Louisiana Digital Humanities Lab


Institutional Description

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the largest member of the University of Louisiana System, is a public institution of higher education offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The University is home to over 16,000 students and more than 1,200 faculty and staff, making it Louisiana’s second largest public university. Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Doctoral/Research Intensive University, UL Lafayette is home to national research facilities, including the USGS National Wetlands Research Center and the National Marine Fisheries Laboratory, as well as several nationally recognized programs and centers like the Center for Advanced Computer Studies (CACS).

The College of Liberal Arts is one of nine colleges within the University and houses all the departments within which humanistic research and education is pursued. The College’s departments within which the humanities are studied and taught are English, History and Geography, Modern Languages (home of Francophone Studies), and Philosophy. Within those departments, faculty and students engage in a wide variety of disciplinary practices: literary studies, linguistics, folkloristics, rhetoric, oral history, public history, and cognitive studies. And they do so in pursuit of the Bachelor and Master of Arts as well as the Ph.D.

Rationale for Project

The days of humanists being defined by their pursuit of knowledge among library shelves, alone except for their books, are gone. Today’s humanists realize that such singular pursuits, while still foundational to who we are and to what we do, cannot eclipse the necessity of creating a shared space within which a variety of others may also participate in our inquiry into the human condition.

New tools, like those coming out of the digital revolution, have become a part of our practice, in ways very similar to those of other knowledge workers. We e-mail students, each other, and diverse constituents. We maintain web pages and web sites. We depend upon on-line collections and databases, whether they be free, like Project Gutenberg, or fee-based, like JSTOR and Project Muse. We are increasingly, sometimes with institutional support but most often without, using older media — like images, audio, and video — which has been made more convenient, and cheaper, by the digital revolution. Sometimes, but not as often as we would like, we are creating our own media content.

For twenty years now some of us have engaged in new forms of analysis by harnessing the astonishing power of the computer to perform a variety of simple but repetitive tasks — powerful in their recursive nature but tedious because of it — to search texts and other artifacts (rendered as texts) for patterns that were heretofore only sensed by our own brains. Like scientists before us, we have begun to realize that data mining not only produces new results for older kinds of inquiries but makes new kinds of inquiries possible, producing new kinds of knowledge (McCarty 2005).

This new kind of knowledge has given the sciences a new branch, computational science, and the models it produces help us to know what section of coastline to evacuate here in Louisiana while storms are still in the Caribbean. Elsewhere those models, now running backwards in time, suggest that HIV-1 may have been born in the same firmament, and during the same era, as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

While it is not yet clear what a computational humanities will look like, there is an emergent consensus that it will have a widespread impact across all four of the core humanistic processes of interpretation, exploration, collaboration, and realization.

In addition to new computational methods and models emerging out of this rich digital milieu, a radical leveling of the playing field is occurring across numerous scholarly fields: forms of analysis and communication which were once limited only to well-endowed institutions or to well-entrenched industries have become available to everyone. Six-figure video editing suites can now be housed in a laptop with the right software. Audio need not be broadcast but can be “podcast.” Images once available to humanities scholars as well as general audiences only in expensive “coffee table” books or in galleries or archives can now be found on any of dozens of specialized or personal websites, as photostreams, collages, and interactive experiences.

More importantly, these media productions need not be sized to fit the channels of distribution but can be “right-sized” for their content. If a topic can be covered in twelve minutes, then that’s all that needs to be produced. Just as importantly, productions can go as long as they want or be segmented, and linked, in any of a variety of ways. One recent podcast series began as audio only in order to encourage people to listen and think about concepts and then turned to video when it was time to get “hands on” with the materials.

The opportunity this presents to humanities scholars is to produce materials that fit the topic being studied and/or communicated. Moreover, communication can now cover the spectrum: from the primary audiences of the scholarly community and the classroom to secondary audiences of distance learners, community members, and others. The multiplication of potential audiences also encourages a refinement of our humanistic principles and paradigms.

Fifteen years ago, faculty and students were roughly at the same place when it came to using technology for communicating and understanding the world around us. At this point, students have clearly leapt ahead on many fronts. Their embrace of a highly social, always-on environment both confirms certain humanistic principles and tenets and challenges others. We need not, however, simply mimic or follow what they, or those in other disciplines, are doing. The humanities must determine their own path, and we can only do so if we explore the territory for ourselves, discerning what works for us as individuals, as disciplinary practitioners, as teachers, and as members of our local communities. If we always look to others to determine the best use of technology for us, then we will never know for ourselves what it can truly do for us. More importantly, we will never be able to tell our story for ourselves. Perhaps just as importantly, we will never have a chance to inject into the many digital streams which seem to be always on and always flowing our own ways of seeing, something which seems terribly urgent now more than ever.

