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DH White Paper

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1. MERIT AND IMPACT
1.1.Global Merit and Impact
Intellectual Merit and Potential for Impact:

“An advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone, but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future.”

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“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster and support a form of education, and access to the arts and humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

–National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, 1965 (PL89-209)

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In 2006, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Commission on Cyberinfrastructures for the Humanities and Social Sciences reinforced the truth of these arguments for “an” advanced civilization” that depends on technology for the daily business of its culture as well as for its education and its research” (8) and identified the creation of “cyberinfrastructure” as a grand challenge for the humanities and social sciences.1 Our proposal addresses that grand challenge through the creation of a Center for research on the global impact of computing, digitization, cyber-worlds, and digital communication on culture. Strategic hiring will support the Center’s research agenda and outreach.

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Disruptive technologies create change by superannuating traditional or orthodox technology platforms.  Computing technologies have proven to be among the most disruptive technologies in the history of communication; their societal and cultural impact has been rapid, profound, and global.  The flow of information across regional and national boundaries has accelerated, spurring the diffusion of innovations and redefining individuals’ expectations and aspirations. Computing technologies have brought new efficiencies to the marketplace (e.g., by reducing individuals’ search costs) but have also created serious challenges (e.g., the protection of individuals’ privacy).  It is imperative that we investigate these changes, and understand how social and cultural changes influence the diffusion of digital innovations. The breadth of the humanities makes it uniquely positioned to structure the exploration of new research questions and issues that are emerging.  Unfortunately, insights from humanities remain significantly underutilized in such endeavors. We strongly believe that this must change.   However, recognizing that complex challenges are best addressed through a variety of disciplinary approaches, the Center incorporates a humanities perspective while fostering research and collaboration with the social and applied sciences.

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In the original version of our white paper, Texas Center for Digital Humanities and New Media, we focused upon one especially notable aspect of the cultural change created by disruptive uses of computing: the displacement of books, films, sculptures, paintings, newspapers, magazines and similar media by continually evolving digital media.   Similar in scope and impact to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, digital media reflect, and have created, pervasive cultural change on a global scale, bringing new opportunities to improve human communication along with momentous intellectual, cultural, political, educational and technological challenges. We represented this focus in terms of digital humanities, the name most commonly given to research that concerns the role of computing technology either as the focus or the primary methodology of new research in the humanities.

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While many members of the team claim “digital humanities” as the most appropriate term for their work, the expanded team has chosen a new title for our combined efforts: The Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture (CDHMC). The update reflects both the shared focus on the interplay of computing and culture, and the distinct ways in which various disciplines approach that interplay.  Our continuing discussions have prompted us to consider digital media as a significant aspect of a larger process by which disruptive or emerging computing is reshaping, and being reshaped by, human culture.  Scholars who engage this process are asking simple but extraordinarily important questions: What does it mean to be human in the digital age?  How is technology changing human experience, at the individual and societal levels?  How do social and cultural processes impact digital technology? What new forms of expression, scholarly and creative, are emerging in the digital age? How does, and must, education change within the context of an evolving digital age?  We believe that these are some of the most compelling questions of our time, and we represent a multidisciplinary array of researchers for whom these questions are both the cornerstone and the cutting edge of research.

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Our proposal, then, is to recognize the human impact of computing as a landmark research area. We recognize four inter-related focuses of this research:

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1.   The cultural record in the digital age:   All aspects of the historic,  present, and future cultural record are impacted by the transfer of existing materials to digital form,  and by the creation of new materials, including creative works,  in digital media.   Research in this area focuses on the cultural significance of media shifts, including both the remediation of documents, artifacts, and records not originally in digital form,   and the intellectual, cultural, pedagogical, and artistic impact of the creation of “born digital” materials.  We will also investigate and develop methods for creating digital forms that are more faithful to the originals of cultural materials. The traditional processes of artifact conservation are often destructive and many types of digital records (pictures, X-Rays, TACs, 3D Scans) of artifacts are becoming increasingly important to preserve features that are impossible to preserve with our present knowledge of conservation techniques.

