Interface Design

1. Active Group Members
2. Prototypes and Publications
3. Activities

At the inception of INKE, 4 foundational research areas were established to examine and explore electronic textuality: Information Management (IM), Interface Design (ID), Textual Studies (TS), and User Experience (UX). These areas were later joined by Modelling & Prototyping (M&P).

The Interface Design (ID) team produced and studied experimental prototypes contextualized by research done throughout INKE as well as by environmental scans of existing systems.

ID methods ranged from user-centred design, where readers are consulted at different stages in the process (but information gleaned from their responses is handled by the designers and programmers before the readers are consulted again), to participatory design, during which the research participants become active collaborators in the evolution of the design, and are among those present in the room while design decisions and programming choices are made. We developed and tested a series of interface sketches and small prototypes that ultimately converge into a larger working environment, providing access to our test-bed data as well. Our test-bed artifacts are the scholarly edition, the academic monograph, the scholarly journal and essay collection, and forms of electronic literature, and each of the first five years of our work focuses on a different research area: interdisciplinary citation, corpora, the scholarly edition, journals and monographs, and born-digital literature.

For further information on ID, please view their dedicated blog.

Group Members

  • Lead: Stan Ruecker (IIT Institute of Design)
  • Researchers: Stan Ruecker, Geoffrey Rockwell (U Alberta), Milena Radzikowska (Mount Royal U), Stéfan Sinclair (McGill U), Teresa Dobson (UBC), Ann Blandford (UC London), Christian Vandendorpe (U Ottawa)
  • Graduate Research Assistants: Zach Palmer, Andrea Budac, John Montague, Tianyi Li, Monica Brown, Luciano Frizzera, Sarah Faisal, Geoff Roeder, Ernesto Peña (Past: Daniel Sondheim, Shannon Lucky, Lindsay Doll, Stan Dymchuk, Matt Seguin, Cyril Briquet, Sarah Vela, Mihaela Ilovan, Jennifer Windsor, Mark Bieber, Piotr Michura, Omar Rodriguez, Andrew Macdonald, Kamal Ranaweera, Brooke Heller, Alejandro Giacometti)

Prototypes and Publications

  • Workflow for Journal Editors
  • Workflow for Document Production (Orlando data)
  • Sondheim, Daniel, Geoffrey Rockwell, Mihaela Ilovan, Milena Radzikowska, and Stan Ruecker, and the INKE Research Group. “Interfacing the Collection.” Scholarly and Research Communication 3.1(2012): n.pag.
  • Nelson, Brent, Stan Ruecker, Milena Radzikowska, Stéfan Sinclair, Susan Brown, Mark Bieber, and the INKE Research Group. “A Short History and Demonstration of the Dynamic Table of Contexts.” Paper presented at INKE: Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in a Digital Age: Text and Beyond. November 18, 2011. Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan.
  • Galey, Alan, Stan Ruecker, and the INKE Research Group. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25.3(2010): n.pag.

Activities 2009 – 2014

Year 1 goals for the ID team involved experimenting with interdisciplinary citation. We undertook the design of an interface (the Paper Drill) to assist scholars with a common research activity previously identified by the User Experience (UX) team: chaining through citations. In addition, we worked with our partner Synergies on a prototype parser for extracting regularized citation data from PDFs, with the Information Management (IM) team on the design of an application programming interface (API) for exchanging citation information, with UX on the study of how readers and writers interact with different citation styles, and with the Textual Studies (TS) team on an examination of the changes in citation practice between print and digital media. We also produced a paper with TS on the evaluation of interfaces as a form of intellectual argument. We certainly “hit the ground running” after the previous years spent planning and preparing. For the new team members, that meant they quickly became acclimatized to working collaboratively within this new administrative structure; for the members of the other teams, and for our institutional partners, they had the opportunity to see some of their ideas instantiated in ways that could be subjected to testing and analysis. For the larger community, we had a high profile at the major digital humanities conferences, and contributed to a wide range of conversations both nationally and internationally on the future of reading.