We propose the establishment of a digital humanities lab as a theoretical, physical, technological, and social space within which humanists, both faculty and students, can explore both independently and in a guided fashion the possibilities for new kinds of inquiry, new kinds of objects, and new kinds of communication as well as ways to enhance traditional, but still quite viable and vibrant, forms of inquiry, objects, and publications. The proposed lab will be of a size suitable for teaching graduate seminars and enabling hands-on instruction for a wide array of computer-based tools — from sound and video editing to computational text analysis — and for the creation of new methodologies and new software applications to support ground-breaking humanities research.

Impact on Existing Resources

Currently all professors in the College of Liberal Arts have desktop computers, equipment which the University views as sufficient for operating a humanities teaching and research program. Like all University instructors, CLA faculty have access to basic internet tools such as email, a small personal web space, and a flexible open source course management tool (Moodle). Also available are research accounts in a Unix environment and the standard statistical packages that are useful to science and social science research analysis. Our proposal grows out of the recognition that Humanities departments need an intermediate level of computing resources for both teaching and research, analogous to the kinds of teaching and research tools provided now by the Humanities Resource Center. Adding a research-teaching lab to the Humanities Resource Center will enable faculty to develop or utilize packages that are either too expensive or resource-intensive to run effectively on the relatively isolated desktop, allow graduate students access to such tools, and encourage professors to use these tools in graduate and community instruction.


Project Goals and Objectives

With regards to the digital revolution, one observer has noted that the future is here, but it’s just unevenly distributed (Gibson 1999). Thus it is the case that some faculty wanted this lab yesterday and some are not yet aware what benefits working with bits offers them. For those already “there,” the goal is to give them a space to work and to teach, and we will be able to measure their productivity in terms of concrete products and outputs: papers published based on data analysis using tools available in the lab, production of audio or video podcasts and made available to students or to a larger audience. We will document each project and its products and ask each such user to leave a trail behind them, so that others might follow.

The Modern Language Association has already taken the first steps to encourage administrators to recognize and value the importance of digital publications and new forms of scholarship in its most recent guidelines (MLA 2006).

This proposal focuses on the development of a digital humanities lab as the best possible space within which to expose scholars and students to new tools and methods, to train scholars and students in both traditional and new tools and methods, and to provide scholars and students with a place to work, and to discuss, on their own projects — with the idea that shared physical space frequently leads at least to interdisciplinary cross-fertilization and often to collaboration. The great thing about a computer lab is its inherent flexibility: add new software or a few peripheral hardware items and it can become whatever kind of lab you happen to need. We propose to build such a lab, available for use for faculty and graduate seminars as well as an open production facility, available to any and all university faculty, as well as graduate students and select undergraduate students, who need the facilities for realizing the full potential of their research and/or teaching.

In order to realize our goal of building upon, and expanding, the core humanistic processes we propose to build a digital infrastructure that is, from the start, designed to:

  • Enable new and innovative approaches to humanistic scholarship;
  • Provide scholars and students deeper and more sophisticated access to cultural materials;
  • Bring innovative approaches to education in the humanities, enriching how material can be taught and experienced; and
  • Facilitate new forms of collaboration among those who interact with the record of human action and expression. (See Frischer and Unsworth.)

Work Plan of Proposed Project

Goal 1: Enable New and Innovative Approaches to Humanistic Scholarship

The digital humanities make it possible to analyze traditional objects of study in new ways and to create new kinds of objects of study as well as new kinds of scholarly outputs. A number of our faculty are already working within this digital realm or are waiting for a facility like this to make it possible for them to do so. Our first goal is to meet their needs and allow them to become models for others. Our follow-on to this goal is to initiate a series of workshops utilizing both University faculty as well as outside experts to demonstrate and instruct faculty in emergent ideas and practices.

Two examples might serve here, one from linguistics and another from folkloristics. Current state of the art computational analysis of literary and cultural texts involves access to both literary e-text and standard linguistic corpora to use for comparison (cf. Toolan, Johnson and Ensslin). Many linguistic corpora, and especially those constructed for current languages, are under fairly stringent copyright restriction and require site licensing. Several faculty members in different departments utilize these corpora for research and teaching, so the lab’s server can be used to store such tools and serve them on a limited basis, holding down per-user license costs and allowing more resources to be stored and used for less money. If a professor constructs his or her own corpus, it too is quite likely to be under current copyright restriction. The lab’s server will allow several faculty and students to work in concert to construct such a resource, and the seminar lab environment will allow faculty to give students access to such restricted corpora for their own learning and research needs. In addition, most corpora require some sort of preprocessing before use. If one faculty purchases a corpus and pre-processes it in certain useful ways, such as marking it up with part-of-speech tags or semantic tags, then other faculty will be able to access this corpus without violating any copyright restrictions. Again, the intermediate level of the resource will save money on licenses — we will not be paying for a University-wide license, but only for up to a maximum of twelve (12) simultaneous users.

