Thursday 19 November 2015

Come for the arm bar, stay for an idea about layout options for an annotated anthology

In the wake of the demise of Grantland I've been dipping in and out of this extra-long piece on the history of Brazilian jiu jitsu, as told through the whakapapa of the highly influential originating Gracie family.

As well as the content, I've been very much enjoying the interaction design. The screen is split into two panels: one large right-hand panel for the body of the essay, and the slimmer left hand panel for a collection of assists for the reader.

The default setting is that the chapters of the essay are presented on the left, so you can see where you're at and jump around. The space is also available to add extra context without losing your place. For example, the Gracie family is large and complex. Every time a family member is mentioned, their name is hyperlinked to a family tree, which appears in the left-hand panel. Rolling over the name brings up the family tree in the place of the chapter list, so you can quickly situate them.

Likewise, here's an instructional that gives you a visual for a hallmark submission, the arm bar, that can be called up while you're reading.

It struck me this morning in the shower (everyone's best idea-generating zone, right?) that this format would play beautifully for a art historical texts, especially monographs and anthologies. Take this piece in an old Auckland Art Gallery Quarterly on McCahon's Here I give thanks to Mondrian.

The writer, Peter Tomory, also references several other works in the Gallery's collection: Takaka Night and Day, On Building Bridges, Waterfall, and the wider Gate series. Providing information and images about those works by calling on the McCahon database, letting you read the original text in its original layout and also call up the extra information as you wished to engage with it, could add a lot of value to the reading experience.

Visual footnoting and annotation is nothing new, of course. But I don't stay on top of digital art publishing, so you are simply being subjected to my belated thoughts on this topic - while also being given an opportunity to leave this all behind and click through to an engrossing piece of sports journalism.   

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