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Genius Annotation Project Proposal

As we discussed, I’m going to focus my final paper on researching social annotation through the Genius platform, and potential implication of the platform on reading and writing. I want to do this through the Barthsian lens of “Text” and reading through writing, which is expressed in the annotation platform.

As I’ve researched over the past few days, and as we’ve read through works in class, I’ve been interested in seeing how hierarchies of authorship shape the possibilities of annotation. Genius plays with this a lot, as have prior (more primitive) annotation platforms like this one developed for the web browser Mosaic (this website introducing the tool is almost 22 years old, according to a domain dating tool I used)—the inventor of Mosaic invested 15 million into the development of Rap Genius, since he had originally hoped to officially incorporate a group annotation tool into the Mosaic browser. On the entry way for the annotation tool, developed by the university of Utah, it lists two caveats as a result of completely free annotation: 1. Be nice, don’t mess with other’s annotations; and 2. don’t trust all the annotations you read. Using this website as a primary source of early group annotation and looking as those tenants as a sort of rhetorical guide for how annotation has developed, and now exists on Genius, will be a useful tool in my research.

I also hope to think about the implication of the authorship and development of the website itself, by a small team of white, male, Yale-graduate “brogrammers,” has on senses of annotation stemming out of an inherently black genre and how that translates to other genres on the site. It may be worthwhile in this vein to research and compare to how as a platform which has been rebranded to annotate *everything* the volume and quality of annotation differ from text to text (i.e. Rap from today to Harlem Renaissance Fiction, to Victorian Poetry), and think about what it suggests for audience and writers on the platform.

There are plenty of news articles about Genius as it has rose in prominence on the web, but there are not many scholarly articles that I can find (I have only found one so far)—I’m not sure if this is because searching “genius” is not at all specific enough to use in search engines, or because there really isn’t anything on the website. This poses a challenge but also an opportunity: I don’t have much to contribute to in terms of established discourse, but I do have a lot of freedom with where to go with my project.

I’m planning on turning my final essay into a project on Manifold, through which—in the spirit of my questions about annotation—I would be able to annotate my own work, open it up to the annotation of others. Using it for the “Benito” project was a fun introduction, but I am curious to see what else is possible on such a flexible (and beautiful!) platform. I am also excited to play with incorporating visuals (maybe interactive?) from Genius as I work on/with that platform in my research, into my completed project.

And finally, sorry for the delay in posting! There is more research to be done on this, and my direction may change course slightly, but this is where it seems to be going at the moment.

2 thoughts on “Genius Annotation Project Proposal

  1. Lisa Hirschfield

    Mosaic! It was the first web browser I used, and I remember it was pretty basic–as was the web. It’s remarkable that the developer was thinking of public annotation as a mode of exploration and connection way back then. (Of course, that was the hope we all had for the WWW.)

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  2. Jeff Allred

    Good start, and I have a pretty good sense of the different directions you might take from our chat. I do think you have two pretty different topics brewing here: a) a history of annotation on the web a la Liu in THE LAWS OF COOL and b) an analysis of genius.com and its aesthetics/politics as articulated through its design as well as its content. As you move forward, I think you’ll have to choose which button to click, as it were…

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