Stanford scholars awarded grants for digital humanities research

The Roberta Bowman Denning Fund for Humanities and Technology recently awarded grants to humanities projects that will use digital technology to produce new scholarship.

Steven and Roberta Denning
Steven and Roberta Bowman Denning at the Denning Family Resource Center in the Anderson Collection building.

Led by Stanford professors, the five winning projects reflect the wide range of humanities disciplines, from history to archaeology to linguistics.

“With generous funding from the Roberta Bowman Denning Fund we are now able to support an array of important projects which bring technology to bear on our understanding of cultures, histories and societies,” said DEBRA SATZ, senior associate dean for humanities & arts and member of the Denning Fund Committee.

Other members of the fund committee who evaluated the proposals include ZEPHYR FRANK, associate professor or history, ELAINE TREHARNE, professor of English, and CAROLINE WINTERER, history professor and director of the Stanford Humanities Center.

Applicants were asked to show how their projects would offer a fresh perspective or an innovative research method, or would contribute to scholarly networks in humanities and technologies.

“The fund received a number of standout innovative proposals that promise to yield new knowledge and make that knowledge available to others in striking ways,” Satz said.

“What is exciting about these and other proposals is they generate new knowledge using programming technology, and at the same time work in conjunction with community and other partners to make this knowledge widely available,” Satz added.

The fund was established in honor of ROBERTA DENNING, who earned her BA in English from Stanford in 1975 and her MBA in 1978. As chair of both the university’s Arts Advisory Council and the Humanities and Sciences Council, and a member of the Humanities Task Force, she strives to ensure that humanistic study and artistic expression are a part of every Stanford education.

“Stanford has a great opportunity and responsibility to contribute to humanities research in new and inventive ways. These collaborative projects are wonderful examples, and I look forward to learning about the discoveries that result,” said Roberta Denning.

The Roberta Bowman Denning Fund was established in concert with the Roberta Bowman Denning Professorship, which supports a professor in the School of Humanities & Sciences, with a preference for faculty whose work reaches broadly across academic disciplines in the humanities and whose work intersects with technology. Roberta’s husband, STEVE DENNING, MBA ’78, chairman of Stanford’s Board of Trustees, established both the fund and professorship. The purpose of this combination is to deepen humanistic scholarship using contemporary tools and to stimulate student interest in the humanities as they are developing in the digital age. Treharne is the inaugural holder of that professorship.

Grant recipients:

GORDON CHANG professor of history, SHELLEY FISHER-FISHKIN, professor of English, and BARBARA VOSS, associate professor of anthropology received a grant for their proposal, “Visualizing The Experience of the Chinese Railroad Workers on the Transcontinental Railroad.” The funds will help the scholars develop an interactive map-based website that will offer new information about the experiences of the Chinese workers who built the Summit Tunnel at Donner Pass.

Thomas Mullaney
Thomas Mullaney

A grant was awarded to THOMAS MULLANEY, associate professor of history, for his proposal “China’s Other Population Crisis: Funeral Reform and Grave Relocation in Modern China.” Mullaney’s team will employ geospatial mapping to track the relocation of graves in modern China, where expanding economic development has led to the exhumation and reburial of 10 million corpses in the past decade alone.

Voss and CLAUDIA ENGEL, an academic technology specialist, received a grant for their proposal, “Burn Layer: The Archaeology of Anti-Immigrant Violence.” The project will use digital visual sources to understand the effects of an 1887 arson fire that destroyed San Jose’s Chinatown.

Linguistics Assistant Professor ROBERT PODESVA received a grant for his proposal “Beyond the Identity Turn: Computational Approaches to Embodied Affect in Linguistic Variation,” which will apply novel computational methods – in both vision and speech – to incorporate affect and embodiment into explanatory models of linguistic variation.

AMIR ESHEL, professor of German Studies and comparative literature and modern thought and literature doctoral candidate BRIAN JOHNSRUD received a grant for their proposal, “Lacuna Stories: Mending the Gaps in Knowledge of Major Historical Events and Topics through Narrative Collaboration.” The funds will help them to further expand Lacuna Stories, an interactive online space for professors and students to annotate a wide variety of texts and produce scholarship around significant historical events and topics. The grant also will support the development of an automated copyright management system that will help Lacuna Stories grow in scale so that it can be used for more courses and outside institutions.

TANU WAKEFIELD is a communications assistant for the Stanford Humanities Center.