DH Accelerator

Digital Humanities Research Accelerator

The Digital Humanities Research Accelerator program provides support for faculty research in DH and offers mentorship opportunities for graduate students. The program will bring together graduate Research and Instructional Technology Consultants (RITCs) and faculty, HumTech, IDRE, and the Library to help develop faculty-led digital research projects.

This program provides a structured opportunity for graduate students to actively engage in digital scholarship as part of a research team while receiving mentorship and training in digital research skills, including project development and management, prototype development, computational methods, publishing, and grant writing.

For faculty members, this program offers the chance to develop a project for grant funding, move an existing project forward, and incorporate a graduate student on your research team. By combining faculty mentorship, skills development workshops, and monthly group check-ins, the program will foster cohorts of graduate students who have experience in applied digital humanities research project development.

To Propose a Research Accelerator Project please email us sil@ucla.edu

2019-2020 Projects

Amplify Digital Archive Project

Principal investigator:
Kathy Carbone, PhD., Lecturer and Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Information Studies.

The Amplification Project: Digital Archive for Forced Migration, Contemporary Art, and Action is an international participatory action research endeavor to create a community-based participatory digital archive that will document, preserve, connect, and raise the visibility of contemporary artwork and activist projects inspired, influenced, or affected by forced migration. The Amplification Project seeks to be a ‘living archive’—an open platform and tool for artists and activists to preserve and share their work and for people to engage in dialogue about forced migration and refugeehood. It also seeks to support and work hand-in-hand with new artistic, activist, and scholarly projects to foster a greater understanding of and raise political and social consciousness about forced migration and its effects on societies, cultures, and lives. Finally, The Amplification Project further aims to intervene in anti-refugee and xenophobic rhetoric, offer counterpoints to the often-dehumanized visual representation of refugees in the media, and fill a gap in the historical record as few mainstream archives are documenting and preserving art and activist productions related to forced migration.

The Archive of Healing: Democratizing Knowledge Locally and Globally

Principal investigator:
David Delgado Shorter PhD., Professor, World Arts and Cultures/Dance, Director, Wiki for Indigenous Languages, Director, Archive of Healing.

The Archive of Healing includes digitized data from first and secondhand information from anthropologists from around the world, 3200 publications, and six university archives. The material (750,000 entries) spans eight continents and seventy years. Directed by UCLA Professor, Dr. David Shorter, the archive includes folkloric materials, performance-based approaches, and plant-based medicinal advice. The data is currently being curated by a team of students who have been studying cross-cultural concepts of the body, intellectual property, naturopathic approaches to wellness, and non-object orientated healing. The Archive of Healing has four central aims: to democratize knowledge for the general site visitor; to provide a social network and database for non-allopathic health practitioners; to provide a self-sustaining revenue stream via subscriptions and licensing of data; to assist in the production and distribution in potentially beneficial health and wellness treatments. The next version (3.0) of the site will be available in proof of concept form to the advisory board in December 2019. That site will provide user-specific data, user profile pages, an internal messaging system, and a submission page for new data from around the globe.  You can learn more about the Archive of Healing by clicking HERE.

Cinema’s Peculiar Institution

Principal investigator:
Ellen C. Scott, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head of the Cinema and Media Studies program, School of Theater, Film and Television.

