Smarter online communities via the digital humanities.
I envision, prototype, & analyze digital learning interfaces & their user communities, grounded on a strong research background (new PhD, MS) and nearly 10 years professional web design & development. Download my resume.
Currently: Tenure-track Assistant Professor & Digital Humanities Specialist in the Purdue University Libraries.

Screenshots of the interface design from InfiniteUlysses.com

Project Highlights

I realize the humanities at scale, with digital making grounded in cultural heritage to create real-world, innovative impact & radically open collaborations toward more thoughtful, generative, & productive online learning communities.

Social reading interface design

Challenge: Pull the right "sound" for each reader out of the "noise" of a socially annotated text.

How I met the challenge: Designed InfiniteUlysses.com, a digital platform for collaborative annotation of James Joyce's challenging novel. Personalized which annotations on the book were shown to any individual reader through features successful on sites like Reddit and StackExchange: voting, tagging, filtering, sorting, and favoriting, with user-testing and site analytics analysis supporting these methods of customization.

Infinite Ulysses made it into the daily top 20 on Hacker News and had 12,000+ visitors during just the first few weeks of the open beta. 600+ readers have created site accounts and authored 900+ annotations on the text during this early period.

A post-Ph.D. 1.0 release of the site is planned for in late Summer 2015 (see mockup screenshot at bottom of left collage image). This release will divide the site into two parts. One part wil be an elegantly minimal, tablet-friendly "reading" text to serve the many users who come to the site just to get help with armchair reading. The other piece is a "Lab" text where I'll continue experimentation with annotation filtering and curation, interface design, and other features.

The dissertation research around this site, which was successfully defended in April 2015, lives at dr.amandavisconti.com.

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Social reading interface code

Challenge: Make web annotation display easily customizable, adding social rating and favoriting features as proof of concept.

How I met the challenge: Tie the highlighting of annotated text into social voting and SQL queries by creating a Drupal module (PHP, JS) extending Annotator.js. Voting allows users to rate annotation usefulness, while access to SQL queries let readers personalize what annotations are displayed to them using a variety of filters and sorts.

For example: "Don't show me spoilers, show me annotations by others first-time readers of the book; don't show me translations of French since I speak it, but do prioritize annotations on my areas of interest like puns and Irish politics".

Code and other media related to the project (e.g. wireframes, affinity mapping) are available on a public GitHub repository.

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Social reading user experience research

Challenge: Understand how social annotation and personalization affect digital reading.

How I met the challenge: Iterating InfiniteUlysses.com's look and functionality in response to ten kinds of formal and informal user testing, including participatory design sketching, paired observation, formal survey metrics, and analysis of click heatmaps.

Used quantitative and qualitative audience and usability research, data from site use analytics, and data visualization to improve audience design personas. A whitepaper reports on user study and site analytics results.

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Screenshot of non-linear entry into online archive at DigitalDosPassos.com

Interface experiments for digital museums

Challenge: Help an online cultural archive's visitors browse the collection without the arbitrary ordering of a linear index.

How I met the challenge: Instead of rebuilding wheels, experimented with various existing scripts for randomized item display. Customized design of shuffled photographic images to always present digital archive visitors with different paths into a chaotic multimedia collection.

This design ensured item interaction wasn't arbitrary weighted toward items near the beginning of traditional means of sorting a collection such as alphabetical by title or chronological ordering.

Interface design & usability for non-technical audiences

Challenge: Make digital forensics software (think CSI) accessible to digital museum curators, for use on born-digital cultural materials like a famous author's laptop.

How I met the challenge: Crafted video, image, and wiki text documentation making software use understandable and inviting to non-technical users. Revamped Mediawiki site design and information architecture. Software usability testing and recommendations. Wordpress site design for research blogging.

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Data visualization of social networks

Challenge: What patterns of research collaboration and citation emerge as the field of digital humanities develops?

How I met the challenge: Used Gephi to visualize citation networks in digital humanities research, including via Mallet-based topic modeling data.

A website walked the interested public through the questions and design choices encountered.

