Software Studies Initiative awarded $477,000 grant from Mellon Foundation

Project name:

Tools for the Analysis and Visualization of Large Image and Video Collections for the Humanities

Project team:

PI: Dr. Lev Manovich, Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego (UCSD);
Director, Software Studies Initiative, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2.

Almila Akdag, Postdoctoral Researcher, e-Humanities Group, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; Visiting Scholar, Visual Arts and Communication Design, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Loretta Auvil, Senior Project Coordinator at Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois; SEASR co-PI.

Jeremy Douglass, Technical Director, Software Studies Initiative, UCSD.

Elizabeth Losh, Director of Academic Programs, Sixth College, Program in Culture, Art, and Technology, UCSD.

Project summary:

Since 2008, Software Studies Initiative at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has been developing a comprehensive set of software tools for the quantitative analysis and visualization of large collections of images and video. The tools were designed for academic researchers in the humanities, and have already been used by scholars in a number of disciplines including art history, archeology, film and media studies, dance studies, and game studies. We have also been working with a number of prominent cultural institutions and collections including the Library of Congress, Getty Research Institute, the Austrian Film Museum, and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Image, in using our techniques with their collections and data sets. The software development and its applications has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), UC San Diego, and the California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technologies (Calit2).

In our new three year project funded by $477,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we will work to fully integrate our techniques and tools into the SEASR/Meandre environment, a major platform for digital humanities research developed with key support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The integrated tools will come with comprehensive documentation and a set of examples covering a number of fields in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. This integration will address a current goal of SEASR to “continue to evolve to include processing of images and other multimedia data formats.” We anticipate these tools being used by an ever-expanding range of people, including academics and students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, museum curators and visitors, and cultural creators who want to better understand how their work fits within a larger context

In addition to making available to others software tools, accessible user interfaces, documentation, and examples, Software Studies Initiative will also collaborate with other researchers to carry out large-scale case studies. Each case study will demonstrate how, within a particular field, quantitative analysis and visualization of images and/or video can open new research possibilities for that field. Each study will include documentation of the appropriate SEASR workflows, a paper describing the data, the methods used, the findings, and high-resolution still and animated visualizations:

Almila Akdag will lead the case study which will combine network analysis and image processing to explore a few million images and user data from deviantArt (the most popular social network for user-generated art).

Jeremy Douglass will lead the analysis of our one million manga images dataset.

Elizabeth Losh will lead the case study which applies our methods to thousands of hours of political video on the web and TV news.

Over 200 undergraduate and graduate UCSD students will participate in the project over its three year period, exploring selected data sets as part of their classes in visualization and computational art history, and digital humanities.


Lev Manovich, Director, Software Studies Initiative []

More information:

Our methods for the analysis and visualization of large visual data sets

Our projects (analysis of image sets covering video games, visual art, graphic design, maagzines, newspapers, comic books, TV, films, animation, motion graphics.) (Over 900 visualizations and sketches from our lab)

Our open source software tools (digital image processing and visualization of image sets of any size.)

Case study: One million manga pages

Pilot project: Digging Into Global News