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Mellon Funds Manifold Digital Publishing Platform for a Second Time

Manifold is an open-source, web-based publishing platform that is poised to change the way we read.

For the past several years, the GC Digital Scholarship Lab, directed by Professor Matthew K. Gold (English and Digital Humanities), The University of Minnesota Press, and digital development agency Cast Iron Coding have been developing an open-source, web-based publishing platform called Manifold that’s poised to change the way we read. This spring, they received a $789,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support phase two of the project.
Manifold allows academic publishers to think beyond the normal confines of traditional print limitations, accommodating an expansive archive of sources like pictures, audio, video, and interactive data right alongside the text. Publishers can use Manifold to gather annotations and comments from readers, solicit community feedback, and even reveal a book’s evolution by publishing early drafts.
The seeds for Manifold were planted in 2013, when the team created a web platform for Debates in the Digital Humanities, a print text published in 2012 that become a series involving a hybrid print/digital publication stream. After receiving their first Mellon Foundation grant in 2015, the Manifold team sought to create a platform modeled on the Debates website that other publishers could use.

Professor Matthew K. Gold

Now, they’re working on expanding Manifold’s capabilities even further. “We think Manifold will be of interest to a range of people — publishers, certainly, but also scholars and students who might be collaborating on a Google Doc of some kind; Manifold can quickly transform that doc into a professional-grade publication,” Gold says. “We also want to apply Manifold in a teaching context, where faculty could upload public domain texts to Manifold so that students can come together to annotate it publicly or privately.”
Doug Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press and co-principal investigator on the Manifold grant, says that “one of the great things about partnering with the GC Digital Scholarship lab has been that Matt Gold and his team see the broad potential of a publication platform such as Manifold; having created a tool that works for book publishers, we now see we can also have an impact on digital scholarship, teaching, and public engagement. And we’re still just scratching the surface."    
CUNY has launched its own installation of Manifold, reflective of the university’s ever-broadening commitment to OER (Open Educational Resources) publishing and digital humanities scholarship. There has been a flurry of activity, Gold reports, from Graduate Center students researching public domain texts for Manifold use to one Lehman College faculty member building an OER textbook on African-American literature. One CUNY school is looking into publishing some of its student theses on Manifold. Lisa Tagliaferri, a recent graduate of The Graduate Center’s Comparative Literature Ph.D. program, published a Manifold edition of How to Code in Python 3 on the platform and wrote about the experience on the Manifold blog.
The Graduate Center has recently opened an M.A. in Digital Humanities Program, which grew out of a track in the M.A. in Liberal Studies program. Add the GC’s new M.S. in Data Analysis and Visualization program, the ongoing work of GC Digital Initiatives, and the forthcoming CUNY Center for Digital Scholarship and Data Visualization, Gold says, and you’ve got a recipe for extraordinary growth in the GC’s engagement with digital scholarship. “Pulling all these pieces together is helping put The Graduate Center at the forefront of digital humanities work more broadly and enabling our students to succeed in the field.”

Submitted on: MAY 1, 2018

Category: Data Analysis and Visualization | Digital Humanities | English | Faculty | General GC News