Friday, January 29, 2016

Annotation as action---> what about civic action?

T-Mobile annotates Verizon ad to introduce a counter-narrative 

With cell phone commercials everywhere and TVs now DVR enabled to allow us to fast forward through commercials, it is possible that a recent spate of ads for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile might not have captured the attention of educators the way it captured mine. Amidst the noise coming from disinteresting carrier wars came a visually stimulating ad meant to illustrate Verizon wireless' superiority over the competition. The response from their competitor T-Mobile, which published on YouTube just under a month later struck me as a unique model of advertising remix, meant to challenge the claims of the Verizon ad and perhaps provoke a critical "reread" of Verizon's add. The two ads together tell a story about the potential for annotation as action and also the power of the web as a medium for pushing back on dominant media narratives.

Verizon's ad

T-Mobile's mark up

Three things I took away from my quick comparison: 

1. The simplicity of Verizon's ad allowed space for pop ups. Since Verizon's ad is everywhere, interested consumers have enough familiarity with the content of the original ad to understand T-Mobile's critical markup. 

2. T-Mobile's add prompts viewers to reread the Verizon ad. The best example of this is the text and arrow that exclaim, "Holy small print, Batman!" Interesting how they reference the history of the pop-up quotation bubble. 

3. There is a crude joke that runs through the T-Mobile ad, repeatedly referring to Verizon Wireless' balls. The over-the-top snark of this double entendre attempts to bring a form of Internet flaming mainstream.

T-mobile's attempt to undercut Verizon's narrative is noteworthy because it shows how informal media channels and participatory culture have opened a door for using effective remix and digital annotation as an action campaign. 

Cenk Uygur annotates a CNN interview to introduce a critical narrative about CNN's journalism

Actress Susan Sarandon has begun stumping for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and recently sat down with both CNN and the progressive YouTube news channel The Young Turks. The video below is Cenk Uygur's critical contrast of the two interviews. Instead of delving deeper into Sarandon's answers or her known liberal politics, he introduces a counter narrative about the CNN interview, claiming that the questions reveal the biases of wealthy CNN journalists. He argues that the groupthink in the CNN newsroom makes them dismissive of Sanders' progressive message and colors their approach to covering Sarandon's endorsement. 

Three parallel things I noticed

1. Like the Verizon ad above, CNN's format lends itself to a critical markup. Interviews are short and dominated by the questioner who is trying to create a low-substance one minute debate with the hopes of conveying lite controversy just before the next commercial break. 

2. Uygur's commentary introduces a critical lens for rereading CNN's Sarandon interview and, going forward, for watching CNN's journalists critically as they conduct interviews throughout the election season. 

3. He closes the segment by leveraging the informal language of internet flaming to question why anyone goes on CNN to "deal with this crap" and boasting "I guess that's why we're beating CNN all over the Internet."

Like T-mobile's attempt to undercut Verizon's narrative,  this critique shows how informal media channels and participatory culture have opened a door for using effective remix and digital annotation as an action campaign. 

These models, and the parallels between them, suggest a powerful intersection at the corners of critical media literacy, digital remix and social annotation. How might those intersections engage youth and help them discover their voices and agency in a new media landscape? How might this intersection inform reading instruction in schools? 


  1. I used to add comments to the article. Loved the video by Cent Uygur.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Daniel. I responded using and I appreciate the feedback. I may revise a little based on your notes.

  3. Comments in So, if you have and your readers are using it was is the function of the comment panel at the bottom of the page. Has a very elderly feel to it. Also think of this in metaphorical terms. Old school commenting is on the bottom with the all the symbolism that entails while new annotation is side-by-side and equal.

    1. There is a big difference between comments in the margin and comments below. Maybe comments on the side speak more to the reader's immediate reactions to specific parts of the text. I know as the writer, the comments alongside draw me into a conversation.

  4. Since we've shared this conversation via Twitter with our various networks, what happens when someone clicks the link. Do they need to already have on their PC? Are the prompted with a sign in? Or are they wondering what it is they should be looking at?

    1. Once someone has installed hypothesis, they can see the comments on the side. Also, our public comments appear in the stream of public notes at