May 22, 2022

Publishing: USC-Spawned Scalar Platform Enables Digital Publishers to Go Beyond the Book

From USC News:

Digital publishing platform invented at USC is winning fans for its ability to steer readers through complex multimedia works.

Scholars, archives and academic presses from Duke University to MIT have been adopting Scalar because it makes digital work easy to follow and expands the tools for scholarship. The platform earned an Editor’s Choice award from PC Magazine on its beta release last spring.

Co-author and USC grad student Heather Blackmore used Scalar as a platform to publish “Performing Archive: Edward S. Curtis + ‘the vanishing race.’” It’s the product of a three-month pilot project for the Claremont Center for Digital Humanities.

The platform offers clear paths through a publication based on reader interest or topics. It also allows one to grasp the work quickly at different scales – hence the name.

“One of the reasons Google Maps became compelling so fast is because the ability to zoom across scales can be very engrossing,” said Tara McPherson, associate professor of critical studies in the School of Cinematic Arts, who led the team that developed Scalar with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“With Scalar, we’re interested in reading across scales, allowing our users to go from a small element in a digital project — say a photo — to the larger structure of the whole. You can move from micro to macro.”

Examples of Scalar work include an article that sets brain scans to music in The Drama Review, published by MIT Press; a critique of the computing age from the American Literature journal of Duke University Press; and a rich tribute to the work of early 20th century photographer Edward S. Curtis featuring 2,500 images from prominent archives.


McPherson and her collaborators have worked with several archives to allow direct embedding of their digitized holdings in Scalar publications. Partners include Critical Commons, the Hemispheric Institute’s Digital Video Library, the Internet Archive and the USC Shoah Foundation. University libraries, museums, scholarly societies, humanities centers and scholarly presses around the country also have joined with the alliance to test and develop Scalar.

Read the Complete Article (640 Words)

Direct to Scalar Web Site

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.