The folkloristics example is quite similar in its rationale. Our folklore researchers, like others around the country, are adopting data-gathering methods that resemble social science and film art documentation techniques — essentially digital video and sound recordings. All such data requires post-production for analysis, storage, and presentation. Expensive commercial tools such as digital asset management, audio production, and video production software prepare cultural artifacts for consumption by students and the public, but are cost-prohibitive for equipping our large (25-seat) teaching labs. If a professor masters a complex analytical tool, having it installed only on his desktop will not allow for teaching that tool or even effectively demonstrating its use to graduate students. More importantly, the availability of post-production tools helps motivate other researchers to consider the benefits of digital collection, storage and presentation, facilitating the shift from paper-based methods that currently still predominate in many of our fields. For example, the Folkstreams project, in association with the Southern Folklife Collection in the library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has preserved hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures, and made them accessible to users around the world by placing film previews on YouTube and by making full streaming video and audio available on the project’s website (Barnes). Even something as simple and effective as database storage and analysis is avoided by many humanities faculty due to the complexity of tool interfaces. Having an intermediate size lab will create the environment of shared knowledge that humanists recognize from seminar contexts.

Goal 2: Provide Scholars and Students Deeper and More Sophisticated Access to Cultural Materials

As discussed above, the storage capabilities of a server added to the display and manipulation capabilities provided by a lab will provide a deeper and more sophisticated access to research materials. The appropriate analogy here is something like the ability to lift the needle on a record player and repeat a section of poetry recitation or music for instructional purposes. It did not make sense to put a record player in every classroom, because it would not be used every day and because they are effectively portable. The Humanities Resource Center was established to provide such instructional tools to teachers. And it is in using these kinds of tools, which enable a new interaction with the cultural material, that new ideas about the material are conceived, and new research is envisioned.

In our lab, we specifically imagine adapting image, audio, and video production software to the close analysis of the many kinds of performances that are the focus of humanistic research and teaching: linguistic, dramatic, ethnographic.

Goal 3: Bring Innovative Approaches to Education in the Humanities

Business and engineering pedagogies now regularly take advantage of case studies and projects. This lab gives humanists a chance to engage students in a similar fashion. By offering students a chance to engage in complex projects that require either an investment of time or collaboration among one’s peers, and by offering students a chance to work across media, humanists can prepare students for the kinds of environments and careers that will greet them at the end of their studies.

A quick example might help here: a current folklore studies student is engaged in a history of the pedal steel guitar for his dissertation project. While the instrument is widely known, there is little to no written documentation of who adapted what in terms of the physical device itself or styles and methods of playing it. Thus the student has had to conduct a number of interviews with individuals in order to create as full and rich a historical record as possible. Along the way, some of the musicians have approached him with the possibility of helping them to create an instructional DVD on the pedal steel guitar. This kind of long-term investment in a project, in which the student essentially teaches himself what he needs to learn, and which yields a reciprocal relationship with a community outside the academy that wishes a scholarly product be created for them, is exactly the kind of work we wish to make possible with this lab.

Goal 4: Facilitate New Forms of Collaboration

An intermediate level of computing resource encourages collaboration by providing a space for shared activities such as guest lectures, for research projects that require several persons — such as the digitization of existing materials (like those housed in the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore or in the newly-established Earnest Gaines Center), for the interaction between researchers as they use the space for divergent purposes, and as virtual collaboration begins to become more usual or accepted among Humanities faculty. While many are familiar already with the practice of co-authoring from a distance, the new server and storage capabilities will encourage faculty to expand such collaboration to the analysis and production of texts, images, audio, and video. CoPI Claiborne Rice’s current instructional project will involve collating maps on which subjects have hand-written dialect data. Scanning the maps into a database and storing them there will allow access from remote desktop for transcription, while display abilities of the lab will allow the training of several graduate researchers at once. Students who do not have MS Access on their own desktop would be able to use the lab as a place to collate, while others can work from their laptops or desktops.

