Featured Annotator: Jon Udell

Originally published at framework – Gardner Writes (see it there)

Part of the Engelbart Framework Annotation event involves what we’re calling “featured annotators.” As Alan Levine and I discussed the event last fall and early this year, we quickly agreed there should be a meta-layer, or perhaps a meta-meta-layer, in which certain annotators would be interviewed for additional thoughts on Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, and especially their thoughts on their own annotations. How did they select the passages they chose to annotate? How did they think about the nature, tone, length, etc. of the passages they annotated? Most generally (most meta), how do they think about the activity of annotating? It seemed not only interesting but pedagogically effective to hear experts musing metacognitively in this way. And it would be an opportunity to expand the annotations multimodally.

We initially thought about doing real-time streams of people annotating, asking them to think aloud (or one might say “narrate their work“) as they did their annotations, but eventually we decided that would be unwieldy and perhaps a little too much like Monty Python’s “Novel Writing With Thomas Hardy” sketch. I bring up this early abandoned idea, though, as a little marker for considering the mix and character of synchronous and asynchronous events in the act of reading and writing. (More to say on that topic sometime.)

Instead of real-time narration, then, we settled on the idea of post-annotation interviews with our featured annotators. I did three of these interviews last week. If all goes according to plan, there will be fourteen of these interviews by the end of this event. (Chaucer didn’t live to finish his storytelling plan; I hope I do.) Today I’m pleased to say that the first of our featured annotator interviews is ready for your viewing.

I’m speaking with Jon Udell, whose work I became aware of shortly after I became aware of Doug Engelbart’s, a kind of temporal rhyme in my own lifestream. I was at lunch with Jerry Slezak, a member of the dream team at the University of Mary Washington, and Jerry mentioned to me a screencast on the topic of Wikipedia and heavy metal umlaut bands. Intrigued, I watched the screencast as soon as I got back to the office, and was thus introduced to the creative world of a deep thinker–a rare and memorable event. Jon has played a major role in this phase of my own intellectual and professional development. I look to him as an exemplar, a mentor, and a friend.

Here’s my conversation with Jon.