My book, Cinema’s Peculiar Institution, is a history of the representation of slavery in film from the dawn of cinema to the present.  It is the first systematic study of slavery’s on-screen depiction. There is one earlier book-length study, which covered only five films.  My study, by contrast, maps the deployment of these depictions over time by deeply mining many film history archives and conducting interviews to explore the production politics, censorship and deeply examining press sources to document the reception of cinematic images of slavery. I seek funding to continue both researching the project and building its digital complement. The project explores and catalogs not only obvious images of slavery but oblique references to it and planned yet unmade film properties treating it.  The project is in many senses an intellectual history of slavery’s screen imaginary. The project aims to document and interpret this the various imaginings—and attempted imaginings—of slavery and its aftermath as a part of the broader history of race and labor in America.  Methodologically, this is an historical project and I employ primarily archival research but also interviews (oral history and contemporary) and popular press sources (to document film reception in various communities and the trade press). The short term aim is to complete the film database and a portion of the continuing research for the project.  The long-term aim is to complete the book and an outward-facing web resource to introduce the public and researchers to the subject, in narrative framework and through database access.   Based on rigorous archival research of sources including studio records and Production Code Administration files, this project explores the evolution of systems of censorship and patterns of representability that shaped the image of slavery on screen, focusing most extensively on the Classical Hollywood period, a time of intensifying civil rights struggle. We know that industry fear of Southern backlash profoundly influenced screen representation of Black life. However, this project traces a broader set of cultural influences on Hollywood’s representation of enslaved people and their narratives, including leftist screenwriters, protest from African American community-members, and the industry’s concern about marring America’s international reputation. This book extends consideration beyond plantation melodrama to explore those limit cases, controversial scenarios, and unproduced films that troubled the industry’s producers and censors by threatening to reveal more than narrative cinema could explain—making slavery’s harsh realities and subjective dissonances visible and Black resistance palpable. There were a number of defining patterns in slavery’s film representation: the contrast of naturalized Black slavery to “unjust” white slavery, the embedding of the slave body into the structure of the plantation’s machinery, and the presentation of the screen’s emancipated slave as having a nebulous, fearsome, and unclaimable freedom. However, even among Classical Hollywood’s South-friendly representations remain symptomatic cases where the desire for Black freedom breaks through narrative constraints or the reality of suffering under slavery is revealed. Among these are Secret Service (1931) where a slave accused of being a Union spy is hanged in front of his son, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), which leftist screenwriters Waldo Salt and Hugo Butler fashioned as a story of the Underground Railroad, Langston Hughes and Clarence Muse’s Way Down South, which focused on the knife-wielding cane field slaves. This book will present a genealogy of cinematic spectacles of slavery and their explanatory frameworks for engaging this past, examining not only the film on screen but also the broader diegetic world conceived by its makers, censors, and audiences and articulated through screenplay drafts, memos, censorship documents, advertising and film stills, and film reviews.

How We Narrate the Self: A Large-Scale Analysis of Autobiographical Texts

Principal investigator:
Whitney Arnold, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor, Comparative LiteratureDirector, Undergraduate Research Center for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

This project examines autobiographical texts written in English from 1700 to 1900 in order to analyze how we tend to narrate the self and how our self narrations have changed over time. In our current era of social media and proliferating modes of digital self-representation, explorations of how we narrate and represent the self have become even more poignant. With its increase in printed texts and new possibilities for widespread literary celebrity, the time period of this project witnessed a moment similar to our own, in which authors could increasingly disseminate textual representations of themselves to a widespread, unknown, consuming public. By employing topic modeling and other text analysis techniques, this project aims to uncover larger-scale themes and trends concerning how authors during this time period tended to narrate their lives for public consumption.

Picturing Mexican American

Principal investigator:
Marissa López, Ph.D, Associate Professor of English and Chicana/o Studies, Vice President of the Latina/o Studies Association.

The goal of this project is to illuminate the Mexican history of Los Angeles, and to make clear the consistent, enduring presence of Latinxs in the United States, to the public through interactive and creative digital experiences.

Marissa López, Associate Professor of English and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA, has studied and researched this topic in depth, including in two books – “Racial Immanence: Chicanx Bodies Beyond Representation” and “Chicano Nations: The Hemispheric Origins of Mexican American Literature”.

For this project,Professor López, has been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) “Scholars and Society” fellowship to partner with the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), in order to present Mexican American source material from the LAPL and UCLA collections to the public. This will include photographs, maps, and, where appropriate, historical documents pertaining to the place.

This project is an opportunity to extend traditional, academic scholarship towards an engaged humanities that invites app users to see the world and their place in it differently. With the support of the LAPL and UCLA, Professor López aims to continue to update the product with new source information and to be a platform that can expand infinitely, deepening the Los Angeles coverage and eventually building out to other cities.

Power and Authority on the Early American Frontier: Exploring Race, Gender, and Class with Text Analysis.

Principal investigator:
Ashley Sanders Garcia, Ph.D., Vice Chair & Core Faculty, Digital Humanities.

