Three centers at UCLA—the Center for Digital Humanities, Academic Technology Services, and the Experiential Technologies Center—as well as the affiliated faculty and staff involved in this initiative have a long history of working together on innovative projects that leverage UCLA’s cyberinfrastructure resources to develop new technologies to transform undergraduate education. Todd Presner, Diane Favro, Jan Reiff, and Chris Johanson are currently developing a pilot for “Hypermedia Los Angeles,” a cultural mapping project that is a central part of our curricular proposal. A number of funded projects such as Hypermedia Berlin (ACLS), the UCLA Digital Encyclopedia of Egyptology (NEH), and the Digital Roman Forum (Mellon and NSF) have enabled participating faculty to formalize the proof of concept for cultural mapping and prepare a solid groundwork for the development of the curriculum. Moreover, the curriculum in digital cultural mapping dovetails with the broader, five-year Mellon Foundation-funded initiative to transform and distinguish the humanities at UCLA. Presner convenes the faculty group in “Digital Humanities and Media Studies," which was recently awarded one of the first such Mellon grants for 2007-09. Given the institutional commitment, resources, pilot projects, and history of collaboration, the time is ripe at UCLA for developing the curriculum in digital cultural mapping.
“HyperCities” is a multi-year research and teaching project convened at UCLA by Todd Presner, Diane Favro, and Jan Reiff, focusing on the cultural, social, and urban histories of great cities. It uses the technologies and concepts developed by Presner for “Hypermedia Berlin,” a digital mapping project that allows students to navigate the cultural and urban history of this multilayered city. Built out of and on top of real cities, “HyperCities” is an ambitious new learning platform that augments the space and time of the physical world with the information web and renders the experience of the World Wide Web geographic and temporal. A HyperCity is a real city overlaid with its geo-temporal information, ranging from its architectural and urban history to family genealogies and the stories of the people and diverse communities who live and lived there (Presner, 2005 and 2007). Our first HyperCities are Los Angeles, Berlin, Lima, and Rome. As a platform that reaches deeply into archival collections and aggregates content across digital repositories, HyperCities not only transforms how information is produced, stored, retrieved, shared, repurposed, and experienced but also transforms how human beings interact with information and one another in space and time. The project asks some of the most fundamental learning questions: Where are you from? What used to be here? What happened here in the past? Born out of Web 2.0 social technologies, HyperCities represents a radically new educational environment that links generations and knowledge communities, mobilizing an array of new technologies (from GPS-enabled cell phones to GIS mapping tools and geo-temporal databases) to pioneer a truly participatory, open-ended learning ecology grounded in the space and time of the real world. The HyperCities project will be leveraged in our proposed curriculum for city-based courses on Los Angeles and Berlin. A funding decision for this project will be announced on February 21, 2008, and we expect that support for the development of the technological infrastructure of HyperCities will dovetail with the development of the undergraduate curriculum in digital cultural mapping.
The Digital Roman Forum, a multi-institutional project directed (in part) by Diane Favro and Chris Johanson, is a pioneering attempt to visualize historical information about the Roman Forum through innovative spatial interfaces and virtual reality recreations. (See also Frischer 2006) All data in this site is linked spatially to the physical sites through geo-referencing. As a result, in addition to traditional ways of accessing information chronologically or alphabetically, a researcher has the option to explore literature, art, architecture, and historical events tied to a specific building or geographic site, including horizontal layers of occupation. The result is a stimulating reevaluation of data as originally formed and experienced in a specific historical era. The 10-year project begun at UCLA represents a network of inter-related research and pedagogical endeavors all built upon the common base model of ancient Rome. In May 1, 2007, the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, officiated at the first public viewing of "Rome Reborn 1.0." The press coverage included the following: "This amazing model allows us to appreciate individual buildings of ancient Rome within a broad urban context and thus also to understand how the modern city took shape over time," said Favro, co-initiator of the project and director of the Experiential Technologies Center at UCLA. "Numerous UCLA students explored advanced technology and global resources to create the 'Rome Reborn' model, an experience that transformed them from students into 21st-century scholars. In addition, students and faculty at UCLA have pioneered the educational application and evaluation of such historical digital recreations in classrooms at every level, from university to K–12, with overwhelmingly positive response. It is the ability to excite and inform viewers of all ages that makes such immersive recreations so compelling.”
Willeke Wendrich is the Editor-in-Chief of the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE), a collaboratively authored digital encyclopedia that uses a time map as its organizational backbone. The encyclopedia is a web-based resource, currently in development, with an information level geared to professional Egyptologists, but formulated without the use of jargon, and with glosses to explain difficult concepts, in such a way that undergraduate students and the interested public have easy access to this wealth of information. The time map locates all text articles in time and space, and provides different means of information access. By showing spatial and chronological relations of subjects in the encyclopedia, such as religion, art, or historical events, new knowledge and insights can be gained. The time map gives access to information, bibliographies, and visual aspects such as photographs, detailed plans, and 3D Virtual Reality models of selected sites. The first phase of the UEE is financed by a two year NEH grant. Connected to the UEE, the departments of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Architecture and Urban Design are developing teaching materials for undergraduate students based on a real time 3D Virtual Reality model of the Karnak temple complex. These materials will be available for free online, and the model will also be featured in the encyclopedia. The model enables students to follow the architectural, religious and political development of the enormous temple complex at Karnak through a time slider and six scripts which help teachers to explain different themes. The scripts are accompanied by quicktime videos, photographs, drawings and explanations. This project is financed by a separate one year NEH grant.
In addition to these widely recognized collaborative research projects in the field of digital cultural mapping, the faculty have also been centrally involved in departments and various institutional structures at UCLA that will facilitate and support the program in digital cultural mapping. In the School of Arts and Architecture (SoAA), support for digital cultural mapping ranges from individual faculty to programs and centers. For example, a seed grant in the Arts Forum program has supported the initial phases of the Hypermedia Los Angeles project. The Experiential Technologies Center (ETC), based in the SoAA, promotes interdisciplinary research and teaching with a heavy emphasis on the localization of information and research. Both the development and the consumption of the projects form components of the pedagogical framework. Undergraduate and Graduate students work side-by-side with their faculty mentors and a core Scientific committee to build the multi-dimensional, geo-temporal experiences. The fruits of these projects are then accessed through such media as the Digital Roman Forum website, which is already used extensively in undergraduate classes across campus in architecture, classics, history, art history, and geography courses. Students are also exposed to the integration of space, place, and information in various research projects through faculty digital publications such as articles in Urban History, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and, most recently, the Google Earth “publication” of the models of the Roman Forum. In 2006 Favro and Johanson offered an NEH sponsored Summer Institute through the ETC which introduced university faculty from across the country to the technologies and theoretical bases for modeling and mapping data on the Roman world; the group remains in contact with exchange of data, updating of references, and collaborations.