Developing MediaMatrix: A Secondary Repository Tool

  1. 1. Michael Fegan

    MATRIX - Michigan State University

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Speaker Two will argue that one way we can enhance access to online digital objects (particularly in the humanities) is to facilitate the creation of secondary repositories. These repositories will provide discipline/community specific metadata and applications and will allow users to find, use, manipulate and analyze digital objects more easily.

Even though access by specialist scholars and educators to digital objects has grown at an exponential rate, tangible factors have prevented them from fully taking advantage of these resources in the classroom, where they could provide the conceptual and contextual knowledge of primary objects for their students. When educators do find the materials they need, using objects from various primary repositories to put together presentations and resources for their students and research can be challenging. Beyond merely creating lists of links to primary and secondary resources, assembling galleries of images, segmenting and annotating long audio and video files require far more technical expertise and time than can realistically be expected in the educational context. In addition, even though scholars have a long history of researching archives and are comfortable sifting through records, locating items, and making annotations, comparisons, summaries, and quotations, these processes do not yet translate into online tools. Contemporary bibliographic tools have expanded to allow these users to catalogue and keep notes about media, but they do not allow users to mark specific passages and moments in multimedia, segment it, and return to specific places at a later time. Multimedia and digital repository collections thus remain underutilized in education and research because the tools to manipulate the various formats often frustrate would be users and take too much cognitive effort and time to learn.

To this end, Speaker Two has developed Media Matrix 1.0 — an online, server-side suite of tools that allows users to locate specific media and streaming media files found in digital repositories and segment, annotate and organize this media online. The application has been developed as part of the Spoken Word Project funded by Digital Libraries Initiative II: Digital Libraries in the Classroom Program, National Science Foundation in conjunction with UK's Joint Information Systems Committee.

This application is an online tool that allows users to easily find, segment, annotate and organize text, image, and streaming media found in traditional online repositories. MediaMatrix works within a web browser, using the browser's bookmark feature, a familiar tool for most users. When users find a digital object at a digital library or repository, they simply click the MediaMatrix bookmark and it searches through the page, finds the appropriate digital media, and loads it into an editor. Once this object is loaded, portions of the media can be isolated for closer and more detailed work — portions of an audio or video clip may be edited into a time-segment, images may be cropped then enlarged to highlight specific details. MediaMatrix provides tools so that these media can be placed in juxtaposition, for instance, two related images, a segment of audio alongside related images and audio, and so forth. This can be particularly effective for students and researchers who need to fit images into a presentation or would like to demonstrate specific nuances and details about portions of images or artwork. Most importantly, textual annotations can be easily added to the media, and all this information is then submitted and stored on a personal portal page.

A portal page might be created by a scholar-educator who wishes to provide specific and contextualized resources for classroom use, and/or by a student creating a multimedia-rich essay for a class assignment. While these users have the immediate sense that they are working directly with primary objects, it is important to emphasize that primary repository objects are not actually being downloaded and manipulated. MediaMatrix does not store the digital object, rather, it stores a pointer to the digital object (URI) along with time or dimension offsets the user specified for the particular object and the user's annotation for that particular object. This use of URI pointing as opposed to downloading is especially significant because it removes the possibility that items may be edited and critiqued in contexts divorced from their original repositories, which hold the primary and crucial metadata for such objects.

As long as primary repositories maintain persistent URIs for their holdings the pointer to the original digital object will always remain within the secondary repository, which acts as a portal to both the primary collection and contextualizing and interpretive information generated by individuals on items in those collections. This information can be stored in a relational database along with valuable information about the individual, who supplies a profile regarding their scholarly/educational background, and provides information of the specific purposes for this work and the user-group (a class, for example) accessing the materials. Media Matrix is a PHP based server side application that stores information in a mySQL database and exports that information into XML for display. The development of the tool and programming environment have been designed to keep it library and archive independent so that it can work with almost any site on the internet. It can also work easily with any of the standard courseware packages. The tool is also search independent because it relies on traditional internet search tools and a site's discovery tools to find an object. Once objects are found, Media Matrix is deployed by the user. Because Media Matrix does not actually copy the digital object from the site (it only stores a pointer to the object in the form of a URI and whatever time offsets are created by the user), it avoids some of the copyright and fair use pitfalls that often keep users from working with digital objects (although there are issues of deep linking to be addressed). The secondary repository can thus be searched and utilized in any number of ways.

Historians, for example, can browse the portals of other historians working specifically in their research areas or K-12 teachers can browse grade appropriate sections defined by specific grade levels and subjects to see what digital objects other teachers are using or, more important, for time challenged teachers, they can find specific presentations created around standard topics and curriculum frameworks. Users can also perform keyword searches over the annotations created by all users or specific groups of users. A teacher, for instance, can choose to search through only the information in eleventh-grade Civics groups in hopes of finding information that speaks directly to his/her needs. Because users have gathered content from across the Internet and from a variety of digital repositories, searching Media Matrix is equivalent to searching multiple repositories at once. Once users find an object from a particular digital library, they can jump to that repository to find what other objects are available.

Going beyond demonstration, this paper will also dive the latest findings and evaluations based on initial user testing in several classrooms as Tufts University and Michigan State University.

Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

June 15, 2005 - June 18, 2005

139 works by 236 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double checked.

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (25), ALLC/EADH (32), ACH/ALLC (17)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None