This project employs text analysis methods, including topic modeling, collocation and sentiment analysis to examine the complex relations between Indigenous peoples, settlers, military leaders, and metropolitan officials to understand how American settler colonialism developed between 1776 and 1832. Specifically, this project will first look at the evolution of Native American leaders’ views and sentiments expressed in treaty council meetings between 1776 and 1795 to make sense of the many factions that developed within tribes in response to American colonization. Second, we will develop a topic model of American political correspondence between 1776 and 1795 to analyze American perspectives on the western territories within the context of broader political discussions that unfolded in correspondence, as well as debates within state and federal Congressional assemblies. In the future the research team plans to submit grant applications to fund a much more extensive project – the creation of an “Early American History Explorer,” a searchable corpus that is ready for computational analysis.

RISE-3D (Re-Imagined Scholarly Exchange in Three Dimensions)

Principal investigator:
Willeke Wendrich PhD., Professor, Egyptian Archaeology and Digital Humanities, Director, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, Joan Silsbee Chair of African Cultural Archaeology.

RISE-3D (Re-Imagined Scholarly Exchange in 3 Dimensions) gives scholars a tool to curate, annotate, compare, and interact with three-dimensional models of objects, buildings, and landscapes. Detailed models have rapidly become a key source of information for archaeologists, art historians, and researchers working in cultural heritage sectors, yet sharing, publishing, and managing these assets remains a challenge. With RISE-3D, descriptive metadata and assets can be attached to the models either to a specific point, a portion of the model, or the entire object. The team has currently developed methods to define metadata schema based on project specifications, which facilitate sharing not only the models but also the associated data. Additionally, the team began developing a web interface that provided a portal to curated collections of models with associated metadata. At the current stage, the team is interested in exploring and evaluating the variety of dissemination options currently available.

Roman Funerals and Family Members

Principal investigator:
Chris Johanson PhD., Associate Professor, Digital Humanities/Classics.

This project is a continuation of last year’s project which is creating the first ever, evidence-based, visualization of all known aristocratic funerals that might have been staged for Roman magistrates during the Roman Republic (509-27 BCE). 

The Roman funeral was a spectacular affair, highly visual and multi-sensory, replete with music, professional mourners, incense, perfume, and public performance. It was also uniquely defined by the customary practice of including one’s ancestors directly in the funerary rite. During the procession that began at the home and culminated in the funeral eulogy held atop an elevated speaker’s platform, the Rostra, in the center of the Roman Forum—the civic, religious, and political heart of the city of Rome—actors would don waxen masks to play the role of each male ancestor who had achieved the highest magistracies in the Roman political system. 

This project, part one of a larger effort, visualizes this funeral eulogy, where one would expect to see the deceased on top of the Rostra, one of his children who would give the eulogy, and, for a politically successful family, as many as ten or twenty actors all wearing the appropriate regalia that would indicate the office that had been achieved by each ancestor dating back to the founding of the Republic. 

To reconstruct one funeral of one aristocrat would normally require manually compiling data from prosopographical reference works by tracing and recreating family trees. No comprehensive family tree publication exists to date. The recently released Digital Prosopography of the Roman Republic (DPRR) by King’s College, however, contains individual entries for all known persons of the Roman Republic and indicates, when evidence exists, both parentage and children.  The DPRR now allows us to programmatically reconstruct the lineage of any one person at any one time. The database itself was not built to generate the ancestors present at a funeral, but it contains all the information necessary, once processed computationally, to produce a complete visualization of the hypothetical funeral for every person within the database. 

At present, the project depicts the funeral for roughly 4000 individuals—almost all entries contained within the DPRR, but during the course of our investigation new  opportunities for exploration arose.  

Most important: Recent work suggests that the funerary display should not be confined to male participants alone (Webb. Gendering the Roman Imago, Eugesta 2017).  This year’s will reevaluate the funeral assemblage on the Rostra by creating a new set of algorithms that will include database-driven and probabilistic models to include men AND women on the stage during the course of Roman Republican history. 

For this renewed project, we will work to produce published output based on our new models.  Our preliminary work created born-digital beta interfaces. We will extend our work to develop final versions to submit for “publication” in digital and print formats.

In addition, we will explore incorporating machine-learning to reconstruct the funeral speeches.

