User:Simon/Reading, Writing & Research Methodologies SI9

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IFL introductions

Profiling shadow libraries:, ubuweb & Project Gutenberg

08.05.19 Notes on use of annotations

Main question: How can annotation be useful to us, and a third party?

Possible ways

Keep text and annotations together

  • scan and overlay transparencies (more like a graphical representation but perhaps not very readable)
  • write, re-write, cut and paste the annotations in a bigger paper all together
  • use the annotation bot (a digital tool)(it would be cool if you could underline, etc - yes! including graphic elements)
  • if digital, create the possibility to turn on and off the annotations to keep the original text
  • bind the pages into books and make a bootleg library with them

Separate text and annotations (deconstruction / structure analysis)

  • only underlined text (in many ways: lines, circles, waves...)
  • list of questions, tags, notes + composition and mapping of them (different mapping techniques)
  • historical timeline
  • only drawings?
  • free graphical interpretation

Computer driven annotation

  • scrape the text (words processing)
  • pattern recognition
  • delete all articles and implicit elements

Combine the above possibilities

  • overlay of analog annotations to represent "heat patterns" (parts of the text with lots of/little engagement), as well as a digital version that is more legible

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I AM READING? We are discussing form how do we talk about content?
How do you make the content readable for others?
How do you communicate what you're interpreting?

22.05.19 Outlining content of workshops: annotation

a) what purpose does annotation serve (in your case)?

Annotations in the form of accumulative traces of reader's interactions with texts underline the sociability of libraries - not just collections of knowledge but discourse around them; [How?] dispels notions of the singular, authority and property in favour of collectivity and plurality and highlights the social construction of knowledge

b) what does it do for the reader (in your case)?

Simon: Annotation affirms the idea that a text is part of a discourse - not in isolation from other texts/writers - and that knowledge is socially constructed. Annotation is a way for a reader to become visible to others and part of this discourse. It avoids authorship, and singular notions of knowledge production.

c) what does it do for the annotators (in your case)?

Simon: In my case, the annotators are the readers. Annotation exists as an action in response to the text, or to existing annotations. It can be idiosyncratic, and readable only to the annotator, therefore revealing (some) elements of how that particular person interprets the text. But, more often there are unspoken conventions to the types of annotations typically used, e.g. underlining, highlighting, circling, asterisks, dots etc. These can be defined by the technical limitations of the technology used, or linguistic (and typographic) conventions. This commonality begins to create a shared vocabulary through which readers read each other's responses to texts (here "read" can mean interpret, or access, like a file).

look at your project descriptions and use them as a basis to make a plan

  1. define your aim [see above]
  2. what needs to be done?
  3. make a timetable
  4. what needs to be developed further?
  5. who can help you? and how?
  6. consider how you can organise your upcoming methods sessions (5 & 19 June) so they can help you realise your aim.

General question: what is the interface to your part the project. OR How do you invite people in to your project?

first workshop plan - a notation system

"do you read me?" / "a notation system"

- identifying and naming (typo)graphical annotation methods, transcribe them to various media (digital and analog), translating/transcribing each other's systems

- what happens when an action (e.g. writing, drawing) becomes a thing (e.g. a signature, a direction), or when a thing (e.g. a word/annotation) becomes an action (e.g. a performance)?

- can accumulated traces of readership allow users of pirate libraries to be visible but maintain anonymity, therefore consolidating the argument for legitimacy?

Practical ideas for workshop(s):

analog (printed) texts:


- identify and examine various systems of notation (music manuscripts, stage directions from a play/film, choreographic score for dance)

- transcribe these between different media (e.g. stage directions for a PDF, choreographic score for a printout of an essay)


- identify various analog methods of annotating texts (using pens etc.), and name them

- use one (or more) systems to annotate a text


- collective performance of texts with annotations - how do readers read/perform these annotations?

digital texts:


- choose an annotated page from a book (if at Leeszaal), scan it and use Tesseract to OCR the page

- explore the output html of the page, and see what happens to the annotations


- using provided, annotated PDFs (e.g. Borges - Garden of Forking Paths, Le Guin - Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction) - see how annotations can be retained, accumulated

Tool(s)? OCR (Tesseract), pens, paper, computers, scanner(s), printers


to establish lexicon(s) of graphic annotation, ways to identify and define these, and to translate them (e.g. from analogue to digital, from writer to reader)

new knowledge?