Evidence of Potential to Achieve Recognized Eminence

Created in 1921, the College of Liberal Arts has not only continued to offer the core liberal arts courses required of every university undergraduate, but it has pursued a variety of innovations at various points in its history, seeking out new possibilities for scholarly research and communication. Those innovations are easily glimpsed in the series of centers and programs it has established, two of which were designated as Centers of Excellence (asterisked below) by the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors:

  • Center for Louisiana Studies (1972)*
  • Interdisciplinary Humanities Program (1975)
  • Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore (1977)
  • Humanities Resource Center (1993)
  • Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism (1999)*
  • Cinematic Arts Workshop (2005)
  • Ernest Gaines Center (2008)

These innovations have not gone unnoticed at the national level. The Interdisciplinary Humanities Program was cited as one of the Outstanding Projects for the NEH in both 1977 and 1978. In addition to such distinctions, humanities initiatives at the university have regularly been recognized for their innovation and merit with funding from the following organizations:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities: 1974 ($29,507) and 1975 ($179,225) for the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program.
  • Rockefeller Foundation: 1977 ($12,700) and 1978 ($6,000) for the Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore. (See Ancelet 1977).
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Development Grant: 1980 to 1984 ($333,950; matched by university).
  • Grammy Foundation: 2003 ($31,800) for the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore.

In addition to the funding above, the Board of Regents itself has previously recognized prior efforts to build an infrastructure for the humanities at UL Lafayette. The Humanities Resource Center could not have opened its doors without the generous $79,914 funded through the LEQSF program. Since their establishment in 1978, the Friends of the Humanities have also contributed over $300,000, with a commitment to continue supporting innovation in the humanities in the future. Finally, the kinds of innovation that we are seeking to encourage were recognized when the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Center allocated $20,000 to build a dual-purpose (tourism and humanities) database of local folk culture in 2006.

Most recently, the University was privileged with an invitation to become a member of Project Bamboo, an international, multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational effort supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Bamboo brings together arts and humanities researchers, computer and information scientists, librarians, campus information technologists, and other interested groups to tackle the question of how to enhance arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services. Participating institutions include private firms like the Getty Research Institute and Sun Microsystems; internationally recognized research facilities like the British Library and the Sorbonne; private universities like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT; public universities like Michigan, Illinois, and Washington; and a few southern universities like UNC and Virginia. UL Lafayette was one of only five southern universities to be invited to join the consortium and the only university from Louisiana — in fact the only university from the Deep South. PI John Laudun was one of six participants chosen to present on what should be the essential elements of a national plan for harnessing the digital revolution for the purposes of advancing not only humanities research but also its dissemination through publications and teaching, among other channels (Laudun 2008b). The project’s leadership seemed particularly interested in the kinds of innovations and collaborations in which University Humanities faculty had engaged and how our explorations of new methodologies had led to new ideas and new forms of knowledge creation.

With the establishment of a digital humanities lab, we seek to capitalize on this moment, demonstrating our ability to produce scholarly forms that are only now being sketched out in discussions at the national level. Already, two of the investigators, as well as several other College of Liberal Arts faculty, have achieved some level of prominence for their work in the digital humanities; the lab will enable the university to solidify its place at the vanguard and to expand the ability of its faculty to continue to innovate.

Continuing faculty who have already completed successful research projects that constructed computer-based tools available to users around the world through the internet include John C. Greene (English), constructor of the Belfast Newsletter Index, 1737-1800, a computerized index for the Belfast Newsletter that enables researchers to quickly and easily locate relevant articles that they can then find in the print version of the Newsletter; and Keith Dorwick (English), who publishes widely in the area of computer and composition studies and whose Acadiana Moo is still used by writing classes around the United States (http://acadianamoo.org). Other faculty have projects in progress that will benefit from an improved workplace, such as Leslie Bary (Modern Languages), who is creating a hypertext edition of the poetry of César Vallejo and who attended the Humanities Computing Summer Institute at the University of Vancouver in 2005, and Charles Richard (English), director of the University’s new Cinematic Arts Workshop, whose new courses in documentary film production will be able to make immediate use of an appropriately equipped teaching lab.

In addition to enabling our own faculty to produce analytical and communicative materials that will be on par with, or even more advanced than, those at the national level, the kinds of digitization of materials and making them available in new ways that are a concomitant part of this lab will also attract scholars to the University. In particular, the Ernest Gaines Center is currently under development and eventual construction, and the ability to support scholars from around the world as they comb through those materials, as well as those in other research archives on campus, will make a lasting impression. It is one thing to travel to an archive to thumb through box upon box of papers. It is quite another to travel to an archives, either physically or virtually, and flip through those same papers, but now with the ability to mark them in a variety of ways. Perhaps just as importantly, scholars will be able to build upon the marking of previous readers. The slow accrual of metadata, which is what we are discussing here, is clearly one of the new forms of scholarship, and those who get it and get there first will find their materials become central to the new paradigms as they develop. Eventually we hope to sponsor a variety of both internal and external projects, similar to what is being done with the TAPor Project in Alberta (http://tapor.ualberta.ca/Projects/).

