Hypothes.is

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Today’s blog post isn’t about writing a hypothesis. Instead it’s about hypothes.is (note the full stop). So what is hypothes.is?

It’s free, open-source and non-profit software that adds a new layer to the web, allowing users to annotate and comment on online content. A reputation system is used for users to ‘rate’ annotations and comments, providing a high degree of ‘peer review’.

Hypothes.is is available as a Chrome plug-in or you can download a bookmarklet from the website if you use a different browser. Once you’ve registered an account and installed the plug-in/bookmarklet, you’re ready to start annotating any online content. You can comment on news websites, blogs, scientific articles, legislation, etc. By making annotations, you aren’t changing the original content. You’re only annotating the additional layer than hypothes.is users see and even then, they can toggle between the original and annotated versions at any time.

So how does it work in practice? For instance, The Disrupted Journal of Media Practice shows an example of how annotations have been made on an online book, Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software (Brown, 2015). Users of hypothes.is have been able to comment on specific text in this book, to provide further understanding or even to start dialogue about specific concepts.

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In Nature Magazine last year, Jeffrey Perkel asked whether researchers would annotate online research papers. Already, hypothes.is has arranged partnerships with a series of publishers, including Wiley and HighWire.

So how else is it being used in education? At it’s simplest, hypothes.is can just be used in school classrooms to collaboratively annotate a poem or novel chapter. Everyone can comment and everyone can read each other’s comments. The same logic applies for university students and researchers; it’s easy to share knowledge and our reactions to and understandings of this knowledge with our peers. We can work collaboratively with peers to create content in wiki environments, but annotating existing content is also now within our grasp.

Hypothes.is is funded by the Knight, Mellon, Shuttleworth, Sloan, Helmsley, and Omidyar Foundations and through individual contributions (it originally started through Kickstarter). Hypothes.is also aims to be neutral and lasting, with all comments being stored in the Internet Archive.

 

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