In my role as Digital Humanities Librarian, I manage a monthly DH newsletter for faculty on campus to share readings, events, and other DH items. In the newsletter I highlight one DH tool each month, creating a sample project and sharing my thoughts. To keep the emails short, my full thoughts will be posted here under the Tool Reviews category.
ABOUT THE TOOL
Storiiies is a tool developed by Cogapp, a UK-based digital agency, that allows user to annotate images to create interactive stories. It is free, web-based, and extremely easy to use. As the name suggests, it is based on the IIIF standards, however users do not need to be familiar with the standard to use the tool. Although those who do use IIIF can use the data that is created for other uses.
To test the tool I created a sample story using the painting The Money Family In Their Garden at Argenteuil by Edouard Manet. As a note, I did not write any of the material in this story, I took the text from the catalog entry written by Jane R Becker for the Met Museum. You can view my project by clicking the image below or visiting it here: https://storiiies.cogapp.com/viewer/da3eu/The-Monet-Family-in-Their-Garden-at-Argenteuil . Unfortunately my WordPress plan won’t allow me to embed the project, but I am pursuing a work around for future reviews.
HOW IT WORKS
To get started users can add images either by adding an IIIF manifest or info.json URL (if they know it) or they can simply upload the image from a file. If they upload the image Storiiies will create an IIIF manifest for the file. But again, users need not be aware of IIIF to create a story. It is simply there for advanced users if they wish.
As a note, users do not have to make an account. Storiiies needs an email so that they can send you the links for both the finished version of the project and the page where it can continue to be edited.
The way the annotations work is as users add the text of the annotation they can zoom in, or out, of the work to set the view that is visible. It doesn’t require any coding, you use their zoom tools and whatever is visible on the screen is what is shown in the final project. It is also simple to rearrange and edit the annotations as you work.
For more information I recommend this video Cogapp published about the tool. It is just under 30 minutes long and is extremely informative.
I believe Storiiies is a useful tool for any project or assignment where a student is close reading an image. It doesn’t just have to be for art history, although it is extremely well suited to explore art in depth, One of their sample projects annotates a photograph of a wasp to explain the physiology of the insect. One could also upload a map to explain either details of the map itself, or explore the map in the context of a particular event. This project by Jo-Ann Wong, “Hong Kong and its History” is a great example of how maps can be utilized in the tool. Arts classes could also use the tool to allow students to explain their artwork by pointing out details, or to have students use the annotations to critique each other’s work.
LIMITATIONS AND AFFORDANCES
Storiiies is so easy to use because it is such a straight forward tool. That does have a few drawbacks, annotations (at least as far as I can tell) are plain text only. It would be wonderful to be able to include links in the text at some point, as well as do some minor text formatting. The final projects are also embeddable (although some platforms, *coughs WordPress*, won’t allow iFrames on their platform.) which makes them easy to share on a course page or in blog posts. And for those advanced users who are familiar with IIIF, they can take the data that is created and add it to other IIIF viewers to interact with. This is not my area of expertise, and I do recommend watching the video above for more information if this is something you are interested in. The fact that is creates data that is reusable and interoperable is very exciting though.
Now Storiiies isn’t the only tool to close read images. There are a few others out there and if Storiiies doesn’t quite meet your needs one of these may be a better fit.
- StoryMapJS “Gigapixel”
While StoryMapJS is primarily a mapping tool, there is a way to use their gigapixel tool to explore images instead. It does require that you host the image file somewhere else, but you can create richer annotations that include other media.
If these are not powerful enough for you Juncture may be a better option. It is a much more advanced tool to create visual essays that explore images, but would probably not be suitable for beginners. The essays are coded in GitHub and they have very clear documentation if you want to give it a try.
I may do reviews of these tools in the future, so keep an eye out if you are curious about the distinctions between them.