Impact on Curriculum and Instruction

The College of Liberal Arts is currently amending its curriculum to add courses in humanities computing that fulfill the University wide requirement for Computer Literacy. CLA faculty consider it crucial that our course not shield humanities majors from exposure to what goes on under the hood, so to speak, of computers, but we also understand that most humanities students will be more likely to innovate with existing tools than program new ones. The coursework will require students to learn the rudiments of a markup language such as HTML or XML, then create marked up texts that can be processed by web browsers or more specific analytic tools like WordSmith. Faculty need a lab where they can develop projects and materials for this course. In addition, we plan to leverage the lab to apply for Teacher Institutes for Advanced Study courses in humanities computing funded by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH). These summer Institutes are targeted to the state’s secondary educators.

Impact on Quality of Students

While the “new economy” is much heralded, no one is quite sure what it is going to look like. Much of the past decade of growth in information technologies has focused on the technologies themselves. In the past five years, the business community has begun to demand that the use of IT be examined more closely. It is no longer enough for individuals merely to be competent using technology, they must be able to think with it, imagine new possibilities with it. It is critical, then, that computing not exist only in computing classes, it must permeate all disciplines in which students are engaged. Only by having a multidisciplinary toolkit of ideas and methods will today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders in industry, science, and the arts.

The proposed lab supports engaging students across the wide spectrum of disciplines and topics. It also creates a space within which graduate and advanced undergraduate students can learn, experiment, and produce their own analyses and outputs. One of our best English graduate students is currently completing a dissertation in digital poetics that is both criticism and poetry, set entirely within a Flash application and programmed in ActionScript. Because we have no computers in the department or college equipped with the necessary software, all of her work has been done at home on her own machine. A critical learning opportunity has been missed: new students have not been able to collaborate with her or see the project in development.

Impact on Faculty Development

Jerome McGann forecasts that “in the next 50 years, the entirety of our inherited archive of cultural works will have to be re-edited within a network of digital storage, access, and dissemination.” We have some pioneers in this process, such as John C. Greene in the English Department, whose Belfast Newsletter Index, 1737-1800, is a frequently accessed resource in Eighteenth-century studies (http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/bnl/). Other humanities faculty are currently engaged in building such a network, through Project Bamboo and other means, while our enhanced infrastructure will help to attract new faculty who are aware of the need for institutional support for humanities computing.

While faculty currently possess desktop workstations in their offices capable of basic IT tasks (e-mail, web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet usage), few of the machines are capable of running today’s resource-intensive productivity and analytical applications. A well-equipped seminar room will provide space for training faculty on more advanced software. We will schedule and implement workshops on particular software packages, hardware features, and methodological practices through fall and spring terms, reserving the summer term for focused institutes. Such rapid advancement in skill sets will be requisite of faculty as the University begins to roll out the new Humanities computing courses.

The majority of faculty receive no formal training, and little exposure, to developments in information technologies pertinent to their own discipline and to their teaching. For many, the last time they will have had the opportunity to explore new kinds of resources and tools was in graduate school. PI Schilling has instituted in her tenure as director of the HRC an informal tutoring regime for faculty. We seek to expand that tutoring, bringing more faculty into the pool of potential tutors and also to formalize instructional possibilities.

Performance Measures

Obviously we will keep a careful record of who uses the lab and what kinds of classes they teach and products they create as well as the kinds of projects being developed and to what end. (Much of the work of measuring this lab must, by definition, be qualitative in nature.) Beyond such a first step, some of the necessary data for quantifying the success of this proposal is already collected annually at the university in the form of the Faculty Workload Document. The College, in cooperation with the Office of Institutional Research, can report the progress of digital projects gleaned from those documents and then compile it into meaningful measures. We will first establish a baseline metric based on activity over the past five years and then look to measure the amount and kind of activities transpiring once the lab is in place.

Any measurement of activities done in and through the lab will have to fall in line with current and/or emergent disciplinary practices. A number of Humanities faculty at the University fall under the umbrella of disciplines that make up the Modern Language Association, and so we will turn to their most recent statement, “Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the Modern Languages,” for best practices that will also align with established and/or emergent tenure and promotion guidelines at the University (MLA 2004). As per those guidelines, we plan to review works in the media in which they are produced and to seek reviewers capable of estimating the profundity and impact of the work. Academic work in digital media should be evaluated in the light of the rapidly changing institutional and professional contexts within which practitioners find themselves.


