UCLA Spotlight

Digital World: faculty uses technology to explore cultures and ideas

  • Published May 7, 2007 8:00 AM

When Vice Chancellor for Research Roberto Peccei decided to showcase digital innovation at UCLA, he found almost too many projects to choose from. A “sampling” turned out to be more than two dozen, many involving multiple departments and disciplines.

Consider the Digital Roman Forum: history scholars, practicing architects and structural engineers collaborate to recreate the city center in 400 AD. As architecture professor Diana Favro remarks, “There was no blueprint office in ancient Rome.” Archaeological remains, written descriptions and visual cues from art works must be combined with knowledge about building techniques, materials and tools of the time. Favro is intrigued by the potential of digital tools to make research more rigorous. “People in the sciences have always had labs,” she says. "We in the humanities and arts haven't. Now we have a lab."

Folklore scholar Tim Tangherlini works in the Scandinavian Section; his collaborators come from the UCLA Library and the Center for Digital Humanities. Danish folklore is an environment for the study of a single but extensive collection of manuscripts and artifacts. Tangherlini’s other project is an analyzer for Old Icelandic texts. He uses digital research as a way to actively involve his students. “We want to bring our research into the classroom, we want to bring our classrooms back into the research arena,” Tangherlini says.

There are other virtual reality projects in the showcase besides the Roman Forum, ranging from ancient Qumran to medieval SantiaEgyptologygo de Compostela to the city of today, Virtual L.A. Then there’s the Plan of St. Gall, an ideal of a monastery rather than an actual collection of buildings. Another common theme of projects is digital access to information: Chicano Archives Digitization, Cuneiform Digital Library, Encyclopedia of Egyptology.

Countries, Cultures, Communication: Digital Innovation at UCLA is scheduled for Thursday, May 10 from 4-8 pm in 1302 Perloff Hall. To RSVP, go to http://digitalinnovations.ucla.edu

Flash teaser on www.ucla.edu uses portions of a video from the Santiago de Compostela project.