ACLS Digital Innovation Fellows

The ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship program supports digitally based research projects in all disciplines of the humanities and humanities-related social sciences. It is hoped that projects of successful applicants will help advance digital humanistic scholarship by broadening understanding of its nature and exemplifying the robust infrastructure necessary for creating further such works.

2014-2015 marked the tenth and final year of the ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship Program, generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Steve F. Anderson
Steve F. Anderson  |  Abstract
Technologies of Cinema is an interactive, richly mediated electronic publication and critical media archive designed to model the integration of two recently developed tools for digital scholarship: the authoring platform Scalar and the media archive Critical Commons. The Technologies of Cinema archive offers a publicly accessible collection of media depicting the evolution of computer technology as seen on American commercial film and TV from the 1950s to the present. The Scalar project is a book-length critical treatment of this history, featuring hundreds of embedded media files and a series of original video essays. This project represents the most ambitious integration of Critical Commons and Scalar yet attempted, providing both an illuminating cultural analysis and model for future scholarship.

Associate Professor, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California  -  Technologies of Cinema

K.J. Rawson
K.J. Rawson  |  Abstract
Many archives collect transgender-related historical materials; however, these materials are notoriously difficult to access since transgender materials are rarely described as such, very little information about these collections is digitized, archives that collect these materials are largely disconnected, and archives employ varying organizational systems. Building the Digital Transgender Archive will dramatically improve access to transgender history by creating a website that functions as a centralized hub for transgender historical materials. The Digital Transgender Archive will feature a searchable database of metadata and select digital content contributed by a number of archives in the US and Canada. To virtually merge these disparate archival collections, the DTA will provide a flexible database that will accommodate a range of metadata, will have highly adaptable search features, and will be searchable and indexable through web search engines. With its promise of opening up research opportunities, fresh research pathways, and inter-archive collaboration, this type of metadata aggregation and centralized digital archiving could be widely replicated with many other themes and topics.

Assistant Professor, English, College of the Holy Cross  -  Building the Digital Transgender Archive

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon
Elizabeth Maddock Dillon  |  Abstract
The Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) brings together a wide range of digitized texts, manuscripts, and images from the pre-20th century Caribbean and provides an interactive digital scholarly lab for the collaborative study of these materials. Fractured and dispersed by a history of imperialism, the archives of the early Caribbean are re-collected in the ECDA and re-networked in relation to Caribbean-centered rather than European imperial geopolitics and culture. By reaching into the colonial archive and retrieving interpolated and embedded voices of enslaved diasporic Africans, and by visualizing the relations among Caribbean peoples, texts, and commodities, the ECDA aims to use the recombinatory power of the digital archive to produce new knowledge of the past.

Professor, English, Northeastern University  -  Early Caribbean Digital Archive and Network Visualization Project

Nicolas Tackett
Nicolas Tackett  |  Abstract
This project explores the sudden appearance in the 10th c. of a meritocratic culture that transformed Chinese elite society and constituted the ideological foundation of China's famous civil service exams. My earlier work used GIS, social network analysis, and a very large biographical database to explain the physical demise of China’s aristocracy. This project now complements that sociopolitical research with a study that explains the accompanying cultural change as a product of the rampant migration of the era. Using new digital tools, The Rise of the Chinese Meritocracy will map out the primary routes of elite migration during the 10th century and assess how migration correlated with a package of cultural changes (including burial culture, language dialect, as well as articulations in literary texts of the new meritocratic ethos).

Assistant Professor, History, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Rise of the Chinese Meritocracy: A Digital Approach to the Study of Cultural Change in Tenth-Century China

Meghan Howey
Meghan Howey  |  Abstract
The human-space relationship has been central to all people at all times and movement is the primary way people experience and negotiate this relationship. This project uses digital geospatial technologies to build an innovative model of movement and to expand ways of exploring cultural landscapes and histories embedded in place. Specifically, two geospatial techniques, circuit-based modeling and least cost path analysis, are combined to develop a framework that encompasses dual aspects of movement, incipient meaning and displacement. The power of this framework is tested through an examination of the proposition that indigenous communities living in the Great Lakes during Late Precontact (AD 1200 – 1600) crafted an imbricated monumental landscape based on circular earthwork enclosures that served as hubs of social and ritual interaction. The results of this modeling are made public through an interactive online map.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of New Hampshire  -  Building Geospatial Models of Movement: Past Monumental Landscapes in the Great Lakes

Matthew Wilkens
Matthew Wilkens  |  Abstract
Literary Geography at Scale uses natural language processing algorithms and automated geocoding to extract geographic information from nearly eleven million digitized volumes held by the HathiTrust Digital Library. The project extends existing computationally assisted work on American and international literary geography to new regions, new historical periods – including the present day – and to a vastly larger collection of texts. It also provides scholars in the humanities and social sciences with an enormous yet accessible trove of geographic information. Because the HathiTrust corpus includes books published over many centuries in a variety of languages and across nearly all disciplines, the derived data is potentially useful to researchers in a range of humanities and computational fields. Literary Geography at Scale is one of the largest humanities text-mining projects to date and the first truly large-scale study of 20th and 21st century literature.

Assistant Professor, English, University of Notre Dame  -  Literary Geography at Scale

Anne MacNeil
Anne MacNeil  |  Abstract
Secretaries are keepers of secrets. Across Renaissance Europe, secretaries listened, took dictation, copied, and sent letters daily. Their records offer a godsend to historians, but secretarial copies also reflect a change in the meaning of letters by adding an administrative mediation that de-personalizes them—a change not evident in the sent letter alone. With Mapping Secrets, my team and I are developing a new tool for mapping networks that integrates secretarial practices and administrative recordkeeping in the act of letter writing. Our dataset comprises notes, drafts, copies, and letters from the archive of Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), Marquise of the north Italian court of Mantua. With over 50,000 documents, her correspondence presents a detailed record of domestic, social, artistic, and political networks that offers day-by-day evidence of communications practices at a time when ambassadorial networks were in their infancy. Mapping Secrets recognizes the integrations of personal letter-writing with bureaucratic systems in early modern Europe and marks the potential meanings implied by variations in the processes of letter production over time. Tracing these trajectories, we ask: what can the practices of Renaissance secretaries tell us about the design of early bureaucracies and statecraft?

Associate Professor, Music, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  Mapping Secrets