(possibly) using tools (such as OCR) to establish interpretations of graphic annotations, ways to retain these traces (or translations of them) when texts are digitised, (i'd reallly like to develop some tools for this), new/different semantic understandings of annotations shared by participants

role of annotation?

to discover what is common or diverse in our experience of reading (and annotating) texts, and also to examine the sociability around these texts - annotation as a way of comprehending not just texts but also those who read them

Marginal Conversations workshop plan


Meet each other: have a quick round of saying something about ourselves and what do we know about pirate/shadow libraries. Short description of the steps of the workshop and let people know we'll be recording.

Overview of what happens in this workshop in one sentence:

1st part: Reading/Annotating, heatmap

2nd part: Discussion, Rehearsal of Performative reading and recording of performance.

Topic: pirate libraries - topic of special Issue 9

Text: "In solidarity with Library Genesis & Sci-Hub" letter

Aim: 2-3 sentences of what is the aim of this workshop. Why this collective reading-conversations matter?

- We see "annotations" as a way to express our understandings/questions/comments/disagreements/ tensions/positions about what we read. So we can discuss about it and form a collective understanding of the text. Our aims are to:

- open up a conversation about pirate libraries, through a deeper collective understanding of a specific text that refers to this topic (enrichment comes through collectively reading and annotating the text)

- develop ways in which texts can become conversations through annotating together

- make public what we have learned about pirate libraries and annotation, and to reflect on the public's response(s)

STEP 1: Reading/Annotating (15min)

Materials: "In Support of Library Genesis & Sci-Hub" English language letter (on A3 spread), A3 tracing paper, ballpoint pens (annotation pack)
Participants: Individual
Archiving step: collect tracing paper, carbon paper

- We provide the solidarity letter in an A3 pack

- Read the text individually

- Annotate the text (It will be traced through carbon paper to the tracing paper underneath.)

STEP 2: Heatmap and discussion through the annotations (20min)

Materials: Same as Step 1
Participants: Whole group
Archiving step: Photographs of annotated texts and discussion

- Create a "heatmap" of the text by placing tracing papers with annotations on top of each other, showing which areas are interesting/remarkable to others.

- We can focus in the most "annotated", thus "active", "interesting", "relevant" parts of the text. At the end of the heatmap stage we introduce the discussion by identifying common areas of annotation, and also listing things that need further definition. Why did you annotate this part? What is the "global north"? etc.

- Comment generally on the text, what was interesting? Did you make sense? Are there specific parts you want to discuss?

- Conclusions? Comments? Discuss the most commented.

- Discuss this experience and anything we want to discuss about pirate libraries, this text, our experiences.

- Collectively determine strategies to "amplify" specific parts of the texts that either

a) we all agree on

b) we don't understand

c) disagree on

d) we want to develop further

e) think are worth repeating/recording

STEP 3: Performative reading (20min)

Participants: All together (if more than 10, divide into two groups???)
Materials: Annotated "In Support of Library Genesis & Sci-Hub" letter, audio recording device (ZOOM rented from WdKA shop/smartphone), (maybe speakers?)
Archiving step: Voice recording

- Introduce by saying: "We are going to read aloud the text in turns, while also performing our annotations. Try to perform your comment to make your position/understanding of the text clear. If you have an annotation, please do or say something (e.g. interrupt, raise your hand, make a noise, use an accent, use intonation to convey emotion etc)."

The text becomes a "play", a performance, a discussion between us

- The purpose is to activate a text, by transforming it into a conversation through spoken annotation

- This reading will be recorded (ask if this is ok)

- Decide on an "interesting" way of performing and record that. It could be more than one language in this audio piece.


At Leeszaal:

- Play the collective recording from speakers placed in shelves at Leeszaal (Bluetooth)


- Printed version with the overlapping of individual comments - heatmap - pocket version???

- Printed URL on annotated tracing paper to direct readers to the online versions of the texts?

- Bookmark or some object (it can be the pocket version) to introduce it in some books in Leeszaal, understanding that as a way to spread the letter (like sowing seeds)


- Transcription of the voice performance (we can be inspired by film transcriptions) - perhaps we could annotate this as well:


- two texts, or one? (Pirate libraries ) Solidarity Letter, Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, Elbakayan's letter, (Could be a text from the opposite side - e.g. a fragment of the court ruling in Elsevier vs Sci-Hub or ?)