We will produce final versions of the following:

A 2D chart-based investigation of the funerals to reveal change over time and to establish the general shape of the funeral and its major players;

2D images derived from 3D-generated representations in Sketchup that show, from certain viewing points within the Forum, how a funeral eulogy might be experienced within the context of the surrounding built environment;

An interactive 3D platform, constructed in Unity3D, that let’s the user select a funeral or an array of funerals to view within a fully interactive, multi-player 3D world.  This viewing mode also serves as a general discovery tool to access the DPRR.

This project is a branch of the RomeLab initiative, and will rely on existing 3D critical editions of the Roman Forum and on interactive software developed by the Humanities Virtual World Consortium and RomeLab (including current RITC Benjamin Niedzielski) built in the Unity 3D game engine.

Tongva VR/AR

Principal investigator:
Maja Manojlovic, Ph.D., Lecturer | Faculty Advisor for WII Pedagogy Writing Programs.

Tongva VR/AR is an interdisciplinary research project that aims to create VR/AR models of two Tongva villages: Yaanga, one the largest Tongva villages near downtown Los Angeles, and Koruuvanga in West Los Angeles (https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-col1-tongva-language-native-american-tribe/). In addition, this project is intended to serve as a teaching platform for a Digital Humanities course.

This VR/AR modeling project will continue building on the UCLA American Indian Studies Center’s “Mapping Indigenous LA Project.” This project worked to empower local indigenous communities to tell their stories through relevant maps, documents, photographs, and testimonies. In this sense, it provides a powerful point of departure for us to begin examining the erasure of indigenous cultures in North America and elsewhere.

Tongva VR/AR continues to address the issues surrounding colonization of indigenous identities, languages, architectures, and geographies. However, the three-dimensional models of Tongva villages and artifacts in VR/AR environments will offer yet another alternative to the existing indigenous (hi)stories. By creating 3D VR/AR environments, I’m interested in exploring the space of Tongva villages from a phenomenological perspective. That is, how does an embodied experience in the intensified space of a VR/AR environment modulate the way users make sense of the Tongva’s lived-experience, both individually and collectively? What happens once we can no longer distance ourselves from our object of inquiry, as we would when “reading” a two-dimensional “text,” or a map? Do we relate differently to the space of the Tongva village and their culture once we are situated in its three-dimensional environment? If so, might we say that we are “re-embodying” our cognition by incorporating feeling and affect?  

Students that might want to continue to build on the Tongva VR/AR once it’s available to be experienced can delve into the questions above, as well as explore other avenues of inquiry into the life and culture of the Tongva peoples. 

Tongva VR/AR is currently in its initial research stage of development, exploring relevant scholarly resources and VR/AR technologies.

2020-2023 Projects

In Search of LA

Principal investigator:
Tawny Paul, Ph.D., Associate Adjunct Professor | UCLA Public History Initiative Director; Doug Barrera,  Ph.D. | Associate Director at the UCLA Center for Community Learning

Methodology: Content Managment Systems; Data Viz; Grant applications

Tools: WordPress; Tableau

About: In Search of LA is a digital hub for making histories and telling stories about Los Angeles neighborhoods, past and present. In this Capstone, students will contribute to the development of a prototype website that will bring together resources and scholarship that facilitate place-based research in Los Angeles. Students will learn about participatory digital storytelling and will explore how the process of analyzing sources and creating histories can be democratized through user-generated online content. Depending on student interest, there will be opportunities to document neighborhood histories by identifying and interpreting resources, and to contribute to the design of a user-generated content platform.

