Our collaboration with Georgetown University was truly a dream project: creating an innovative platform for deep reading course. The unique aspect of the course is that it’s the first of its kind to focus exclusively on the Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
MyDante platform encourages readers to experience the poem as a journey that is both profoundly personal and meaningfully shared. MyDante is built on a conceptual framework that emphasizes mindfulness and contemplative reading habits as key to deriving lasting meaning from poetic texts.
The platform consists of two parts: edX and MyDante. MyDante is a self-guided platform for anyone wishing to have an in-depth reading experience with Dante's Divine Comedy. edX is the courseware platform which increases user’s engagement with the content by providing comprehension checks.
MyDante platform contains four modes with which to engage with the text. These are:
In this mode, you will have access to the Divine Comedy translated into English and in the original Italian.
This mode is similar to reading mode but enables you to make annotations and add images from the media library,
creating a personalized record of your relationship to the poem.
To create a richly interactive experience, it was clear we needed a set of interface components that workedseparately and together within a common visual theme.
The Guided mode contains instructional materials in addition to the text of the poem.
This mode features the course team’s commentary on each canto, selected videos, images, and annotations.
The guided mode features art pieces that were created over centuries by different painters and associated with poem's fragments. These art pieces are meant to accompany the text and enhance your reading.
These annotations explore the Literal, Interpretive, and Reflective levels of meaning. The Literal annotations provide additional insight to help you understand the basic meaning of poem. The Interpretive annotations are meant to help analyze and interpret the story. The Reflective annotations provide additional comments meant to spur contemplative thoughts about meaning of the text overall and connect it to your life.
Videos are meant to be watched in the order you encounter them throughout the guided mode and provide guiding commentary on the themes and episodes you encounter in that canto.
Social mode is like the personal mode in that it features images and allows you to make annotations,
but it also allows you to interact with your peers via public annotations.
Dashboard includes the latest course updates and your participation status.
Books holds the primary texts for this course.
The complete UI design keeps a very minimal look with accent color and typography, which gives more
contemporary feel. We aimed to kept typography classic, but with character and modernity.
For the iconography we went with a line-style that helped underline a wish for a subtle navigation that wouldn'ttake away too much attention from the content.
The MyDante platform was designed to encourage contemplative reading in a number of ways. Students can annotate the text of the poem, which helps them to work through the first two levels of interpretation, both individually and collaboratively. Personal journals, where students practice moving among the three interpretive levels. The platform includes a diverse collection of images, including not only illustrations of Dante’s poem but also other works of art that resonate thematically with the poem. These images can help spark students’ reflections.
Students valued the way the platform encouraged individual reflection. When asked in the end-of-semester survey whether they would continue to use the platform after the class ended, more than 50% of respondents said that they planned to continue to return to the platform for personal reasons.
The platform provided a useful way to migrate certain activities online, freeing up class time for discussions or more advanced treatment of the material.
We see this project as having great value beyond Dante. The technology’s extensibility and transferability are two of its greatest assets. More importantly, we hope that this project will show not only what is possible with the technology and framework we have created but also the value of developing a deliberate, contemplative reading practice in relation to digital texts. We believe that these methods can be applied to a wide range of reading contexts, bringing us all closer, if not to “readerly utopia”, then at least to an experience of a dialogical community of reflection on the shared experience of human living.