- Show samples of our work (recording, tracing papers, pocket book etc)


- possibility of providing the solidarity letter in different languages? - providing two texts with different positions can be polarising rather than producing conversation - demonstration of the "performative reading" can illustrate different positions e.g. position of the authors, the publishers (thinking about loss of profits), how can the annotations reflect this - how do you annotate for dissent (e.g. using different colours etc) - heatmap stage doesn't really show position (perspective), what ways of annotating could draw out these perspectives? - find ways to make the texts into a conversation - "how do you generate conversation through annotation?" - we'll run the same task twice - how can this become a conversation between the two groups? - don’t obsess over producing a fixed/predetermined output in the session (if it means risking losing time for discussion & feedback)


- Work on the production of the folder/pack (carbon paper/tracing paper) that we give to participants - Work on the collection of references to introduce the annotation topic and produce it (if it's finally a physical object) - Tools that we need: Scanner, voice recording , speakers - How to develop the heatmap as an output for the collective annotations (can we automatize the process??)

Publication: The Library Is Open

Letter from XPUB: The Library Is Open

Rotterdam, 3 July 2019

Dear readers,

In the spring and summer of 2019 we developed The Library Is Open, a publication which focuses on the operations, actions, and roles of legal and extra-legal libraries. Central to this project is the community that forms around a collection of texts – the custodians of the collection and the readers.

The Library Is Open is the result of the third iteration of Interfacing the Law, an ongoing research project between XPUB and Constant (BE), which explores issues around extra-legal libraries, software and legal interfaces and intellectual property. Led by our guest editor Femke Snelting, we participated in many activities which were organised by invited guests:

With Bodó Balázs, an economist and researcher on shadow libraries, we analysed the gargantuan dataset of Library Genesis, to determine trends which indicate access to texts and the social, geo-political and economic aspects at play

With Anita Burato and Martino Morandi at the Rietveld Library in Amsterdam, we discovered the subjectivity of subjects and thorny issues of classification and representation

With other readers, we deepened our understandings of texts through collective annotations.

With artist and researcher Eva Weinmayr, who introduced us to The Piracy Project, we examined the possible motivations and differences between pirated books and their "source".

With open-source software such as Tesseract, pdftk, and LibreOffice (and many others) we explored the technical processes used during the creation of pirate libraries, and the hidden labour involved in this.

With fellow pirates, we considered the multiplicity of roles and activities involved in maintaining various libraries, such as Monoskop, Libgen, Aaaaaarg, Sci-Hub, Memory of the World, Project Gutenberg, +++.

With Dušan Barok, the administrator of Monoskop and an alumnus of the Piet Zwart Institute, we discovered how Monoskop was initiated and how it has changed over time.

The variety of our collective sessions, and the practical exercises we performed led us to organise an afternoon of three workshops that directly address the active role of piracy, rather than simply talking about it. Encouraging small, informal, collective actions, we wanted to challenge the ordinary, hierarchical presentation of research projects in the academic context, and individual notions of authorship.

When choosing a suitable venue for our event, we decided to ask Leeszaal (in Dutch "Reading Hall") to host our workshops. Situated in a busy, multicultural area of Rotterdam, Leeszaal exemplifies many values we sympathise with, particularly open access to knowledge, and a focus on the community that uses the space, not just for reading but for many other social purposes. These values we recognise (somewhat nostalgically) as reminiscent of public libraries of yesteryear. However, the landscape today is quite different, with huge online commercial repositories of texts (e.g. JSTOR), protected by paywalls which limit access to them, and in response the emergence of "shadow libraries".

In the following pages we invite you to wander through the dilemmas, outcomes and reflections that came out of our three different workshops, and interviews with people whose work is at the centre of the issues that each workshop uncovers.

Knowledge In Action explores the roles and activities within libraries, such as selection and inclusion of books. Interview with: Dubravka Sekulić & Leeszaal staff.

Blurry Boundaries reveals the hidden processes and labour between the publishing and distribution of physical and digital books. Interview with: Dušan Barok.

Marginal Conversations highlights the sociality of texts, and how they can become conversations through collective reading, annotation and performance. Interview with: Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak.

Yours in piracy, XPUB