Student Research Opportunities
Summer 2020 Research Opportunities with DCS Faculty
Analyzing 18th-Century Germany Gibbons Fellowship
Supervisor: Prof. Birgit Tautz
The project’s main component is the scraping and cleaning of a large database of 18th- and early 19th-century German journals to test and confirm a research hypothesis. Specifically, this project picks up on my longstanding work on the perception and representation of China in 18th-century German. While extensive work has been done, research has always bypassed – or simply restated - the curious phenomenon that China’s image was very positive in the early 18th century, indicating Sinophilia, before turning negative and inscribing full-fledged Sinophobia around 1800. So far, I have only been able to speculate on why we may see this shift; in order to prove my hypothesis, I will need to employ the methods of big-data research and Digital Humanities. This will require work with OCR and computational text analysis. As part of my course preparation, the fellow will assist me in the visualization of writing, publishing, and reading patterns in the 18th century, with a specific focus on translator networks and copyright infringements (using materials from journal database), acclaimed works (Faust), “social acts” and their impacts (imitation of suicide in response to Werther), and the circulation of objects through trade and travel.
Automatic Italian? Gibbons Fellowship
Supervisor: Prof. Hall
What can we learn about a language and its speakers when apps enter (not replace) an introductory Italian classroom? The fellow will collaborate with Professor Hall on summer research designed for publication(s) and the development of a new course. Summer work will include: DCS 4As analysis on a series of translation, transcription, dictation, word reference, and language learning apps; data gathering and visualization related to the Italian language and its speakers around the world; building a critical bibliography of language acquisition pedagogy and app use; evaluation of primary materials. Particular emphasis will be placed on finding written, spoken, visual, and social media content from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented speakers.
Maine's Mid-Century Moment Digital Map - $1500 stipend paid by the National Endowment for the Humanities, no fixed location or hours
Supervisor: Prof. Hall in collaboration with PI Professor Lisa Botshon (UMaine Augusta)
Using Gephi and Storymap.js software, to help tell a variety of stories about mid-century Maine. Gephi is often employed to help visualize patterns within databases (such as an Excel spreadsheet) and trends in networks such as social media. For the purposes of this project, these tools will help illuminate pathways of connection. For example, Blue Hill, Maine, will appear as a large “node” of connection on the map, as it convened multiple authors and artists in a brief period of time, attracting even the then-sitting president’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. The digital map will make visible heretofore unknown relations by posing and attempting to answer specific questions: Where and with whom did artists and writers socialize and exchange ideas? How did they promote each other’s work? Which publishers dominated Maine’s mid-century literary scene? Why were certain geographical areas preferred over others? Which dealers, collectors, and curators promoted which artists? Different colored lines and nodes will make these connections apparent, thereby revealing new humanities information to the general public, as well as to researchers. These nodes will be enhanced by the inclusion of narratives and images uploaded in Storymap.js, a creation of the Northwestern Knight Lab that was designed to help writers tell more complicated narratives through geographical maps. Storymap will allow us to incorporate more complex stories about Maine’s creative class and help users see their trajectories through Maine, the sources of their works and lives, and how they intersected.
Concept Search using Word Embedding
Supervisor: Prof. Nascimento
We have been working on a project to retrieve paragraphs in philosophical texts that are relevant to the definition of a certain concept ( for instance justice, narrative, will). In a previous stage of this project we applied a statistical technique called topic modeling. Although the results have been positive, the complexity of optimizing the parameters of the model makes it difficult to use it in other textual corpora. In this project we will apply a machine learning technique called word embedding that is based on recurrent neural networks to determine the syntactic distance between a given concept and all paragraphs of a text so that the most relevant ones for the definition of the concept can be offered as a result for searches.
Theater Shows and Festivals Mobile Application
Supervisor: Prof. Nascimento and Prof. Sarah Bay-Cheng (University of York – Canada)
We created a first version of this application for mobile devices that allows the audience of theater shows to register and share their impressions about shows using some metrics created by Prof. Bay-Cheng. In this next stage we will expand the application's functionality to capture impressions related to the experience of theater festivals. This will allow not only the expansion of the community of users of the application, but also research the behavior of the audience during events well located temporally and graphically. These new features open up possibilities to monitor the behavior of audiences in the event of sequences of the same festival, which may indicate the evolution of cultural patterns over time.