Undergraduate Thesis

John Whittet
The University of Virginia
May 2008



This thesis will discuss the development and analysis of an electronic text tool allowing users to annotate specific portions of a source text via a web browser and Web 2.0 techniques and methodologies. The desire for such a system has been present in the humanities for at least the past decade, and only recently has the state of web browser technology progressed to the point where a seamless application is possible within the constraints of hypertext and its associated languages. Academic literature cites the need for electronic text tools, specifically annotation as a way for researchers to point out and share information with one another, while other texts explain the technological side of the equation, specifically relating to asynchronous hypertext requests. The ethical and societal impacts of this project are widespread, and could have a profound positive impact on the area of humanities computing with very little downside. Fundamentally, the system is a simple web application that relies on asynchronous communication and electronic document manipulation with JavaScript. The system provides a unique service to many different types of users, ranging from humanities researchers to professors to developers. An initial release indicates that such a product would be well received to all these users. The state of the Internet is such that an application allowing the sharing of data worldwide is a boon to researchers and developers alike, though improvements, suggestions, and ideas for this system in the future are diverse and exciting and could well provide an interesting alternative to traditional methods of annotation and sharing ideas.