print edition, which includes 25 case studies in 18 chapters and is scheduled for publication by MIT Press in Spring 2016.

The Scalar companion is meant to expand upon the print edition not just by offering many additional case studies, but as well, by offering the reader a richer experience of the media under analysis and by enabling commentary and discussion among the book’s contributors and readers on the pages of those case studies. The Scalar companion also offers Gordon and Mihailidis the means to continuously update the project with new and relevant case studies. “Because civic media, by definition, combines theory and practice, we wanted there to be an easily accessible resource that could compliment the book volume,” Gordon writes, “I think there is real value in case studies, especially in an emerging field that is hungry for empirical examples – that is why there are short cases included in the print book. Our hope is that the Scalar project compliments the book with a resource of peer reviewed short cases, from scholars and practitioners from around the world. I think Scalar will build enthusiasm for the book by creating a place to share and analyze cases of civic media use in an ongoing and critical fashion.”

The Civic Media Project consists of case studies spanning four engaging topics: Play + Creativity, Systems + Design, Learning + Engagement, and Community + Action. But since, as the editors say, there is “considerable overlap” between individual cases within those four main topics, contributors have created a detailed and robust tag structure to the overall project which readers can explore using Scalar’s built-in tag visualization. Using the interactive visualization, readers can see, for instance, which case studies discuss citizen journalism or which cases discuss both open data and social justice.

All of these affordances are what the editors had in mind when beginning this project. The Civic Media Project is part of a recent trend among scholars using Scalar in partnership with academic presses to produce new kinds of peer-reviewed publications—in this case, an expansive online-only, media-rich, interactive companion. “I wanted to use Scalar because of how I understood the conceptual inroads the platform was making in online publishing,” Gordon told us, “What ultimately drew me to the platform, besides knowing and trusting the people behind it, was the promise of being part of a community of academic authors experimenting with online forms.”

See The Civic Media Project.

New in your Dashboard: Scalar Importer/Exporter!

Next time you’re logged in to Scalar, head over to the new Import/Export tab in the Dashboard. Once, there, you’ll find our newest addition to Scalar’s content management system: the new tab allows users to import, export and backup all pages and relationships in a Scalar book with ease.

The Export area allows users to create a single output of all pages and relationships in your Scalar book as an RDF file in either JSON or XML format. This file can be saved as a backup for future use, or for importing into another RDF-aware system. You can even feed the RDF-JSON file back into the Import area at a later date to re-create the book’s content.

In the Import area you can pull all pages and relationships from another public book using its URL. Simply grab the URL of the source book and place it into the form–Scalar will do the rest (with a few considerations; see Support Notes in the Import/Export tab for a list of attributes which will not transfer).

You can also import snippets of a Scalar book. For example, you may wish to import just a single path and its pages from a source book. Or, only the media. Any content type can be acquired by visiting our tool for this task, the API Explorer. Its friendly interface allows you to easily generate the appropriate RDF-JSON output by selecting the portion of a Scalar book you’d like to export and clicking “Get API Results.” For instance, if you’d like to only export the contents of one path within a book, simply insert the url for that path into the appropriate field in the API Explorer (be sure to set “Return related content with up to 1 degree(s) of separation”) and click “Get API Results.” Finally, cut-and-paste the resulting RDF-JSON into the “Paste RDF” tab of the Dashboard’s Import area.

(API Explorer link: http://scalar.usc.edu/tools/apiexplorer)

Complex Television

Jason Mittell, Professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College, has written a fascinating new book, Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (NYU Press). “Over the past two decades, new technologies, changing viewer practices, and the proliferation of genres and channels has transformed American television,” Mittell writes, “One of the most notable impacts of these shifts is the emergence of highly complex and elaborate forms of serial narrative, resulting in a robust period of formal experimentation and risky programming.”

Complex TV sets out to analyze the “poetics” of these complex narratives by unpacking, in great detail, the intricacies of scenes in The Wire, Lost, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The West Wing, Dexter, and Mad Men, to name just a few. As a television and media scholar Mittell has grown accustomed to the constraints of print culture in performing this analytic task—of having to continuously examine and interpret audio-visual material to which the reader has no direct access while on the printed page.

As a result, Mittell has done what more and more media scholars are doing, especially in collaboration with the Alliance’s partner presses: He has built a companion in Scalar comprised of the audio-visual material cited in the print version of Complex TV along with the original analysis of that material. Mittell has created a stunning companion in the process, one which offers readers multiple pathways through a rich series of high quality video clips from more than three dozen, mostly contemporary, TV shows.

In constructing the companion Mittell also took advantage of the fair use protection offered by our partner archive Critical Commons for the copyrighted material he used (see more about Critical Commons fair use advocacy). Critical Commons is an open access media archive developed specifically to facilitate the scholarly quotation of media sources as allowed by the fair use statute in U.S. Copyright law (Section 107).

See Mittell’s Scalar companion to Complex TV.

Installing Scalar on your own domain just got easier.

Ever wanted to install Scalar on your own domain but didn’t think you could navigate GitHub much less properly configure .htaccess?

Reclaim Hosting just made it easier by adding Scalar to their roster of one-click installs for domains hosted with their service. As a user of Reclaim Hosting you can register a domain (e.g. www.myscalarbooks.com) while purchasing a hosting package for as little as $25 a year, and now, once inside the dashboard of your brand new website, click “Scalar” under Featured Applications. Voilà…your own Scalar publishing platform on your own domain.

Reclaim Hosting’s mission is to provide educators and institutions with easy access to domains and web hosting, so that they can, in turn, offer their students an affordable way to “take control of [their] digital identity.” Alongside Scalar, Reclaim offers automated installs for Omeka, Moodle, MediaWiki, and others.

Scalar Webinars: Announcing Our Spring Schedule

The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture will be offering a series of free online webinars this spring.

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 spring schedule will include six dates:

Introduction to Scalar: January 29, 10am-12pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: February 12, 10am-12pm (PST)
Introduction to Scalar: March 5, 4pm-6pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: March 26, 4pm-6pm (PST)
Introduction to Scalar: April 9, 10am-12pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: April 30, 10am-12pm (PST)

Hurry, spaces are limited!

Register here.

Scalar Feature Update: Hypothes.is Annotation Sidebar

We’re pleased to announce that the powerful annotation plugin developed by the folks at Hypothes.is is now a fully supported feature in Scalar books. Good for reader responses, collaborative authoring and even copyediting, Hypothes.is allows users to highlight, comment on and form discuss threads around selections of text in a Scalar book.

The Hypothes.is annotation feature set is accessed within Scalar books via the Hypothes.is sidebar (shown below). To enable the Hypothes.is sidebar in your Scalar book head over to the “Sharing” tab in your Scalar Dashboard and select “Yes” under “Reviewability.” Then click “Save.” The Hypothes.is sidebar will now appear on each page of your Scalar book.

Once the sidebar is launched, users are free to comment on selections of text and to set those comments to either public or private. In the public mode, all future visitors can view those comments in the Hypothes.is sidebar and reply to them if desired.
While users must have a Hypothes.is account in order to make or reply to comments (to sign up for a Hypothes.is account, simply launch the Hyptohtes.is sidebar and click Sign In > Create an Account) public comments are viewable to all visitors.

Hypothes.is thus allows per-paragraph, per-sentence and even per-word commenting for readers. It also allows groups of authors on a project to comment on and generate discussion threads around textual elements in a Scalar book.

More information on the Hypothes.is project can be found at their website, here. To learn more about using the Hypothes.is plugin itself, cick here.

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The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture

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