Project links: https://insearchofla.com/

Visualizing Recorded Jewish Music

Principal investigator:
Mark Kligman, Ph.D.,  Professor | Director, The Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience; Jeff Janeczko,  Ph.D. | Curator at Milken Family Foundation; Danielle Stein, Ph.D. Student | the Department of Musicology

Methodology: Clustering/data cleaning; Data Viz; Reconciliation

Tools: Openrefine; Excel; Tableau; Python; Command Line; Lucidchart

Project links: Entity Relation Diagram; Tableau Visualizations of Archive Data

Historical Photography Analysis

Principal investigator:
Lin Du, Ph.D. Student | Department of Asian Language and Culture

Task: Grant application and research; Literature review

About: Art historians and cultural historians use visual analysis to find patterns in primary sources because visual patterns can uncover the lineage of images, providing insight into pictorial knowledge production. To meet this need, we designed an Intelligent Reverse Image Retrieval system for Digital Humanities. A primary aim of this project is to develop an open-source reverse image retrieval system that will search historical images based on their content in an automated way. In our project, we propose solving popular retrieval problems in the digital humanities, by using a photograph or illustration as a query to search for its target image based on its local features within a database. Currently, our model has a 70% accuracy rate, making it the first to use interdisciplinary computer vision and visual analysis to analyze historical images in Chinese studies.

Project links: Lin’s Notion Workspace

Visualizing African American Newspapers

Principal investigator:
Zoe Borovsky, Ph.D.| Librarian for Digital Research and Scholarship at UCLA  and other UC/California school collaborators

Methodology: GIS; Text Analysis with Python

Tools: QGIS; Python NLTK Package (with Jupyter Notebooks)

About: Digital Humanities (or DH), especially within libraries, has blossomed at the University of California: with programs at UCLA, Irvine, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. However, connecting these west coast regional programs and centers has remained a challenge. Although some of us have alliances with centers at Stanford and University of Southern California, these are based mostly upon relationships between individuals. While technologies such as IIIF afford us the ability to collaborate across institutional divides, our efforts to bridge those divides have remained largely informal and ad-hoc. Researchers who are connected to funded centers have an advantage over those who are less well-connected: graduate students and academic professionals such as librarians and lecturers who seek to “skill-up” in order to do their own projects as well as support researchers. Our goal is to address those inequities–making DH more accessible and equitable–by establishing a local version of DHRI.

Project links: California Digital Humanities Research Institute

Mapping Mythological Sites

Principal investigator:
Nashra Mahmood , Ph.D. Student| Department of Gender Studies

Methodology: GIS; Digital Mapping

About: This research broadly looks at the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in contemporary Indian politics. A portion of this research is looking at Twitter metadata, specifically, the user’s location as specified in their profiles. The researcher’s intention was to map the locations on to a world map, but quickly discovered that many users were using antiquated terms to reference India and cities within India. For example, terms such as Akhand Bharat (Undivided India), Bharatvarsh, and Aryavarta were used instead of India. Albeit less in frequency when compared to “India”, these terms still appeared regularly in my Twitter dataset. Additionally, users also used “Lynchistan” or “Hell” to denote their location in India. All of these terms are politically and religiously loaded, but unmappable on official maps. A world map where Akhand Bharat is highlighted in orange is copied below. The researcher would like assistance with how to go about mapping mythological sites and sentiments via GIS tools.

Thermal Inequities

Principal investigator:
Bharat Jayram Venkat, Ph.D., Assistant Professor | Institute for Society & Genetics, Department of History

Methodology: Text Analysis (Voyant Tools and VOSviewer, Spring 2021); Tweet Scraping/Analysis (Fall 2021)

About: Professor Venkat’s new work focuses on urban heat in India. Exposure to heat has been described as a major index of climate-related inequality. In India today, rising temperatures have raised concerns about the continued viability of urban life. This project—“The Role of Sensation in the Making of Climate-Related Expertise: Thermal Inequality, Bodies, and the Built Environment in Urban India, 1858-2020”—examines how the sensation of heat—an ordinary, everyday feeling—becomes an object of expert knowledge, specifically in the fields of 1.) climate science, 2.) architecture and urban planning, and 3.) biology and biomedicine. While heat has long been an object of study in these fields, there has been little analysis of how precisely the subjective sensation of heat—as a lived and embodied experience mediated by history, culture, and materiality—is translated (or fails to be translated) into both scholarly and practical forms of knowledge-making.