The lab we propose is one that will accommodate both a group of users, faculty or students, working / learning on a project, as well as individual users pursuing their own projects. Classes meeting in the lab will be limited to two sessions per day (three hours) to guarantee individual availability. To maximize flexibility we have chosen Mac Pros capable of running all three of the current major operating systems, and their attendant specialized applications. We chose Macs for two reasons: (1) they are capable of running all three of the major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) either in a virtual machine or at boot, which means (2) we will be free to use any hardware and software without regard to platform limitations. Certain applications have achieved the status of an industry standard. In the film and video industries, Final Cut Pro is such a standard, but it runs only on Macs. A standard computational text application like WordSmith runs only on Windows. A number of analytical packages that are increasingly of interest to humanists run only in a Unix environment, which requires either a Mac machine or a Linux machine. Moreover, we cannot anticipate what tools and applications will emerge over the next five to ten years and we want this lab to be in a position to take advantage of all emergent technologies and methodologies. We considered alternate equipment, but each configuration we examined limited users in terms of analyses that could be performed, materials that could be produced, or methods that could be tried.

Equipment Request

  1. Workstations. Each core workstation is a Mac Pro equipped with a scratch drive capable of temporarily housing the large directories that media projects require as well as a 23” monitor that makes it possible to work with the multiple windows and palettes that most creative software (such as Final Cut Pro or Photoshop) requires. The software available on each machine will allow it to be used for textual analysis, XML coding, and the complete range of creative products: print, audio, and video. The packages include: Adobe’s Creative Suite, Apple’s Final Cut Suite, and WordSmith Tools. The cost for each core workstation is $3,803. The lab will be equipped with 12 workstations, enough to accommodate a graduate seminar or an appropriately-sized faculty workshop. The total cost for all twelve workstations is $45,636.

  2. Specialized Workstations. While each workstation will be equipped with analytical and production software, three groups of four machines will be equipped with additional peripherals to turn them into specialized workstations. One group of four machines will be equipped with graphics tablets and scanners in order to acquire and/or edit images either for analysis or for publication — and by publication we hope to have made it clear by this time that we do not simply mean print but use on websites, in presentations, and in video productions. The cost for these additional peripherals is $ 3059.56. Another group of four machines will be equipped with Digidesign’s Mbox2 for audio acquisition and will come with Pro Tools LE for analysis of sound recordings and the production of audio programming. The cost for these additional peripherals is $ 2,040.. A final group of four machines are focused on analysis and production of video and will be equipped with Sony HD Walkmen for acquiring DV video. The cost for these additional peripherals is $ 5,224.

  3. Lab-wide Equipment. The focus of the digital lab is a server which will deliver a number of basic corpora for students to use as a basis for learning how to work with corpora as well as a model for developing their own. It will also deliver sample audio and video files so that instructors working with groups in the lab may make sure everyone is working with the same material. We plan for the server to become a model for content distribution across the University’s campus, understanding that the larger the network to which one distributes, the more complex and challenging systems become. The cost for the server is $4,679.

Other new pieces of equipment which will be accessible to everyone in the lab include a sheet-fed scanner — for quick conversion of paper documents into PDFs which can then be OCRd for use in research projects; a large-format color laser printer; a microfilm/fiche scanner for digitizing historical documents—including maps and lithographs; and an HD LCD projector which can be used for demonstration purposes, for sharing screens within a class, and for previewing new potential products. The total cost for these lab-wide peripherals is $20,484.

Our request is only for the workstations, the software, and the peripherals listed above. The university will provide custom furniture for the workstations and other necessary room enhancements for the lab. Our total request is for $104, 463[1].

Equipment on Hand for Project

A number of equipment purchases at UL Lafayette have provided the College of Liberal Arts with state-of-the-art instructional facilities and multimedia support for research and instruction. Resources currently include the Folklore Archives Laboratory and the Humanities Resource Center, the Humanities Learning Center and the Humanities Computer Classroom. Collectively, these resources significantly enhance instruction and research in the many disciplines within the humanities. Specific to the humanities, these resources will provide language data for research on computer-mediated communication and pedagogy.

  1. Folklore Laboratory. Audio and video equipment acquired for the Folklore Laboratory is available for humanities fieldwork and analysis. This equipment includes a Canon H-1A digital video camera capable of recording in both SD and HD formats, a Audio-Technica shotgun microphone, an Audio-Technica lavalier microphone, a boom pole and microphone stands, XLR cables, and two digital audio recorders. It should be stressed that this equipment is useful for data gathering, but not for post-production, analysis, presentation, or archiving.

