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Elaine Ray, News Service (650) 723-7162; e-mail:

Stanford Humanities Laboratory announces research projects for 2000-01

Four research teams have been chosen to head the pilot projects for the new Stanford Humanities Laboratory.

The laboratory, which was announced in April, is charged with funding collaborative research projects in the humanities, following the Silicon Valley model of venture capital.

"Our goal is to provide seed money, if you will, to scholars with promising ideas that don't fit neatly into the traditional institutional framework and that would otherwise go unrealized," said Jeffrey T. Schnapp, director of the laboratory and the Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature.

The projects chosen to launch the initial phase of the laboratory all share several key features. They are based on collaborative work involving faculty, staff, postdoctoral and doctoral students, and undergraduates; all make use of technology in ways rarely seen in the humanities; and each research team proposes a tangible output complementary to but distinct from that of traditional humanities projects.

Schnapp said that the selection committee received a surprising number of applications. "Given the timing of our announcement, we expected far less response. That made the selection committee's task harder, as we were unable to fund a number of excellent ideas. The projects ultimately selected are the cream of the crop, to a level I had not anticipated," he said.

The projects range across a number of disciplines and approaches.

  • Medieval Spains: Antiquity to the New World, AD 100-1550. Principal Investigators: Kathryn A. Miller (assistant professor, history, Stanford), Jeffrey Bowman (assistant professor, history, Kenyon College), Michael Gonzalez (Stanford University Libraries), and Elka Klein (Dorot Postdoctoral Fellow, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University). Output: a HyperTextbook on CD-ROM, combining primary historical sources, images and scholarly analysis of the interlacing cultures Muslim, Jewish and Christian of pre-modern Spain.
  • How They Got Game: The History and Culture of Interactive Simulations and Video Games. Principal Investigators: Timothy Lenoir (professor, history of science, Stanford) and Henry Lowood (Stanford University Libraries). Output: a web-based documentary on the history of interactive media, in conjunction with a collaborative exhibit and a seminar series.
  • Crowds. Principal Investigators: Leah Dickerman (assistant professor, art history, Stanford) and Jeffrey T. Schnapp (professor, French and Italian, Stanford). Output: a DVD-based film commentary and website on the rise and fall of the crowd in the Western social and political imagination from the French Revolution until the present day.
  • De Natura Sonoris: The Music and Science of Sonorification. Principal Investigators: Jonathan Berger (associate professor, music, Stanford) and Oded ben Tal (doctoral student in composition, Stanford). Output: musical compositions based on auditory interpretations of complex data structures.

Each project will receive funding for computer equipment, research trips, technical support and other related expenses over the course of the 2000-01 academic year, with the possibility of a second round of funding in the following year. Further details about the laboratory's research teams and their projects, as well as details regarding two smaller-scale "seedlet" projects that the laboratory will sponsor, will be made to the community as part of the laboratory launch events in the fall.


By Elaine Ray

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