Many would say the digital landscape today offers an overabundance of potential educational resources: electronic databases and journals, public archives and shared personal collections, the myriad media of all quality and formats available on the open web. But these materials can actually hinder scholarship if they cannot be corralled with ease into analysis by instructors, students and researchers. Serious study of multimedia objects is often particularly difficult. Here the focus, specificity, and proof that scholars have come to expect in text-based work can be thwarted by the very real difficulties of interweaving source material and analysis. The effort of selecting and recontextualizing pertinent pieces of text within critical discourse seems nostalgically simple when compared to the logistical challenges of invoking source materials across a range of formats and hosted in a variety of places, often with divergent rules and permissions.
MediaThread is an innovative, open-source platform for exploration, analysis, and organization of web-based multimedia content. The MediaThread environment connects to a variety of image and video archives (such as YouTube, Flickr, library databases, and university course collections), enabling users to lift items out of these sources and into an analysis environment using a simple browser-installed bookmarklet. Once in MediaThread, items can be clipped, annotated, organized, and embedded into essays and other written analysis, requiring users to formalize thinking, clarify interpretations, and improve arguments with evidence.
MediaThread especially supports collaboration. Work in MediaThread can be shared with classmates, collaborators or larger audiences. Groups of users can build essays and other types of projects together, incorporating items that they have collected independently. A customized home page and collaborative tagging help users discover common themes and interests, as well as track work being done by others on shared items and projects -- even allowing them to incorporate annotations made by others into their compositions. Since MediaThread is compatible with image as well as video objects, it liberates analysis from the constraints of any one collection or format.