3. Social Knowledge Creation Tools

The methods and channels for social knowledge creation proliferate alongside an increasingly networked world. Individuals, corporations, academic organizations, and others have all developed and employed tools of varying usefulness and relevance for social knowledge creation. The following section of the annotated bibliography outlines a brief scan of current digital social knowledge creation tools. By collecting these diverse tools into a single compiled list, we attempt to describe the breadth of social knowledge creation applications and services available. From the commercial to the open source, the proprietary to the freely available, these tools all contribute to social knowledge creation in the digital sphere at large.

Certain resources included here remain specific to the digital humanities community, while many other examples fall outside of that delineated space. Frequently, the latter can be applied or repurposed for the former. With this potential usage in mind, we include selections that may, at first glance, appear more or less relevant than others. Theoretically, an abundance of digital applications and services could be classified as social knowledge creation tools. In order to present a manageable amount of relevant information, we have divided the selections of this annotated bibliography into 5 categories of 55 individual entries, accompanied by a complete alphabetical list:

  1. Collaborative Annotation
  2. User-Derived Content
  3. Folksonomy Tagging
  4. Community Bibliography
  5. Shared Text Analysis
  6. A Complete Alphabetical List of Selections

Of note, we have included only tools that were active at the time of writing. The temporal nature of the Internet dictates that many of these tools will eventually become obsolete. Instead of considering the compilation below as an authoritative, static list, therefore, we encourage readers to consider the included selections as an archival snapshot of current social knowledge creation tools. We hope that this list may serve as a representative of early twenty-first-century social knowledge creation tools, even as they morph and change with Internet trends and technology.

​The outlined five categories intentionally compliment each other, and often a multipurpose or easily extensible entry may relate to multiple categories. While some of the tools are purposely dedicated to social knowledge creation, others can be applied for use in a social knowledge creation context, or can be hacked or repurposed to serve social knowledge creation ends. The first category, “Collaborative Annotation,” features tools that facilitate multi-participant annotation of a shared document, image, or other digital artifact. Annotation is pivotal to scholarly research and production. Remediating annotation practices has been a pressing concern as an increasing amount of scholarly resources and projects move into the online sphere. Furthermore, the rise of social knowledge creation practices has encouraged the active development of collaborative annotation—the practice of annotating a document along with a group of online collaborators. Of course, there is no one right way to engage in collaborative annotation. This practice is also not limited to the academy; in fact, collaborative annotation tools have been largely taken up in the project management and business world, where many teams jointly develop and comment on documents or prototypes. The 17 tools in this category have been selected based on their relevance, usability, portability, and overall capacity to instigate social knowledge creation via shared annotation. Although the predominant focus of this category is concerned with how collaborative annotation can induce social knowledge creation in the scholarly community, tools that are relevant to various communities and can be applied broadly present perhaps the most interesting opportunities for initiating truly social knowledge creation.

“User-Derived Content,” the second constellation of entries, comprises tools and services that foster the development of user content. Online repositories that encourage the production of user-derived content showcase the breadth of and possibilities for social knowledge creation in the digital realm. Although individuals have been generating content (read: interacting, making artifacts, sharing experiences) for centuries, the Internet has facilitated the creation of vastly popular, widespread, and specifically delineated spaces for presenting this content. Issues arise as this content is farmed or otherwise exploited by corporations, many of which actively promote the creation of user-generated or user-derived content. The tools and services highlighted here take a different tack from those of their more boldly capitalist digital brethren. The 10 selections comprise exhibits, databases, networks, and game-based credential systems that facilitate social knowledge production by the very nature of their form. Many of these tools are for use in an academic or otherwise educational context. Often, these tools and services enable users to both generate content and manipulate, catalogue, visualize, or otherwise engage with their own and others’ content.

The third category, “Folksonomy Tagging,” includes tools and services for folksonomy development via content producer and consumer tagging. Through folksonomy or social tagging practices, individuals can add metadata to artifacts for their own or others’ searching and indexing benefit. Folksonomy tagging creates an infrastructure of navigable digital images, texts, videos, and sites, and provokes social knowledge creation by supplying the tools to efficiently access and otherwise manipulate user-generated content. Although folksonomy tagging is most common in social networks, this category includes six diverse selections that range from predominantly social media sites to digital bookmarking applications to community commerce spaces. The variance between entries speaks to the many ways in which folksonomy tagging can be used to foster social knowledge creation.

“Community Bibliography” describes tools and applications that enable collaborative and shared cataloguing and reference management. A variety of cataloguing and reference management systems and resources have been developed to aid scholars in the creation, organization, application, and publication of bibliographies. This category includes 15 browser-based, desktop, and command-line tools. In addition to providing means to a more efficient workflow process through simple import and export functions, many of these tools also allow for easier methods of publication or creation of online exhibits. We expand the concept of community bibliography to include comprehensive code repositories, pivotal as they are for organizing, accessing, and harnessing contemporary social knowledge creation. Online reference management and social bookmarking systems are increasingly structured as social networks or in ways that encourage collaboration by allowing for shared lists, libraries, notes, and discussion forums. Many tools also offer tagging functions in a folksonomy style to allow for higher searchability and dynamic recommendations of sources based on similar users. The majority of tools listed in this category target an academic audience, with certain selections geared toward humanities scholars and others toward scientists.

The final category, “Shared Text Analysis,” outlines web-based tools designed for collaborative text analysis and visualization. Increasingly, literary scholars recognize computer-aided text analysis as a relevant method for humanities work. Additionally, a growing number of online tools create new opportunities for sharing and collaboration during the text analysis process. This category outlines seven web-based tools and applications that supplement scholarly work in the realms of textual analysis, text comparison, annotation, markup, tagging, and visualization. The online nature of the tools makes collaborative work easier for textual scholars, as multiple users can view, access, and work on the same texts.

Social Knowledge Creation Tools is intended to round out the larger environmental scan of current academic, para-academic, and non-academic instantiations and explorations of social knowledge creation. As social knowledge creation and the digital environment become increasingly intertwined, it is important to examine who is involved in the shaping of this field, and how. Ideally, the reader of this section of the annotated bibliography will benefit from the breadth and depth of selected tools, services, and applications, and find it a useful resource for the active study, participation, and instigation of social knowledge creation.