In my work as a Tech TA I’m getting exposed to many educational technological tools. The latest I’ve been introduced to is Hypothes.is I’ve been watching several tutorials and have started playing with the features and functionality of the tool. In a nutshell, Hypothes.is is an annotation tool geared to the web and PDFs. One tutorial compared Hypothes.is to a layer that’s placed over a web document containing annotations, comments and discourse. When using the application, all these interactions are revealed. I chose to use the plugin on Google Chrome, which is one way to interact. One can also directly interact with the tool via the Hypothes.is website. Simply enter the url of the piece you’d like to annotate and the page will be encased in the Hypothes.is interface and functionality. Or you can install the bookmarklet into Safari or Firefox. View the tutorial here.

It wasn’t until I saw the application in use that I really appreciated the profound implications. With our current environment of “fake news” and questionable “facts”, providing a space where content can be openly discussed and evaluated creates a level of transparency that’s desperately needed right now. The only caveat is that this discourse is only taking place within the relatively limited Hypothes.is user community.

Which makes me wonder about the next step. Will all online content eventually become openly evaluated for authenticity and critiqued by any and all? That’s something of the case with Wikipedia, although it’s not commentary as much as editing that occurs. I think if this capability existed in a broader sense (beyond Hypothes.is) it would need to be handled carefully. I know how few times I actually read responses to an article or blog post because the comments quickly devolve into infantile exchanges of hostility. Maybe including an On/Off feature on web browsers would be an easy way to view annotations or not. Or those annotating might have to register and provide credentials proving their qualifications to critique content. That may discourage some of the dreck commentary we see.

Tools like Hypothes.is add a new dimension to social interaction on the web. I expect that this functionality will eventually become mainstream and we may all have the opportunity to question the validity and accuracy of the content we read on the web.

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