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10.10.2019 | ISS 2019 | ADWL Mainz

Critical Annotation Methods for Text and Images

A Practical and Theoretical Approach

Workshop held during the International Summer School (ISS) at Mainz 2019

M. Grüntgens (ADWL Mainz) | D. Kasper (ADWL Mainz) | T. Kollatz (ADWL Mainz)
Twitter | Twitter @digicademy | Twitter digicademy | mainzed Mitglieder im mainzed-Netzwerk
Released under CC BY 4.0 (Max Grüntgens, Dominik Kasper, Thomas Kollatz; Digitale Akademie)



Philosophical Introduction

See also: Handbook Text

Let’s start with some Etymology! – Critique

Kant's Critique


“… it exhibits me in a world which has true infinity, but which is traceable only by the understanding, and with which I discern that I am not in a merely contingent but in a universal and necessary connection, as I am also thereby with all those visible worlds. The former view of a countless multitude of worlds annihilates as it were my importance as an animal creature, which after it has been for a short time provided with vital power, one knows not how, must again give back the matter of which it was formed to the planet it inhabits (a mere speck in the universe).” (Critique of Practical Reason, 5: 161–2)


“Kant […] thus conclude[s] that all of our knowledge is restricted to the way in which the world necessarily appears to creatures like us – although we also remain free to think of the world in other ways, and even must do so for the purposes of morality.” (Guyer, 33)

Aspects of the Critical

Critical Theory

Theories arise from the interests of humans. [...] Depending on what torments us in the world and what we want to change, the picture that we make of it will shape itself” (Horkheimer in GS 2, 434)

A truly critical outlook has to acknowledge …

Let’s start with some Etymology! – Method

“A process that is planned according to means and purposes, leading to technical skill in solving theoretical and practical tasks.”

(Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, 876)

Critique by Method?

Synthesis occurs when, starting with the principles, we derive doctrines and tasks through composition. […] Analysis, on the other hand, occurs when we seek the principles, with the help of which [said doctrines or tasks] become demonstrable or solvable, based on a given conclusion or a given task.

Leibniz, 194, citation follows Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, vol. 2, 877.

Critique by Method?

Critique and Methods

Let’s start with some Etymology! – Annotation

By means of the praxis of Annotating the annotating subject (un)consciously establishes a link between an intelligible object and a specific proposition that relates the subject has formerly (un)consciously established as subjectively meaningful.

Constitutive parts of an Annotation

Centering the Individual

[Phenomenology is thus in the mode of] discovering the unexpected horizons within which the real finds itself, which is thus captured by the representative thinking, but also from the concrete, pre-predicative life, starting from the body (innocent), starting from the culture (less innocent perhaps). Hands reach, turning of the head, speaking a language, [all] being the “sedimentation” of a story – all this transcendentally requires contemplation and contemplated. In demonstrating that consciousness and the represented being emerge from an unrepresentable “context,” Husserl has cast doubt on the place of truth in representation. [...] The ideas that transcend consciousness can not be separated from their genesis in through-and-through temporal consciousness. (Levinas, cited following Stegmaier, 38–9, see also 44–6)

Centering the Individual

When one introduces the observer, the speaker or the one to whom something is attributable, one relativizes the ontology. In fact, one must always carry the thought of an observer when one wants to say what the case is, so one must always observe an observer, name an observer, designate a system reference when making statements about the world. […] We now always have to deal with a description of the world, which filters out the presentation of the facts including purposes, readiness to act and the like by the reference to an observer. There is always the question of who says that and who does it and from what system the world is seen so and not otherwise. (Luhmann, 134)

Centering the Individual

The search for objectivity is […] laudable, but we should’nt forget that any objectivity, any explanation, […] theoretical modelling, presupposes the first-person perspective as its precondition. […] [Every science is] a cultural formation. It is knowledge that is shared by a community of experiencing subjects and which presupposes a triangulation of points of view or perspectives. This is also why the ususal opposition of first-person vs. third-person accounts is misleading. It makes us forget that third-person scientific accounts are accomplished and generated by a community of conscious [first-person] subjects. […] [The 3P-view] is a view we can adopt on the world. Science [however] has its roots in the lifeworld, […] [in] the prescientific sphere, and is performed by embodied and embedded subjects. (Zahavi, 53–4)

Interim conclusion

An objectively correct ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of Annotation does not exist. “Any understanding of reality is by definition perspectival. Effacing our perspective does not bring us any closer to the world. It merely prevents us from understanding anything at all.” (Zahavi, 28) Thus every instantiation of Annotation as operation in practice ties in with a discursive web of prior Annotations.

What is a Text

“The Text is a methodological field. […] The work rests in the hand, the text rests in the language.” (Barthes, 42)
“The text only manifests itself in the process of work, in the process of production.” (Barthes, 42)
“It is only a complex concept of text – that grasps the interplay of stability and unbounded movement of syntagmatic coherence and paradigmatic polyvalence – that can do justice to the artful character of text.” (Martens, 107)


Looking for Annotations

Looking for Annotations!



  • What kind of structures, what kind of targets of Annotation may be perceived in the text?
  • How would you model the perceived structures? Why would you do so?
  • Please, focus on structural aspects first.


Structual Granularity

Types of Annotation

Fundamental differentiation of Annotation


10 Minuten


Do you have priour experience with formal languages used for Annotation purposes?


Textual annotation

Implicit vs. Explicit


(INSCHRIFTEN mit Klammern)

Implicit vs. Explicit


Implicit vs. Explicit

A(nno) D(omini) · 1557 · DES · SVN=/NABENDE · NA · DES · HILLIGEN · CREVTZES · DAGE ·


What might be advantages and disadvantages of either mode of Annotation?

Annotation as Kulturtechnik

Annotation covers a broad territory. It has been construed in many ways: as link making, as path building, as commentary, as marking in or around existing text, as a decentering of authority, as a record of reading and interpretation, or as community memory.

Catherine C.Marshall: Toward an ecology of hypertext annotation 1998

Each note is just one element that gets its quality from the network of references and referrals in the system.

Niklas Luhmann: Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen, 1981


10 Minuten


Image annotation

Let’s look for Annotations!

Simple, (not so) simple difference between text and image?

Technical differences

Fry! Stay back! He's too powerful!

And yet you haven't said what I told you to say! How can any of us trust you? Say it in Russian! Why, those are the Grunka-Lunkas! They work here in the Slurm factory. Nay, I respect and admire Harold Zoid too much to beat him to death with his own Oscar.

Ask her how her day was. I guess because my parents keep telling me to be more ladylike. As though! No.

Stop! Don't shoot fire stick in space canoe! Cause explosive decompression!

  • Author: Paul Média – Lizenz: CC-BY-SA – Quelle

Technical differences

  • Author: Paul Média – Lizenz: CC-BY-SA – Quelle

Review Granularity

An object’s granularity creates the coordinate system in which an annotation may be located.

Some good advice!


Annotation in GeoJSON format

Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; es kommt aber darauf an, sie zu verändern.

Karl Marx, Thesen über Feuerbach, 11.



Any Questions?



Resources - Bibliography (Philosophical Introduction)

Resources - Literature

Resources - Software