Buddha Nature in a Geode: Student Digital Scholarship

[The following post is by Brooke Reiche, a student in Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan’s Fall 2015 class, “Introduction to Buddhist Traditions.”]

During my Introduction to Buddhist Traditions class, we were introduced to Scalar as a platform for creating polished and unique group projects. One main focus of these projects was the work of the Japanese artist Iwasaki Tsuneo. He painted visually stunning representations of Buddhist teachings, often integrating script from the Heart Sutra into his pieces in interesting and creative ways. The images he used, which were often nature based, were chosen to illustrate certain characteristics of Buddhist concepts, such as lightning bolts in reference to sudden enlightenment.

Lightning, by Iwasaki Tsuneo
Lightning, by Iwasaki Tsuneo

While working on this project I found myself inspired by Tsuneo’s work, and I was curious to see if I could create my own image using his method of representation. I also wanted this image to relate to the project that I was working on, which focused on Buddha nature. After some thought, I arrived at the idea of a geode. My intention was for the geode to display the hidden nature of Buddha nature in every being through the crystals inside of the formation. I also added an English translation of the heart sutra in gold along the rim, in an attempt to represent how the power of Buddhist teachings could break through the plain rock of relative reality to reveal the crystals of ultimate reality.

"Geode" by Brooke Reiche
“Geode” by Brooke Reiche

Scalar was a great platform for this, as it allowed for stunning image quality and freedom of design that let me see my piece in beautiful detail on the same scale as that used by Iwasaki. It was a very enjoyable process that was rewarding to complete.

Digital Publishing With Scalar

scalar-logoThis week’s Digital Pedagogy workshop, “Digital Publishing with Scalar,” will occur Tuesday, October 6, from 4:30–5:30 pm, with a repeat on Wednesday, October 7, from 11:00 am–noon. The location is the library computer lab (Abell 208).

This week we explore Scalar, a new web-based digital publishing platform. Several instructors here at AC are experimenting with Scalar this semester, including Nate Bigelow and Mike Fairley in their CI classes, Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan in Introduction to Buddhism, and Dave Griffith in an upper–level marketing course. Like WordPress, Scalar is a free open-source application that is server-based and that facilitates the creation of multimedia content and projects on the web. While there are significant similarities between the two, Scalar is particularly suited for the production of free-standing long-form projects that incorporate large amounts of rich media (images, video, audio, maps, timelines, etc.) within the format of a “book,” though a book reconceived in a native-digital format. As the trailer below states, Scalar projects might be thought of as a cross between an e-book and a website:


Among the features highlighted by early users of Scalar are the following:

  • Well-suited for group assignments, in which students work together to produce a single, collaborative deliverable. All versions of a project are preserved, and every user contribution is tracked.
  • Incorporates full commenting and annotation functionality on all forms of media
  • Operates with a “flattened hierarchy,” in which all forms of content (pages, media, comments, annotations, tags, paths) have an equal status and can be interrelated in structures designed by the author.
  • Allows a variety of page layouts and customizable styling options
  • Full control of project accessibility, from private to restricted to fully public.
  • There are agreements with several major digital archives (the Internet Archive, Critical Commons, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others) that allow Scalar to easily incorporate digitized materials into projects with full permission for fair use.
  • Material may also be easily imported from other Internet repositories and file storage sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud, as well as local sources.

You can see some examples of Scalar projects at this showcase gallery. While none of the projects at Austin College are in public mode yet, you can begin to experiment with Scalar if you wish by creating an account at scalar.acdigitialpedagogy.org. Come to the workshop, and we’ll walk through some of the basics together.

Curated Resources

Webinar–Teaching and Researching with Scalar

We’ve recently been providing information on the digital publishing tool Scalar here on the blog and at Johnson Center luncheons. Now comes word that HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) will host a free (registration required) webinar introducing Scalar on Wednesday, April 8, from 2:00 to 3:15 pm Austin College time. From the website:


This workshop will serve as an introduction to Scalar, a free, open-source authoring and publishing platform designed for scholars writing media-rich, long-form, born-digital scholarship. Developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California, Scalar allows scholars to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose that media with their own writing in a variety of ways; to annotate video, audio, images, source code, and text using the platform’s build-in media annotation tools; and to structure essay- and book-length works in ways that take advantage of the unique capabilities of digital writing, including nested, recursive, and non-linear formats.

This workshop will cover basic features of the platform, including a review of existing Scalar books and a hands-on introduction to paths, tags, annotations, and importing media, and then move on to more advanced topics including the effective use of visualizations, annotating with media, and a primer on customizing appearances in Scalar.