Professor Venkat’s research investigates these issues through an integrated mixed-methods research program consisting of three components: 1.) archival research on colonial and postcolonial histories of thermal sensation and expertise; 2.) ethnographic and oral historical research in the Indian city of Chennai centered around embodied experiences of urban and climatic change; and 3.) a digital “thick mapping” component that correlates experiences of heat and thermal inequality with aspects of the built environment. He aims to make a novel scholarly intervention by bringing together disparate forms of heat-related experience that are rarely studied together—those of both ordinary people and experts across multiple fields—under the shared rubric of sensation. Rather than focusing exclusively on quantitative variations in exposure to heat, this project will examine qualitative differences in thermal experience by attending to how heat is constructed and construed, by whom, and under what conditions.

Through historical, ethnographic, and cartographic investigations of how heat has been experienced and understood, this project asks what an analysis of, climate-related expertise can tell us about how inequality is, organized—not only in relation to (quantitative) exposure, but also (qualitative) sensation.

Project links: Red Hot LA; VOS Viewer Screenshot

Platform for Community Engaged Archive Class

Principal investigator:
Maylei Blackwell, Ph.D., Associate Professor | Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and Department of Gender Studies

About: Professor Maylei Blackwell has received a Chancellor’s Awards for Community Engaged Scholarship to create a class on community archiving and history of the Zapotec diaspora. Because many of the first generation migrants came in the 80s and their materials (like treasure troves of VHS, community pubs, etc) are starting to decline and some community members are passing away. She is teaching a class in Winter 2021 about building an archive with these materials and is seeking support to scope the project needs including: digitizing the physical ephemera, hosting the digital collection (potentially in the UCLA Digital Library, ICPSR, or Social Sciences Dataverse platform), and selecting a forward-facing CMS.

Students learn to work with communities as they take their histories into their own hands. Students learn how to accompany (acompanamiento) community organizations, groups, and individuals; and serve as resource as they decide how best to collect, preserve, and tell their own histories. Centered on principals of indigenous self-determination, community respect protocols, and ethic of care, students work with communities empowered to ask what histories will be told and by whom; how historical memory will be collected (if at all); and how/by what means it will be archived and preserved. Topics explored include data sovereignty, indigenous research protocols, and role of memory and place in how communities survive colonial dispossession.

Testing Digital Historical Research Methods to Advance DH Book Project

Principal investigator:
Ashley Sanders, Ph.D.  | Vice Chair & Faculty of Digital Humanities at UCLA

About: This capstone presents the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to be a part of the creation of a new Digital Humanities book. Capstone participants will serve as reviewers of several of the chapter drafts, providing feedback, suggestions, and questions to consider. In addition, you will have the chance to test the methods, suggest additional analytical approaches, and help design instructional videos and supplementary materials to complement the text. Throughout this capstone, you will learn a variety of techniques to address data silences and the experiences of marginalized people while also exploring some of the ways in which critical race and archival studies intersect with digital research. Each week, we will review, consider and discuss the major themes, and apply the methods explored in the book, including:

  • a unique application of topic modeling to uncover latent biases in primary sources
  • exploratory data visualization with Tableau, RAW graphs, and more to begin to investigate a data set
  • descriptive statistics such as mean, median, mode, standard deviation and z-scores
  • hypothesis testing with chi-square, ANOVA, factor analysis, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests
  • social network analysis
  • the creation of data sets and ontology construction consideration

Faces Revealed Coffin Database

Principal investigator:
Stefania Mainieri, Ph.D.  | Visiting Associate Researcher University of California, Los Angeles

About: Faces Revealed is a three-year research Project (2021-2024) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 895130. Started in 2021 – in collaboration with Museo Egizio di Torino (Italy), UCLA, the Politecnico di Milano (Italy), the Vatican Coffin Project and different Museums in Europe, the United States and Egypt – the Project aims to examine Egyptian yellow coffins’ lids through a new and in-progress methodology approach based on the analysis of facial features and the way in rendering the volumes and the geometry on the lids. The project combines the traditional Egyptological methodology with New Technology, especially photogrammetry. The main focus of the research is to understand whether the different traits can be linked to different productions and if so whether they then reflect the stylistic features of a specific chronological period. Alongside the focus on the production and style, the painted masks are compared with the carved/modelled ones, to see how faithfully the underlying features reproduce (or not) the carved ones and whether the different features and proportions can indicate also any possible ancient reuse of these coffins.

Tools: Filemaker

Project links: https://facesrevealed.museoegizio.it/