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Changes in media technology can threaten the integrity of the cultural record, and thus of our collective memory,  if measures are not taken to retain information contained in displaced technologies,  including information inherent in or derived from the physical forms of the media itself. The threat of loss concerns both pre-digital and digital materials.  Risks of cultural loss are introduced through a variety of ways: physical deterioration, technical obsolescence, incompatible standards, closed standards, and expanding prohibitions on making copies.  Similarly, the need, facility, and access to means by which to construct contemporary artifacts is now increasingly complicated due to various “born-digital” technologies. That is, with an increase in technologies that allow for the creation of digital content and artifacts, come added possibilities for their use, misuse, storage, dissemination, exhibition and revision.

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Disruptive and/or emerging digital technologies affect the form, content, epistemology and ontology of new cultural products and creative works.  Research on the cultural record in the digital age thus includes the study and creation of artistic works, which may integrate digital and traditional art forms, comment upon the human experience in the digital world, or make use of new technologies such as social networking or Internet memes to create new artistic forms.

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2.  Cultural systems in the digital age:  This area of our research addresses the psychological, social, political, economic, legal, and educational impacts of digital culture. The potential world- wide impacts of digital archiving of social, cultural and historic information will have serious policy, social and cultural implications and consequences for the U.S. and all other nations of the world community.  The success of (then candidate, now President) Barack Obama in harnessing the energy of social networking sites and the internet illustrates the early potential of these technologies as tools to build consensus, raise money, and call citizens to action, thus potentially changing the center of power and control in the political process.

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Social scientists have distinguished the period of time from about 1975 to the present as the birth of the “information society” (Daniel Bell) or the “network society” (Manuel Castells), in which computing, informatics, knowledge-based work, networking,  and data analysis gain prominence in the business models of major industries and the operation of government bureaucracies.  From digital humanities and new media studies perspectives, the information society and the network society provide some important, empirical preconditions for the emergence of “cybercultures” online.  Studying the music, literature, imagery, discourses, social organization, and identities produced by participants in cybercultures constitutes a major research focus for the Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture. The virtual reality platforms, Web content management systems, messaging systems, digital rights management and personalization systems, and other software technologies underpin the main technical parts of the “cyberinfrastructure” of which the ACLS speaks. Other parts of the “cyberinfrastructure” include information policy, telecommunications law, intellectual property law, and other features of the legal system geared to making cybercultures profitable and also maximally democratic.

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3.  Cultural environments in the digital age:     Developments in computing technology have changed our ability to map and visualize our historic and present-day physical environment and impact how individuals and cultures understand, respond to, and reimagine that environment.   In addition, digital environments such as the virtual worlds of Second Life,  internet and personal computer gaming, and the social networks of Facebook and Twitter also have a broad, global cultural impact.   Research on the human/computer interface is also included in this area. We will also investigate collaborative creation in virtual worlds and develop methods that can cultivate creativity in virtual communities. Virtual communities (including the social networking sites) are contemporary objects of study across the humanities, social sciences and education.  AOL, Compuserve, Yahoo, and Excite, introduced a first generation of mass-market Internet users to the prospect of publishing personal Web pages. Napster and social networking sites later flourished around user-generated content intended for sharing documents online (music, photos, stories). Cultural environments in the digital age also include such examples as Google Maps and Google World that offer representations of and interactions with our own world, allow users to view satellite imagery and street level images, and contribute metadata related to specific geographic locations and events.

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Web 2.0 offers additional exploration of social networking, from academic communities (such as by Zotaro), to commercial communities, such as viral marketing communities, to social communities (such as Twitter).

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4.   Cultural interactions in the digital age:  The development of the internet and the distribution of new forms of digital media reshape various cultural interactions within and among traditionally defined social groups.  In addition to cultural interactions within the United States, the rise of digital communication technologies and new media have dramatically altered international and intercultural interaction. The information society offers opportunities for forming new social networks across social, ethnic, racial, religious and gendered boundaries.

