Design Principles For These Projects

Interoperability and Exports


My goal is to provide multiple means of accessing and adapting both the Undissertation text and the Woman in White. For this reason, I’ve used the open-source Pressbooks platform to share this text on the web. I’ve also created digital export files in multiple formats so that people can work with PDF files, Kindle (MOBI) exports, EPUB, learning management system Common Cartridge files, and WordPress export files.


Both Pressbooks and the annotation layer attached to my web book are interoperable, meaning that their contents can be ported into or work in concert with a number of different tools. One of the reasons why it is useful to work with interoperable tools is that doing so expands the ways that other people can engage with a person’s work. Another reason why interoperability is so important is that it makes it more difficult for third parties to claim control over content that a creator has produced in one platform.

The fact that the annotation platform in this project is interoperable is noteworthy in a digital landscape where annotation tools are often proprietary. Alexander Naydenov and Heather Staines unpack why this is valuable in their 2018 Scholarly Kitchen post, writing:

Interoperable, standards-based annotation will allow researchers, students and readers to read and respond to each others’ annotations even if they are using different platforms and clients — in much the same way that email works today. Interoperability of annotation tools should also allow users to port their data from one tool to another or to archive their annotations securely for use later in another context. Most importantly, interoperability is a safeguard against providers who would try to lock-in users to a specific implementation, or worse, to a monolithic service.[1]

This interoperability is one of the features that makes it easy for me to export even my annotations into a written document I can submit with my dissertation text. Not only are they written in the common digital language MultiMarkdown (and thus easily transferrable across platforms,) but they can be easily collected using an external tool called CrowdLaaers. This latter resource wouldn’t exist if not for the openness of’s platform. In a similar fashion, the fact that Pressbooks follows commonly accepted (IMS Global) standards for designing educational tools is what makes it so easily embeddable within Canvas and other learning management systems..

This interoperability also sets this project apart from other prominent platforms for Victorian Studies on the web. One example of this is the Central Online Victorian Educator (COVE) which has its own interactive annotation layer. COVE’s annotation layer doesn’t appear to follow the W3C web annotation data model, but it does provide a range of additional functions including color-coding annotations by theme. This distinction illustrates the ways that that sometimes, working to a broader standard complicates the customizations it would be compelling to design.

All told, however, the ability to adapt, recirculate, and integrate my open text’s open annotation platform into other digital humanities contexts made prioritizing interoperability a key value in my project’s design.


Works Cited

Naydenov, Alexander and Heather Staines. “The Time for Open and Interoperable Annotation is Now.” Scholarly Kitchen, 28 August 2018. Permalink:

WC3 Web Annotation Data Model. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), 23 February 2017. Permalink:

  1. For more details on web standards for digital annotation, see the W3C Web Annotation Data Model.


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