Metatation: Annotation as Implicit Interaction to Bridge Close and Distant Reading


Hrim Mehta, Adam Bradley, Mark Hancock, Christopher Collins


In the domain of literary criticism, many critics practice close reading, annotating by hand while performing a detailed analysis of a single text. Often this process employs the use of external resources to aid analysis. In this article, we present a study and subsequent tool design focused on leveraging a critic’s annotations as implicit interactions for initiating context-specific computational support that automatically searches external resources.We observed 14 poetry critics performing a close reading, revealing a set of cognitive practices supported through free-form annotation that have not previously been discussed in this context. We used guidelines derived from our study to design a tool, Metatation, which uses a pen-and-paper system with a peripheral display to utilize reader annotations as underspecified interactions to augment close reading. By turning paper-based annotations into implicit queries, Metatation provides relevant supplemental information in a just-in-time manner and acts as a bridge between close and distant reading.



  • H. Mehta, A. J. Bradley, M. Hancock, and C. Collins, “Metatation: Annotation as Implicit Interaction to Bridge Close and Distant Reading,” ACM Trans. on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), p. 35:1–35:41, 2017.
    [Bibtex] [PDF] [DOI]
      title={Metatation: Annotation as Implicit Interaction to Bridge Close and Distant Reading},
      author={Hrim Mehta and Adam James Bradley and Mark Hancock and Christopher Collins},
      journal = {ACM Trans. on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)},
     pages = {35:1--35:41},
     articleno = {35},
     numpages = {41},
      doi = {10.1145/3131609}


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