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In the 1990s we heard much of the democratization of knowledge emerging from the developing technological infrastructure, particularly the emerging internet. There was great hope that the free access materials on the web would allow those previously cut off from intellectual capital to gain materials and knowledge that might be leveraged to change social position.  As we move into web 2.0, however, it is increasingly clear that the digital divide apparent in technology clearly replicates the divisions existing in society.  Projects as diverse as openJournals and the One Laptop per Child seek to address the disparities, but it is clear that many of the same challenges are operating in the digital age.  In addition, the academic and museum communities’ decisions about what is digitized and how it is digitized continue to enforce such disparities.

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Clearly, the diffusion of computing and Internet access can also reinforce existing disparities, especially racial, economic, health, and class disparities. The “digital divide” now exists alongside more well-researched gaps such as sex and gender, standard of living, world region, nationality, and race or ethnicity. The Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture will systematically identify and explore the processes underlying the development of cybercultures, as well as intercultural interactions and educational environments, with particular attention to bridging the “digital divide.”

Metrics For Evaluating Impact

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The Center will support a program of coordinated research activities designed to directly impact Texas A&M faculty, students, and staff, and to broadly benefit the State of Texas.  An annual research cycle will bring one or more visiting scholars and artists to Texas A&M to work independently and collaboratively with TAMU faculty, and to offer a series of seminars in which TAMU faculty, students, and support staff can participate. An annual capstone symposium will present results of the work of the visiting scholars and artists to TAMU participants to the campus and wider intellectual community.   By including creative activities in the Center’s program of research,  the Center recognizes the central role of the arts in articulating the human dimensions of the digital world, and especially recognizes that scholarly and creative work is increasingly interwoven.  The impact of the research cycles can be measured by the number of participants (visiting faculty, TAMU faculty and students, external participants who download podcasts of talks and seminars), by the creation and dissemination (through performance, publication, software release, or other appropriate means) of research by participants, and by external funding secured as a result of proposals developed through the research cycles.

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In support of the Center’s work, we propose transformational hires in Center research areas.  The cutting-edge research of these faculty, working in synergy with existing TAMU faculty and programs, will have an immediate and visible impact at TAMU and beyond. The impact of this aspect of the proposal can be measured by success in initial hiring of superstar faculty, and by their continued scholarly and creative activity once hired. We believe that if A&M moves quickly to hire superstars in this field that a substantive impact will be felt both nationally and internationally as, at this date, only a few Research 1 schools have made substantial hires in the field, with extremely visible results.  For example, the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, designated digital humanities research an area of excellence in 2004.  Nebraska is now one of a handful of digital humanities programs recognized internationally for their scholastic excellence. Texas A&M is poised to have such an impact as well with appropriate seed money for hires and support of existing faculty.

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The intellectual impact of digital scholarly and creative products developed by Center participants can be directly measured through user statistics as well as through citations, links, and–for subscription sites –number of subscribers. The Center will support research in knowledge mapping and other new ways of measuring the impact of digitally disseminated research.  The implementation of open source software applications developed with the support of the Center can also be tracked.

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The support of research in such areas as public policy and intellectual property rights law will have both an academic and societal impact.   Center research could be used to identify and promote best practices, to research legislative trends, and to guide decision-makers and ordinary citizens alike through disputes over the cultural disposition of cyberspace.

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Finally, the Center’s impact will be strengthened through a variety of dissemination activities beyond scholarly publications. This will include establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships with other research centers already engaged in various aspects of the Center’s research foci, including Brown,  California-Berkeley,  Harvard,  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Nebraska-Lincoln, Maryland,  MIT,  Stanford, and Virginia,  and international partners such as the University of Victoria (Canada),  and Kings College and the Knowledge Lab (London).  This broader impact will also be established through periodic workshops and symposia through which K-12 and college faculty could gain expertise in research and teaching in Center focus areas.