Year 2 goals had the ID team pursuing experiments with corpora. For this topic area, we built on what we have called “showcase browsing,” applying rich-prospect approaches. In this context, we worked on the design and prototyping of several projects: the next phase of the Paper Drill, Texttiles, Structured Surfaces, and Bubblelines. In addition, we began work on an interactive alternative to the Paper Drill. We called this prototype “The Article Squid.” In support of these prototypes, we carried out an environmental scan of existing corpora browsing technology and tools, which supported some theoretical treatments of the corpus, and in particular the interface to the corpus, as a scholarly concept. In collaboration with UX, we carried out and reported a comparative study in year 2 of two different prototype implementations of the Bubblelines design. We were not able to integrate in year 2 with IM, but we did continue our involvement with Synergies, and in particular with the Open Journal Systems, as we ran a series of experiments on parsing their PDFs for citation data.

Year 3 goals involved the ID researchers in studying the scholarly edition, which we construed through consultations with TS as a primary document augmented with apparatus to facilitate study. Our year 3 prototypes included the following:

  • the Dynamic Table of Contexts (at the start of the book)
  • dialR for Repetition (in the middle of the book)
  • Embedded text analysis (in the middle of the book)
  • Citation visualization (at the end of the book)

In year 3, we also:

  • produced an experimental rich-prospect showcase browser for the images we have captured throughout the first three years of environmental scans;
  • developed a structured surface for workflow management in the construction of digital publications;
  • carried out an environmental scan & literature review of digital scholarly editions.

In addition, Year 3 was the year when ID absorbed some of the functions and personnel of UX. Our user studies for year 3 focused on the revised Bubblelines visualization tool, the dynamic table of contexts, and the structured surface for workflow management. These systems are finding widespread currency and seem to be generating excitement in the larger community. In particular, following an extensive national consultation process involving half a dozen dedicated workshops with a wide range of humanities scholars, the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC) is planning to implement production-quality systems based on all three of these experimental prototypes. In addition, and somewhat serendipitously, the design research community has begun to seriously strengthen their interest and engagement with the digital humanities, in large part through contact with the prototype work being carried out on INKE.

By the end of year 3, we have employed, worked collaboratively with, mentored, designed, planned, implemented, tested, co-presented, and co-authored with a total of 18 graduate students.

We have produced 7 environmental scans and literature reviews, which have led to the design and prototyping of the following 6 experimental systems:

  • The Paper Drill for citation reports based on chaining from a seed article
  • Texttiles for rich-prospect collection browsing
  • Bubblelines for visualization of comparative search results
  • dialR for repetition: an interactive n-gram visualization tool
  • The Dynamic Table of Contexts for rich prospect browsing of monographs using semantic XML
  • Structured surfaces for workflow management (journal editing and digital resource creation)

We have been designing but have not yet prototyped the following 3 experimental systems:

  • Citelens for citation visualization at the end of a monograph
  • The multitouch variorum interface
  • A digital e-reading environment combining multiple text analysis tools

In year 4, we continued our work on the digital scholarly edition, where we  made significant progress on a number of experimental prototypes that apply not only to the digital scholarly edition, but also to the digital edition in general–its creation, analysis, and use. In addition, we began planning some experiments with the use of hardware platforms that are alternatives to the mouse, keyboard, and monitor standard platform. For example, we are acquiring a multi-point touch table with which we will experiment with structured surfaces. As case studies, we began using the MLA new variorum edition of A Comedy of Errors as well as some XML-encoded text from Brent Nelson’s John Donne variorium (TS). The extension into a second year on the digital scholarly edition provided us with the opportunity to focus more directly on the “scholarly” aspect of the digital edition, beginning with the use of content related to variora, and extending to thinking in conjunction with M&P on the affordances of the social edition. It also gave us the chance to take further steps toward integration of some of our research trajectories into aggregate systems. Specifically, we combined the e-reader embedded analytics with the reading environment for the dynamic TOC, and the structured surface environment and citelens with the variorum touchscreen.

In year 5, we turn our attention to the topic of secondary literature: the monograph and journals. Working in collaboration with the M&P team and selected industry partners (e.g. U of A Press, CWRC), we are leveraging the environments that we aggregated in year 4 by increasing their affordances for use with this new kind of material. Our first testbed will be an online collection of conference proceedings.