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Plumi is critical for the commons!

Unweb.me has been working with the University of Southern California to rebuild www.criticalcommons.org, an educational video archive for fair & critical participation in media culture.

We are excited to write about www.criticalcommons.org going live after smooth cooperation between Anna Helme, Steve Anderson, Erik Loyer and Unweb.me. The new version adds significant improvements to the overall functionality and stability of the site, plus allows easy uploading of media files and commentaries.

criticalcommons.org main page

Critical commons is a video site built on Plumi. It is a collaborative online teaching tool for cinema studies, and a project designed to push the boundaries of fair use in an educational context.

Critical Commons was initiated by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts Institute for Multimedia Literacy, and was officially launched in 2009 at the Digital Media and Learning and Open Video Alliance conferences. It was originally built by EngageMedia and Infinite Recursion on an earlier version of Plumi.

Functionality

On Critical Commons an educator can upload clips, attach commentaries and build lectures based on these clips. Other users can add commentaries to existing clips throughout the library. Clips can be embedded in other websites and, at the same time, it serves as a media repository for Scalar, an open-source media-rich scholarly publishing platform.

criticalcommons.org browse media page

criticalcommons.org media view page

Features

New features include the following:

  • easier registration for advanced users (users fill in the form and admins get informed to approve the application),
  • easier addition of media files (video, image, audio), commentaries and lectures,
  • addition of genres and browsing through genres, for media files,
  • improved search functionality,
  • all features of Plone 4.x, that make it faster, more stable and lightweight, with improved UX etc,
  • the features of Plumi 4.x, for example the mediaelementjs HTML 5 video player with Flash fallback and the new transcoding daemon of Plumi.

     

    criticalcommons.org search page

    criticalcommons.org upload media page

    Migration approach

    The previous Critical Commons website was built on Plone 2.5 and a heavily customized fork of Plumi 0.2. We reimplemented all the customizations on top of the latest versions of Plone and Plumi in the form of two seperate open source components for Plumi 4.x, one for the content (criticalcommons.content) and the other for the skin (criticalcommons.skin)

    Our goal has been to keep existing functionality, improve user experience, make one site viewable on desktops, laptops and mobile devices and migrate all previously published content. We exported all content from the old site in JSON format and then imported it on the new site.

    Code

    The code has been released in the following two packages:

    Critical Commons Skin: https://github.com/plumi/criticalcommons.skin

    Critical Commons Content: https://github.com/plumi/criticalcommons.content

    Plumi also benefited from this. We made improvements to the transcode daemon, tested Plumi on mobile devices and committed code that will be contained in the upcoming Plumi 4.5 release.

    Further plans

    Future plans for development include the addition of user channels, better integration with social media and use of Popcorn.js to enable time-based interactive media.

    We would like to thank Steve Anderson and Critical Commons for giving us the chance to participate on such an interesting and inspiring project.