1.2  Building Intellectual Capacity at Texas A&M

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The creation of a center to support collaborative, multidisciplinary research on the cultural impacts of computing technologies will put Texas A&M in the forefront of emerging research in the humanities and social sciences and related fields.   Although there are a number of digital humanities centers established in the United States and abroad, most are more narrowly focused than our proposed center, which retains a focus on humanistic and cultural issues while actively incorporating a wide range of disciplines across several Colleges.   Our Center will also stand out among other existing examples because of its inclusion of creative as well as scholarly work; cross-disciplinary collaboration between the arts and other disciplines is emerging as a significant and exciting locus of digital cultural activity, as seen in the rapidly expanding field of digital visual culture studies, or in examples such as the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, which received a prestigious MacArthur Foundation award in 2008.   By engaging the digital era from multiple disciplinary perspectives, our Center will allow us to recruit faculty doing cutting edge work that doesn’t easily fit into established disciplinary structures. This will serve both as a recruiting tool for the best and the brightest, and it will also give us a strategic advantage in that Center-related faculty can be drawn from a large, multi-disciplinary pool.

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The Center’s support for broad-based digital cultural research will be an especially important tool for recruiting and training graduate students and for introducing undergraduates to this new research area. The participatory nature of Center-sponsored research cycles, the availability of a laboratory and associated workshops and training, and opportunities to work with Center faculty as research assistants, will all be highly attractive to graduate students, for whom opportunities to actively engage in digitally-focused humanistic and cultural research are still relatively scarce. TAMU graduates affiliated with the Center will be adept in the theory and practice of digital research, and could expect to be highly sought after in the private sector and by nonprofit and government employers. The Center’s laboratory could also foster student entrepreneurs who wish to develop the next generation of digital media and software.

2. MULTIDISCIPLINARY ASPECTS AND ORGANIZATION

2.1. Multidisciplinary Aspects

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Digitization, as a general purpose technology, transcends substantive boundaries. As a result, research efforts related to the implications of digitization can be found in almost every college at Texas A&M. This represents an important strength of our proposal.

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Strong participation from the College of Liberal Arts underscores the humanistic focus of the Center. However, the Center’s broadly defined research areas reflect and encourage multidisciplinary research and have drawn committed participants from all invited Colleges, each of which brings unique potential for leveraging existing resources. The primary participants and related resources from each College are indicated for each research focus area as follows:

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• Cultural record: Research focused on the cultural record in the digital age primarily involves the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Architecture, Engineering, Geosciences, and Education and Human Development, and will leverage existing resources such as the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation; Glasscock Center for Humanities Research; Visualization Laboratory; Center for the Study of Digital Libraries; and the University Writing Center. Faculty members in these units are currently creating digital archives of historic documents and artifacts (such as the Cervantes Project, Digital Donne, and 19th-Century Concord, all recipients of NEH funding: the NauticalArchaeology Digital Library; and the World Shakespeare Bibliography); developing methods for faithful digital forms for converting artworks such as paintings, comics and sculptures; researching new media and performance; new media and literature; new media and representations of gender, race, and religion; developing and manipulating large datasets of geologic and climate records; and cybercultures and digital music production and distribution. One staff researcher is developing new software tools for preserving and enhancing cybercultural records. One faculty member is guiding the development of community based digital records of a World War II prisoner of war camp for use by teachers and students in the local schools.

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Cultural systems: Research on cultural systems primarily involves the Colleges of Education and Human Development, The Bush school, and Liberal Arts, and will leverage existing resources such as the Communication Laboratory; the Visualization Laboratory; Center for Teaching Excellence; the Institute for Pacific Asia; the Public Policy Research Institute; and the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs. Researchers in these areas are currently investigating new media industries; cyberlaw, cybercrimes, and cyberliberties; international communications; media literacy, socio- psychological effects of new media, and video game culture.

