A word on commentaries.
For the uninitiated in academic commentaries (as I was before this project), millennia old Ancient Greek and Latin texts are notoriously difficult to understand. Humanities professors study these texts for years, and they publish commentary books where they translate, cite and interpret these texts for us. Commentaries like these have been published in print for centuries.
Translating paper to digital.
A drawback to the traditional print publishing method is that it's slow, and costly to update. Therefore, the views that propagate are skewed to the elite few who have access to publishers. My task was to envisage how we could make reading and participating in commentaries accessible to everyone. How do we create a more egalitarian community, based on merit, and welcome all seekers of knowledge, without the whole platform devolving into a YouTube-esque comment thread littered with trolls?
We opted for public viewing permissions, and invite-only content creation permissions. At least to start with, we wanted to carefully incubate the right culture before enabling wide access to the publishing tools. This is a tricky balance to get right, and we wanted to err on the side of caution.
In collaboration with humanities professors, I helped create an initial vision for this platform, taking inspiration from elegant writing experiences like Medium.com, and the Notes app on iOS. And taking inspiration from great reading experiences like Kindle, and Apple Books.
A digital commentary platform.
New Alexandria, inspired by the Great Library of Alexandria, is a project aiming to make these commentaries accessible to the whole world. A sort of Stack Overflow, or Quora for commentaries on ancient texts.
New Alexandria was an exploration into the possibilities of digital publishing for academic commentaries, and this was one of many future collaborations with Harvard University professors, including the prototyping of an AR app for the Giza plateau with Harvard Egyptologysts.