Network Ecologies

Organizing a Design-Based Research Process

Building on existing cross-disciplinary research, policy, and technical standards, the project addresses three specific transmedia publishing research needs:
  1. the creation of a platform-independent structured document type for print, transmedia publishing, and object-oriented repository linking;
  2. enhanced transmedia citation and reference management to address core issues in the shift from print-only to hybrid publishing approaches of academic research, and
  3. collections tools to allow educators, students and scholars to curate Open Access (OA) and Open Education Resources (OER) content packages.

2.1 Offer a Platform-Independent Structured Document Type

In the shift from print-only to hybrid publishing strategies with faster publishing production cycles, there is a need to ensure texts and images from research outcomes can migrate to new digital forms of the book, to other transmedia formats and open learning systems. These hybrid publishing strategies require the enabling of the semi-automation of part of a dynamic publishing workflow, which includes the following parts of the workflow; typesetting, multi-format conversion, distribution, rights management, file transfer, translation workflows, document updates, payments and reading metrics.

2.1.1 Integrate Workflows

While some document and meta description formats exist, including OASIS, ODT and the W3C and IDPF standards of EPUB3 and HTML5 (eg IDPF, EDUPUB as of 2014, with submissions by Pearson and O’Reilly), VRA, MODS, TEI, they have yet to become an integral part of the working environments, habits, tools, and workflows of academics.

2.1.2 Establish Workflow Compatibility

For such integration, existing work habits of the academic practitioner need to be compared and contrasted with the need for changes in work and use cycles to enable content to be easily purposed in the digital workflow. This project explores how research outcomes across media types can be made digitally compatible by assessing available tools, academic conventions, training and skill levels to map key research processes onto digital publishing workflow.

2.1.3 Provide User Research

Additional studies take extra-academic users of research outcomes into account to develop concrete strategies to facilitate the integration of structured document processes into academic publication life cycles.

2.1.4 Develop Code

Working with industry partners (including Data Futures (UK), Stilo (UK), le-tex (DE), Heidelberg Research Architecture (DE), Sourcefabric (CZ/DE), Fiduswriter (DK, NO), Nätverkstan (SE), EasyDITA (US)) and standards bodies like W3C and IDPF, the project generates software and code to complement and modify available open source solutions.

2.1.5 Develop User Experience Design

A user-oriented interface design is needed to inform users about a) how changes to the document to add structure effects its meaning, b) for screen previews of the multi-format outputs where the target outputs require intervention to preserve the integrity of the publication, especially in multimedia formats.


2.2 Offer Enhanced Transmedia Citation and Reference Management

With the introduction of new media types into the digital book there is a need to specify points in media, a location in run-time or vector position for example, in a video, game sequence, social graph, simulation, calculation or drawing. This amounts to an academic citation and referencing management for transmedia publishing that is backwards-compatible with analog and print media.

2.2.1 Combine Technical and GUI Research

To allow direct links to a specific point in the target media type, a combination of technical and GUI research is needed.

2.2.2 Develop Transmedia Mnemonics

Because transmedia mnemonics do not currently compare with the sophisticated mnemonic and navigational feature of print, neither in terms of features (for example, print cataloging systems, glosses, indexes, running headers, page numbers, tabulation systems, see Vandendorpe 2009, Krajewski 2011) or the organization of parts of a book, style and referencing (MLA, Chicago Manual of Style or Harvard Style do not fully address the layering of computational media), the project proposes methods of mnemonic for use and navigation of transmedia publications. These research tasks focus on key but under-researched areas where new conditions require changes in practitioners’ workflows. Framed by two integrative questions and modularized to facilitate research organization, they provide a manageable research focus but open up onto the entire range of digital publishing workflow issues.


2.3 Collections

The term Collections will, in our context of Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) publishing, be used to describe the many and increasing ways in which educators and learners can use new digital tools to curate, socially annotate, and author materials into custom collections. Collections can contain text, images, video, annotation, data objects, teaching guides and social media. Collections can be individually authored or collaborative documents. They can also feature a series of new networked measurement and digital asset tracking features known as Learning Resources Analytics (LRA).

It is important to mention that, to work well, Collections are dependent on three Internet design conventions that allow for the easy reuse of content and innovation in tool design: open source, open standards, and open licensing. All of these can be used to translate different philosophies of commoning into concrete technical systems. Like other commons-based approaches, their adoption has been uneven and marked by contradictions.

Contemporary tools and web platforms like Hackpad, Storify and Flipboard already possess some of the qualities that Collections should possess, but the latter can go further. In an educational context, specifically, Collections should also allow the integration and facilitation of curriculum design, digital note taking, study and reading groups, digital dissertations, research records and bibliographies.

The Hybrid Publishing Consortium publishing prototypes include the following examples: Merve Remix—in which we digitized the German publisher Merve Verlag’s back catalog of 400 titles (; Museums and Post-digital Publishing—working with the Swiss museum Fotomuseum Winterthur and the publication Manifeste! ( in which we examine how the high quality museum catalogue can be digitized and taken into open learning and OER contexts; Traces of McLuhan – a Media Sprint at the Marshall McLuhan Salon, Canadian Embassy, Berlin and the Marshall McLuhan archive, where we created a transmedia trace of a user's journey through the archive (

2.3.1 Open Educational Resources (OER)

The potential of OER to enrich, excite, and inspire learners stands paramount among its positive features, and Collections share in these qualities. However, there are less obvious benefits to their development. For example:

Collections encourage exploratory, adaptive IT policies: University IT systems, along with those in corporations and government, have been developed along a model which allows and effectively builds in high innovation and maintenance costs. However, there is a long-term trend in all these workplaces to work with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. This means people are using any platform or device available to interact with web resources because the institutional systems formally available to them for this purpose have become unworkable. The Collections model is open to the BYOD approach and may be able to help move institutions from their rigid, traditional systems to more flexible IT policies.

Collections are compatible with mixed online learning: there are new types of OER and OA learning environments emerging where Collections can play an important role by forging curated paths through large volumes of material through a mixture of recommendation and semantic data from Learning Resources Analytics.

Collections reduce costs: with or without a financial crisis, crafting educational material and providing teaching is expensive. Moving to new digital environments only adds to that expenditure. The cost-sharing offered by these open ways of working is most likely the only way that the majority of institutions can develop and disseminate their teaching programs in new mixed and distance learning contexts.

2.3.2 Educational media: quality control

Learners’ expectations of online media are being shaped by the commercial-media landscape, which is creating a pressing need for the production quality of educational materials to improve. Collections are key to solving the many problems associated with this challenge. Firstly, by using OER and LRA, Collections allow for a mass of high quality teaching material to be made available at greatly reduced prices. Secondly, by using open source models of collaboration, and by establishing consortia between educational partners, the new tool sets stand to make it significantly easier to publish diverse and large sets of material to new platforms.

2.3.3 Collections tools

Collections technology is no new thing. To some extent, the Collections methodology underpins the whole make-up of the Internet—packet networks and the modularity of information systems—all of which were designed in the 1960s. There are many competing models for organizing information. Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS), for example, has been around for decades, but this now represents an outdated model, conceived when networks were not much in use. We now possess models that are more network oriented, whether they come from the private sector of web development, or from academic research groups or civil liberties activists.

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