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Cultural environments: The primary colleges involved in this area are Architecture, Education and Human Development, Geosciences, and Liberal Arts (especially Communication and Anthropology), and will leverage resources such as the Visualization Laboratory and the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation. Faculty led research in this area includes collaborative visual storytelling; storytelling in games; and the Glasscock Island for Digital Humanities and Visual Culture Research and Education in the virtual world of Second Life. This online environment offers faculty across campus instructional and research space in this virtual world to teach classes and conduct research related to digital humanities and visual culture.

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Cultural interactions: The primary colleges involved in this area are the Bush school, College of Business, Education, Engineering and Liberal Arts, and will leverage the Communication Laboratory, the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute, the Institute for Pacific Asia, and the Internet 2 Technology Evaluation Center. Faculty led research in this area includes Mexico-US trade in media and telecom services; intercultural communication, production and sharing of multi-media artistic work across cultures; the transmission of religious ideologies in cyberspace; health communication; online social networking and software; and research on the digital divide, media effects, gaming studies, and media globalization.

2.2. Suggested Organization

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We propose the creation of a Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture. Given the involvement of multiple Colleges in this research area, a structure that exists independently of existing Colleges, departments and programs is preferable to one that is bound to an existing organization or unit.

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The Center’s research mission supports interdisciplinary research on the relationship between computing technologies and culture. Research in one of the four research areas – the cultural record, cultural systems, cultural environments, and cultural interactions – will be supported in the following ways:

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  • fostering research and collaboration through focused research cycles involving visiting scholars, artists, and TAMU faculty and students,
  • providing equipment, software and training through the Center’s laboratory and training facility,
  • serving as a hub for the creation and dissemination of research and creative works with external partners, primarily K-12 teachers and leaders in the technology industries,
  • providing a Culture and Technology Laboratory for advanced research, including the development of software, equipment, and technologies that would help faithfully preserve, easily access, and conveniently share cultural records.
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The Center will require a full-time faculty Director who will be responsible for implementing the Center’s programs and actively seeking external funding from National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon Foundation, ACLS, National Endowment for the Arts and other agencies. The Director will also work with the Development Committee to pursue long-term funding,

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The Center will also require a full-time faculty Associate Director, who will assist the Director and take primary responsibility for administering the Center’s Lab, building intellectual community, and guiding the development of the Center’s research resources. The Director and Associate Director will hire full-time and part-time technical support positions, as well as a full- time administrative assistant and secretary. In the formative stages of the Center’s development, an Interim Director and Interim Associate Director may be selected from submitters of the expanded white paper.

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A Faculty Advisory Committee with at least one member from each of the Colleges involved in the Center’s work will meet regularly with the Director and Associate Director to advise on policy, development, funding, topics and visiting researchers, and long-term goals.

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The Center will also support workshops in technology relevant to research on digital humanities and digital culture.   Such workshops are among the recommendations of the ACLS cyberinfrastructure report and can be funded wholly or in part through external funding from NEH.  One of the Advisory Committee’s first tasks will be to conduct a search for the Center Director and Associate Director.

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The Center Director, Associate Director and Advisory Committee will manage the Center’s research cycles. This will involve selecting, on an annual or biannual basis, a cross-disciplinary research topic.  To implement the topic, one or two visiting faculty, supported by a Center fellowship and/or external funding, will be brought to TAMU for the purpose of individual and collaborative research with TAMU faculty.  The visiting faculty will participate in a series of workshops (one or two per semester) to encourage collaboration and intellectual community building; ideally, the workshops will coordinate with graduate and undergraduate courses taught by TAMU faculty.   The results of each research cycle will be presented at an annual or biannual symposium and distributed through the Center’s website.

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The Center will also support workshops in technology relevant to research on digital humanities and digital culture.   Such workshops are among the recommendations of the ACLS cyberinfrastructure report and can be funded wholly or in part through external funding from NEH.

