At JSTOR Labs, we have one goal: to shape the future of research and teaching, one project at a time. Working with partner publishers, libraries and labs, we aim to create tools for researchers, teachers and students that are immediately useful – and a little bit magical.
Whether they let you search JSTOR content using your smartphone’s camera or treat Shakespeare’s plays as a portal into the scholarship about them, our projects show new ways to discover and work with the rich collection of academic journals, books and primary sources on JSTOR and beyond. We won’t always succeed – making magic ain’t easy -- but even when we miss that high bar, there are great opportunities to learn and to share what we’ve learned.
JSTOR Labs was launched in 2014.
To accomplish our work, we use a variety of different tools and techniques, many of which are inspired by the “Lean Startup” movement. The Lean movement provides a model of iterating on ideas rapidly based on user input and data, with the goal of getting to a valuable solution as quickly as possible.
One of the methods we’ve found especially effective is the “flash build,” which we also call a Labs Week (because, you guessed it, they often last a week). On a flash build, the team meets in a single location, focuses on a single effort and, informed by regular access to and feedback from end users, goes from “just” an idea to a designed, working and validated prototype. Of course, there is work both in advance of (user research, technical experimentation and foundation-building) and following (polish, some more polish) the flash build to complete the prototype.
When it’s ready, we’ll release the prototype as a Labs project. From there, we continue to learn about the value of these prototypes, through a combination of metrics and the feedback we get on them. Some of these prototypes may eventually be integrated into the primary JSTOR site at www.jstor.org; some may remain as Labs projects as a beta version; still others may eventually get retired.
JSTOR Labs believes that you can learn more by doing and building than by talking. We believe in the value of working with partners to build something greater than what either could achieve on their own. We believe there is a tremendous amount that users can teach you if you know how to listen.
JSTOR Labs believes in sharing our work and our findings. While we are building a prototype we are learning a great deal: about the people who might use it and about the technical constraints and opportunities. We share what we’ve learned with the community in both our blog and in presentations at conferences and seminars. Wherever possible, we make our prototypes, discoveries and even our code and data openly available for the communities that we both work within and learn from.
We are always searching for partners in the academic, publishing, library, and digital humanities/scholarship communities. Our most productive partnerships have been open, exploratory collaborations, focused on innovation. If you are interested in working with us, please let us know! We choose projects and partnerships based on a combination of factors, including how likely they are to lead to a project that is both immediately useful and also broadly applicable to JSTOR and the wider community.
You can also support our team by letting us know what you think about our projects, or simply by sharing the ones you like with people you think might be interested.