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Digital humanities

An active member of the digital humanities community (research, teaching, and learning for fields like literature, history, and the arts), including running the Digital Humanities Slack (300+ members in 3 months; join us!) and an elected officer on the executive council of the international digital humanities scholarly organization (ACH, the Association for Computers and the Humanities). I frequently blog my work at LiteratureGeek.com (highlighted 12 times on Digital Humanities Now) and tweet with others in my field (2300+ followers) @Literature_Geek. I co-organized the first THATCamp Games unconference on digital humanities and gaming (rave reviews from attendees), and I was part of an NSF-funded team that designed and ran an educational alternate reality game (ARG) that taught students information literacy and STEM skills.

Information M.S. on digital humanities HCI

Thinking and doing human-computer interaction for over 8 years. I'm trained in HCI (human-computer interaction) and information science via a master's degree from the University of Michigan School of Information, where I designed, ran, and analyzed a formal user study looking at what small design changes to scholarly archives and digital editions would open these interfaces to public audiences.

Unique digital humanities dissertation

Successfully argued for, designed, and defended a unique literature dissertation with zero written chapters, with design, code, usertesting, and blogging around the Infinite Ulysses social reading platform accepted as the full critical work they were. Showcased strong project design and management skills: getting buy-in across my university, completing a unique project in the minimum possible time, parlaying an extremely non-traditional project into a tenure-track professorship. I blogged my design research and technical challenges monthly, and authored a whitepaper discussing design process and product at the end of the project. Now authoring a hybrid print/digital/code repository handbook for others pursuing digital dissertations!

Accessibility

Committed to universal design and accessibility; I helped develop a WordPress plugin to convert posts to Braille output as part of the Making the Digital Humanities More Open team, and I wrote a patch for the browser-grayscaling issue with the WordPress Accessibility plugin that was incorporated into the plugin with version 1.2.9.

Tutorials & documentation

Blogging what I've learned so that others can get started using Gephi for information visualization or other advice like how to do digital work as a humanities graduate student. I'm skilled at translating technical language into public-friendly text.


Free & open-source code

I like to share my works in progress on GitHub (e.g. a maintenance theme for the Omeka digital museum CMS, and a marked-up digital text of Ulysses ready for site import in CSV and HTML formats).

Expertise

Invited speaking 2015-2016 includes the CUNY Graduate Center, Brown University, the MIT Media Lab, the Northeastern University Center for Digital Humanities & Computational Social Science, UCLA Institute for Pure & Applied Math, as well as an invited participant in the One Week | One Tool digital humanities barn-raising that produced the Serendip-o-matic.com playful research source discovery portal, the Speaking in Code symposium of advanced digital humanities developers, and MITH's CrowdCon symposium on meaningful crowdsourcing.


About me

I work across the design research spectrum: envisioning, building, and user-testing digital interfaces, combining strong research backgrounds in data-driven design and literary studies to innovate user experiences for social learning and reading. I'm currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor (Libraries) & Digital Humanities Specialist at Purdue University.

  • M.S. in Information (Human-Computer Interaction)
  • Ph.D. (Literature/Digital Humanities)
  • Various roles from 2009-2015 at one of the world's top digital humanities think tanks (MITH, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities)
  • 9+ years of professional interface design, development, and research
  • Special expertise in social reading, web annotation, collaborative knowledge creation, education, culture and the humanities, and transmedia/alternate reality games

Skills

Using a variety of design & development skills in the service of user interface research.

User research. User study metric creation, deployment, and analysis; custom site analytics including Google Analytics; nVivo; Gephi information visualization. Past R and SPSS experience.

Web development. HTML5, CSS3. Rapidly developing Javascript and PHP skills, most solid in CMS context: I'm a co-creator of the WordPress Braille plugin, and created a Drupal module adding social features like favoriting and voting to Annotator.js. Beginning AngularJS. CMS theming and plugin customization/creation: Drupal, Omeka, Wordpress/WPMU, Buddypress, Mediawiki. XML/TEI, server configuration, MySQL.

Visual digital design. Adobe Creative Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign. Wireframing and rapid interface prototyping.

Interdisciplinary collaboration. Git/GitHub, Basecamp, Lighthouse, Trello, SVN, Slack. Rich experience of team collaboration with diverse roles, backgrounds, audiences.

Clear communication with diverse groups. Academic and technical writing, user-friendly documentation, research blogging, teaching/training, research tweeting (2300+ followers). Expert written and spoken communication between tech and non-tech audiences.