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In support of the Center’s programming and of the research agendas of TAMU faculty working in Center areas, the Center will staff a Culture and Technology Laboratory.  Although various laboratories are scattered across campus, there is no central facility to which any and all TAMU faculty can go to work collaboratively or individually on digital humanities, media or cultural projects. There is also not a central facility to support cross-college workshops, seminars, and training referenced above, and widely acknowledged as a necessity to develop digitally focused research in the affiliated areas.  In the beginning of operations, the laboratory will require at least two support staff to assist in software development and training.

3. SYNERGIES AND COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

3.1. Synergies with University and College Plans

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The Center would support several Vision 2020 imperatives.  The innovative, multidisciplinary research mission of the Center would support Imperative 1 (to elevate our faculty by supporting high-caliber research and facilitating interdisciplinary scholarship); the humanities focus of the Center’s work would also support Imperative 4 (to build the letters, arts, and sciences core). The Center’s cultural preservation activities meet Imperative 7 (increase access to knowledge resources) and the Center’s provision not only of cultural heritage materials but also training and broad dissemination of knowledge and skills supports Imperative 12 (meet our commitment to Texas). The new faculty hires support Vision 20/20 imperatives 1, 4, 7, and 12, and also aligns with the College of Liberal Arts’s proposed research strengths as listed below.

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The Center also directly correlates with:

  • The College of Liberal Arts’s proposed research strengths in Culture and Change, Transnationalism, Globalism,  and International Systems,  and Diversity and Society, and the Colleges’ Digital Humanities research program;
  • The Department of Computer Science’s core research area in Human-Centered Systems;
  • The research focus on emerging technologies and public policy at The Bush School’s Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy;
  • The College of Geosciences’ Research Plan, which identifies geospatial technologies as an area of technological expertise and supports research on the societal impact of these technologies.
  • The Department of Marketing’s landmark research area, “Wellness of Society in an Era of Increasing Information Intensity in the Marketplace,” which focuses on the impact of information resources on businesses and consumers.

3.2. Potential Texas A&M Competitive Advantage

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Competitive advantage:  In comparison to existing digital humanities, humanities computing, and new media-focused research programs and centers,  the Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture is unique by virtue of its integration of humanities concerns within a larger disciplinary framework, and its inclusion of the visual and performing arts.  This approach allows us to offer an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to the core concerns of existing research programs, and offers a strategic advantage in seeking external funding, in hiring, and in other key areas.   Moreover, we would be the first Texas institution to establish a research center in this area; this would give us a clear advantage in the region, and would serve the state of Texas by providing a world-class resource from which Texas researchers, educators, and students would benefit.

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The Center would be instrumental in allowing Texas A&M to take leadership in  ICT4D (Information Communication Technology for Development), an area which examines the impact of information technologies on economic and social development, which is consistent with Texas A&M’s historical mission as a land grant institution and as the flagship institution of the Texas A&M system.   This area is one of the highest priorities for academic research of the United Nations, which has dedicated a significant amount of resources to the expansion of ICT and new media in some of the most underdeveloped areas of the planet. As an example, the ICT4D Research Centre at the Royal University of Holloway (UK) focuses on research which examines new kinds of partnership between governments. civil society organizations, the private sector and international organizations, and the ways in which these can make a real contribution to the needs of marginalized communities through the use of ICTs.

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Comparison to Peer Institutions:  Among our Vision 20/20 peers, the University of California-Berkeley has established a Center for New Media, and is also a key player in Project Bamboo; other centers and similar initiatives established by Vision 20/20 peers include the Center for Digital Humanities and Media Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles; the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at the University of California-San Diego; the Digital Humanities Initiative at the University of California-Davis,  and I-CHASS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  (in partnership with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications).

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Nationally prominent centers for digital humanities and new media research also include the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), the Scholarly Technology Group at Brown University,  and the Media Lab at MIT,  which supports both creative and scholarly work within its research mission.  More narrowly focused centers include the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia.