  2. Humanities Resource Center. The Humanities Resource Center has multimedia equipment available for classroom use including television towers with VCR and laser disk player, CD/Cassette player/recorders, and projectors. The lab includes an HP Scanjet G 4050 color scanner, HP Laser Jet 5000n, HP Color Laser Jet 5500dn, Microtek Scan Maker 1850 (slide scanner), Polaroid Slide/Transparency Maker, HP Laser Jet 4m. Software includes major word processing with MS Office and Corel Office, desktop publishing utilizing Adobe Creative Suite 3, for both PC and Mac capabilities. Though the HRC is tasked with providing instructional equipment (such as the VCRs and projectors), the computing equipment focuses on print media production and is not equipped for instruction or archiving.

  3. SMART Classrooms. There are thirteen (13) SMART classrooms, including a 300-seat auditorium, available for use by humanities faculty. Each classroom is equipped with a networked PC with a DVD player, a VHS player, a laptop dock, a document camera, all of which can be viewed by an overhead LCD projector.

Equipment Housing and Maintenance

The lab, as proposed, will be housed in H. L. Griffin 205, currently the media classroom within the Humanities Resource Center. The 648 square foot classroom has an additional 1000 square feet adjacent to it for faculty and students to work either individually or in teams. HRC staff, which includes graduate research assistants, who will be able to monitor the lab’s usage and to troubleshoot potential problems if and when they arise. The University has committed, through the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, either through Indirect Funds and/or through continuing funding of HRC to benefit the project, the required construction and configuration of the room for its new purpose as a computational laboratory and to furnish the workstations with the necessary desks and chairs so that individuals can work comfortably. The University will fund these expenses as well as provide for the maintenance of the equipment through the dedicated IT support person of the College of Liberal Arts as well as the director of the HRC, CoPI Leslie Donahue Schilling.


The responsibility for the successful implementation of this lab will be shared by PI Laudun and CoPI Rice, as well as by the director of the Humanities Resource Center, CoPI Schilling, who will be tasked with the lab’s daily administration and maintenance.

The PI, Dr. John Laudun, is experienced in grant administration and with the successful adaptation of humanities research to new outputs (see Laudun 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008a). He has a PhD in Folklore Studies from the Indiana University Folklore Institute and extensive experience in research, teaching, and the application of humanistic methods in the public and private sector. He received funding from the Grammy Foundation to digitize hundreds of hours of aging tape in the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore, and, while overseeing the project, he developed the Louisiana Folk Masters framework which has gone on to become both a CD and television series. The CD series is a partnership between the University and the Acadiana Arts Council and was entirely funded through, initially, private fund raising and is now self-funding through sales of its products. The television series is a partnership between the University and Louisiana Public Broadcasting to bring quality humanistic content into the Louisiana: The State We’re In news magazine. He serves as the University’s team leader for Project Bamboo and liaison for emerging technologies on campus. PI Laudun’s chief responsibility will be to act as liaison with the Project Bamboo consortium. In that capacity, he will act as the lab’s systems architect. He will also be the project lead for designing measurement and documentation systems.

CoPI Rice will have particular responsibility for deploying the analytical and database tools that will form the core of the computational component of the lab, an area where he has published and presented extensively. He currently maintains on his office computer several linguistic corpora, including two he has constructed himself, that will be usable by other faculty and students at the University if a sufficient server becomes available. He also teaches the course in Literary and Linguistic Computing that has been added to the University catalog. In addition, he was previously awarded a technology grant for a computer teaching lab through the University’s STEP program and is thus familiar with what it takes to successfully implement a teaching lab (Rice and Ferstel 2005). He has worked as a consultant to private industry, including Ebay and Alta Vista, on applications of corpus and/or linguistic methods to the development and implementation of advertising and internal communications plans.

CoPI Schilling has been the director of the HRC since its inception in 1993 and has extensive experience in the private and public sectors with managing new enterprises as well as working with faculty as the human interface to emerging technologies. She initiated, with private funding, a continuing community lecture series as a means for Humanists to present their budding research or passions to colleagues as well as the community at-large. Over the course of five years, more than 40 of her faculty have presented within the series which continues to feed the interests of those both on and off campus. Before coming to the University, she ran a number of highly successful private ventures as well as a number of non-profits that raised considerable sums for local charitable organizations and causes. Her entrepreneurial and administrative background and experience will form the backbone of our plan to project the lab into ongoing scholarly practices to initiate conversations and commitments to new forms of scholarship and communication. Integral to her position as director of HRC is to provide faculty with a broad range of assistance in achieving final production—whether in providing camera-ready materials for publications, assistance with development of multi-media presentations for classes or conferences or in production editing for journals produced through the University. She will take on specific responsibilities for leading and/or arranging workshops on media production.


