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.