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Collaboration with Other Centers: The Center for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture would work to establish and/or further strengthen collaborative relationships with these and other nationally and internationally prominent centers.   Such collaborative exchange among digital humanities centers is crucial to insure that local research efforts advance the field by taking full advantage of existing projects, tools and best practices. Several collaborative efforts are already underway, including an upcoming NEH-funded workshop on scholarly text encoding to be held at Texas A&M in collaboration with the Brown Women Writers Project.

4.   CRITICAL MASS AND GROWTH NEEDS AND POTENTIAL

4.1. Existing Critical Mass

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Infrastructure at Texas A&M: Texas A&M University has a promising track record of supporting digital humanities and media research, and a significant infrastructure that can be leveraged to secure the significant external funding that is available for this field. The existence of established and developing research projects, the availability of local research funds, technical support, and existing opportunities for intellectual exchange place Texas A&M in a strong position relative to other institutions. Startup funds for digital humanities are locally available on a competitive basis through the Evans/Glasscock Digital Humanities Project Fellowships, which provide up to $10,000.

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The College of Liberal Arts’ Digital Humanities research program, the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries, the Teaching, Learning and Visual Culture House in Second Life, and various other research efforts across the University establish a sound basis upon which to build the Center. The Institute for Pacific Asia and the Department of Communication co-hosted an international conference in 2007 focusing on the role of the Internet in Chinese society, and faculty from those programs continue to guide the annual Chinese Internet Research Conference. Faculty at Texas A&M have developed a number of collaborative cultural heritage projects using digital media,  supported by funding from agencies including NEH and NSF,  as mentioned in section 2.1.  Activities such as the Department of Visualization’s inaugural symposium, “Art 2.0: Exploring Digital Media in Contemporary Art,”  the Department of Performance Studies’ “Aural Tick 2009,” a showcase of technology-based music, video, dance, performance art, and installations; and the Race and Ethnic Studies upcoming “Symposium: Race, Ethnicity, and (New) Media”;  and participation by the Department of Communication in the Global Fusion international media conference symposium further indicate that multiple stakeholders are currently involved in research and creative activities within the Center’s range of interest.

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Several units at the University are already anticipating the infrastructure needs of the CDHMC. The Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (IAMCS) offers an important resource, the more so given the recent emphasis by the National Endowment for the Humanities’  Office of Digital Humanities on high performance computing as a transformative tool for humanities and social science research. The Academy for Advanced Telecommunications and Learning Technologies is working with the Internet2 consortium on the Data Intensive Network (which would develop gigabit-per-second connectivity from campus) and the Dynamic Circuit Network (which would connect at those speeds between research campuses). These initiatives would be critical in supporting the anticipated connectivity needs for the CDHMC. The Immersive Visualization Center (now at Halbouty) provides a model of scalability of advanced visualization throughout the campus (so that it becomes a routine classroom experience). Internet2 Connectivity and high powered computing provide a platform for using visualization across the campus and between campuses, for research discovery, demonstrations, and semi-experimental settings in classrooms. These resources would also provide video game researchers with richer graphics environments, and provide high-speed access to cluster computing for data mining, data management, and storage.

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Existing global partners: The study of digital media and technologies is an inherently international research area, with key global centers around the world closely working together to examine issues of law and policy, internet governance, religious studies and philosophy, information technology and economic and social development, the impact of e-commerce, and host of other topics.  Researchers at Texas A&M have close connections with many of the most prominent of these centers, including the Oxford Internet Institute, the Singapore Internet Research Centre, the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore, the E- Democracy Institute at the University of Geneva, the Internet Research Center at Keio University (Japan), and the Center for the Study of Information Society at the University of Haifa (Israel).

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Other external partners include Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; the London Knowledge Lab; and the University of Victoria, which is working to develop a Digital Humanities Winter Institute in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts Digital Humanities program.  Multiple partnerships have been established through existing projects, for example, the 19th Century Concord Project and the Concord Free Public Library; TAMU also participates in research consortia such as NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth Century Electronic Scholarship).

