Coming to Dickens in spring 2009: Tikitags

Last week Alex Jarvis and I found out that we’d gotten funding for a local faculty-student research grant.  Entitled “Tagging Dickens,” it entails putting tikitags (RFID-enabled stickers) inside Dickens novels to see if it helps spur students to use supplemental materials. We’ve got no idea whether it will work, of course, but it seemed like it might produce interesting results.  The application’s project narrative is below the fold.  Details as we have them.

We propose to test a novel method for annotating texts.  Convincing students to use annotations, such as explanatory footnotes, is a challenge in both print and online editions of texts.  By using a system of tikitags and readers, we think that we can both elicit student interest in such supplemental material, and track their use of it.
Tikitags ( are smart stickers: When brought within about 4 cm of a tikitag reader (or an RFID-enabled cellphone), the smart sticker can invoke an action on a computer—for example, it can launch a URL in a web browser, retrieve a photo, or play a music file, and more.

Our plan is to develop a series of annotations for a novel by Charles Dickens, to be selected from the list of novels required for Professor Jones’s spring 2009 course, ENG 458: Studies in British Literature: Dickens.  5 volunteers would be loaned tikitag readers, and their books would have tikitag stickers applied near key passages.

Our hypothesis is that the combination of novelty, ease-of-use, and student awareness of faculty oversight will lead tikitag-using students to use supplemental resources more often than students using either conventional texts or electronic ones.  The project would thus contribute to ongoing debates in the digital humanities about reading across different media, as well as to inquiries into the status of networked objects, as well as users’ interactions with them.  The project arises from Jarvis’s spring 2008 course (with Prof. Jones) on Digital Literary Studies, which included theories of reading and media, and his current course (with Prof. Calvert of Computer Science) on human-computer interaction.

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