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UMD FACULTY AMONG NEH GRANT WINNERS

MITH and History earn grants for digital humanities and summer stipend projects.

Congratulations to Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) staff Jennifer Guiliano, Assistant Director; J. Grant Dickie, web programmer; Trevor Muñoz, Associate Director; and Travis Brown, Assistant Director of Research and Development; who have all earned Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants and to history professor Daryle Williams, who earned a Summer Stipend Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Digital Humanities Start-Up grants fund year-long projects which advance innovation in the field of digital humanities and result in plans, prototypes, or proofs of concepts for long-term digital humanities projects while Summer Stipends fund two-month summer projects to advance research, usually in the form of articles, monographs, books, digital materials, archaeological site reports, translations, editions, or other scholarly resources.

DIGITAL HUMANITIES PROJECTS

Jennifer Guiliano and Travis Brown earned $24,808 for “Topic Modeling for Humanities Research,” a one-day workshop that will facilitate information exchange and collaboration between and among humanities scholars and researchers in natural language processing. Topic modeling, a statistical technique that attempts to infer the structure of a text corpus on the basis of minimal critical assumptions, uses algorithms to help researchers understand what topics are most prominent in a body of work as well as the global properties and qualities of the text itself. For example, topic modeling could show the most common subjects written about in every newspaper published in 1903. Calls for participation in the workshop will be released summer 2012.

Jennifer Guiliano and the MITH staff will also support English professor George Williams of the University of South Carolina Upstate in his project, “Making the Digital Humanities More Open,” which will use the program Anthologize to convert digital material into braille. MITH will be leading the design effort to create extensions for Anthologize, a free, open-source, WordPress-based platform for publishing, that will allow braille users to have braille translations of any Wordpress website regardless of content.

J. Grant Dickie and MITH Associate Director Trevor Muñoz earned $49,929 for his project, “ANGLES: a web-based XML Editor.” ANGLES will develop a web-based program to mark up textual materials for use in digital collections, archives, and websites. The project will make mark-up technology classroom-friendly by circumventing the current requirement that the user install the software on their local computer. The project will combine the model of intensive code development (the “code sprint”) with testing and feedback by domain experts gathered at nationally recognized disciplinary conferences. Announcements of code sprint locations will be released in early Fall 2012.

Travis Brown earned $41,906 for his project, “Active OCR: Tightening the Loop in Human Computing for OCR Correction.” ActiveOCR proposes a proof-of-concept application that will experiment with the use of iterative techniques for the correction of eighteenth-century texts. The application would query an annotator about the instances it finds most difficult to understand, such as the long “s” which renders as today’s “f” in 18th century texts, and will prompt the annotator to select an appropriate label or solution to the error. This allows the system to learn more effectively from the human in the “human computing” loop by creating an opportunity for the human to intervene in the analytical function of the algorithm itself, not just correcting the individual error. A portion of the team’s efforts will focus on the need to incentivize engagement in tasks of this type, whether they are traditionally crowdsourced or through a more active, iterative process.

SUMMER STIPEND PROJECTS

Daryle Williams earned a $6,000 Summer Stipend from NEH for his project “A Spatial History of the Free Africans of the Slave Ship Cezar, 1838-1865.” The project will explore the spatial history of enslavement, emancipation and liberty traversed by two hundred and sixty Africans illegally transported from Ambriz, Angola to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1838. The project puts place at the center of the life histories of enslaved men, women, and children swept into the Middle Passage after international treaty, colonial law, and national legislation had banned the transatlantic trade.

In partnership with the Terrain of History, a collaborative research team housed under Stanford University's Spatial History Project, Williams’ two months of funded research will analyze a series of visualizations of the barracoons, holds of ships, courts, homes, jails, and places of work and sociability traversed by the Africans of the Cezar in their path from illegal enslavement to conditional emancipation towards full freedom. The research will produce a scholarly article. The visualizations will be archived on the Spatial History Project website.