4.2. Needs for and Availability of Candidates for Building Excellence

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The Center Director must be hired from a pool of internationally prominent researchers with demonstrated expertise and leadership in digital research from a humanities perspective.  The tenure home for the Director should be in the College of Liberal Arts to ensure the humanistic focus of the Center’s work.

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We also imagine three to four transformative hires in interdisciplinary or cutting-edge areas related to the four research areas outlined above.   For example, we propose to hire an Associate or Full Professor with demonstrated expertise in the developing area of high performance humanities computing.   The faculty member will have a tenure home in the College of Liberal Arts, and would be encouraged to work in collaboration with faculty affiliated with the IAMCS and to actively seek funding from newly established external grants offered by NEH and other entities. This hire leverages our existing expertise in the construction of digital humanities data by and introducing expertise in the manipulation and analysis of humanities data sets through high performance computing.

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The Center’s Faculty Advisory Committee would be charged with determining additional, specific faculty hiring needs, in such areas as digital media and literacy or other areas. The Visiting Scholar program might also be leveraged as a way to identify emerging as well as “superstar” faculty who could add strength in key research areas.

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At least two research staff members would be needed for project support and technical assistance.

5.   SPACE AND INFRASTRUCTURE

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The planned Liberal Arts and Humanities Building would be an ideal location to house the Center,  especially since the space and equipment needs could easily be incorporated into the building’s design,  which already includes space earmarked for digital humanities. The Center’s space and equipment needs include:

Space:

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  • office space (faculty and staff offices)
  • computer classroom/training facility
  • research lab

Equipment:

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  • lab:  ten workstations,  microfilm reader/printers, flatbed and book scanners, black and white and color printers,   digital video cameras,  digital still cameras, imaging and video stations, a broad selection of smartphones and video game consoles and peripherals, imaging and video stations, e-book readers
  • classroom/training facility: 25 workstations, smartboard, and internet access
  • two mobile classrooms comprised of 20 laptops each
  • Sun Solaris, NT, and Macintosh servers for cross-platform software development and storage of digital humanities archives
  • Networking equipment and services to support Internet2 development, in collaboration with the Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (IAMCS)

Software:

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  • Software for still image, audio, and video editing, compression, and production
  • Software development kits for PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile computing platforms and smartphones
  • Enterprise content management software, digital rights management software, and metadata tagging software for documents and digital media assets
  • Subscriptions to digital media service providers, including Amazon Kindle, iTunes Music Store, Napster, Audible, and similar vendors
  • Leased or purchased access to software development tools and structured vocabularies for developing metadata tagged archives.

6.   JUSTIFICATION FOR INVESTMENT OF RESOURCES

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External funding: Substantial external funding is available for digital humanities research, some of which is specifically earmarked to support digital humanities centers.  The NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, as well as general NEH program funding,  for digital humanities includes support for the creation of digital projects and other digitally focused humanities research (Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants, two transatlantic Digitization Grants, Humanities Collection grants,  Collaborative Research grants and the Digging into Data Challenge),  grants for training and workshops, and grants that can directly support Center activities, including Digital Humanities Challenge Grants that provide matching funds for centers, and fellowships to support visiting scholars at digital humanities centers.  TAMU faculty have already obtained several major NSF and NEH grants for project research, and the College of Liberal Arts is also one of twelve locations for an NEH-funded digital humanities workshop in scholarly text encoding.  Funding sources other than NEH and NSF include SSRC and ACLS, and others. The U.S. Department of Education also provides grants from $500,000 a year to $2,000,000 a year to improve and expand new applications of technology “to strengthen school reform efforts, improve student achievement, and provide sustained professional development for teachers, administrators, and school library media personnel.” Given that NEH and other funding agencies stress the use and creation of open source technology for digital humanities research, the potential for commercialization will not be a strong factor in all areas of Center research, however,  partnerships with Apple,  IBM,  or other corporations might present additional opportunities for startup or sustainable funding.

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