Relationships With Industrial/Institutional Sponsors

In addition to a theatrical/performance series sponsored by the National Park Service that has been broadcast on local public radio and television for the past fifteen years, previous projects focusing on different kinds of humanities outputs have resulted in a CD series, a television series, and a tourism database of local folk culture. All of these efforts were underwritten by the University’s partners in these endeavors and have resulted in invitations to pursue similar projects from those partners and others. Faculty worked with the National Park Service to develop the Jean Lafitte Interpretive Centers in Lafayette and Eunice, the Bayou Vermilion District to establish Vemilionville, the city of Lafayette to develop Congres Mondial Acadien, Festival Internationale, and Festivals des Acadiens et Creoles and the multimedia celebration of the Marquis de Lafayette; the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Center to develop a tourism database; the Acadiana Arts Council to develop a CD series; and with Louisiana Public Broadcasting to develop documentaries and special documentary segments.

While these efforts have been led by a few faculty, the proposed lab will make it possible for more Humanities faculty to explore similar forms of partnerships or entirely new ones. In addition, PI Laudun has an open invitation from Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the local public radio station, KRVS, to bring new humanistic content to their attention. He has discussed with both the possibility of that content being produced by humanists and delivered as a complete package. Both are interested in pursuing a partnership.

Promotion of Economic Development and/or Cultural Resources

In a rare moment of a convergence of trends unfolding over the past thirty years, UL–Lafayette has taken a leading and consistent role in transforming humanist topics and activities into economic development opportunities or enterprises. Examples of this can be found in the two local festivals, Festivals Acadiens et Creoles and Festival Internationale, which have a national status as well as in the economic development zones that have emerged around various cultural parks, like Vermilionville, in which university humanists have played an active role.

University faculty and students have played an important role in the documentation of Cajun and Creole heritage and traditions. One recent Folklore M.A. student completed a documentary on ironing that is the only student project ever to be broadcast by Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Castille and Bohl 2006). The production work would have been completed in the proposed lab. The State of Louisiana’s initiative to bring commercial film production to Louisiana and its funding of the LITE Center have spurred the College to add a film arts concentration. Faculty and students who wish to collaborate on film projects will have a place to work and teach.

Centers on our campus, like the Center for Louisiana Studies and the Ernest Gaines Center, will benefit from the enormous computing power of the lab to transform archived materials in numerous formats into digital forms that can be more readily accessed, analyzed, and manipulated as well as referenced. Researchers around the world will be able to participate in the logging, tagging, and analysis of cultural resources heretofore inaccessible to them. More importantly, through the creation of a thoughtful digital infrastructure, such logging and tagging and analysis will be available to other researchers for logging, tagging, and analysis. The production of metadata of this kind has been what led to the revolutions in the sciences, and we look forward to what such a revolution might mean for our own cultures and literary works.

In addition, the City of Lafayette is installing a local fiber optic system that will be the fastest such network in the country. We do not yet know what kinds of investigations such a network will facilitate, but the University needs to be prepared to take advantage of the new level of access the community will have. We already know that the digital revolution has transformed the nature of work. PI Laudun has recently been asked to design and, now, develop the next generation publishing platform for the American Folklore Society (a 120-year-old professional society with over two thousand members). The proposed lab would provide the perfect place for the production and publication of the new kinds of digital scholarship which will be the focus of the AFS site and which will be increasingly the status quo in the Humanities.

Ultimately, our goal is to harness these numerous and varied convergences by hosting the international and interdisciplinary consortium that will be formed at the conclusion of Project Bamboo. We plan to bring together leaders from the British Library, Getty Research, the University of Chicago, UC Berkeley, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation among others to UL Lafayette with the possibility of utilizing the LITE Center for presentation of the work done in the lab by University faculty, working individually and in teams, to build on past innovations to create new possibilities in the digital transformation of Humanities scholarship, posturing the University for an unprecedented place in the evolution of studies within the Humanities.


The University will provide $20,000. for equipment and software. Additionally, the University will provide $20,454. in Indirect Costs as well as $14,833. for installation and configuration of the lab (scheduled with University Physical Plant to begin Spring 2009). Tuition for a Ph.D. Research Assistant is also included.

Additional funding will be provided by the College of Liberal Arts from the continued support of the Friends of the Humanities as part of its annual funding of the Humanities Resource Center for the installation of the ceiling mount projector as well as a portion of the expense for training. The Friends of the Humanities is a unique group of local citizens who support the Humanities at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and in Acadiana. They sponsor an annual fund-raising banquet which features musical and literary performances and auctions of artwork by local artists. The Friends audit many Humanities courses and often contribute time and resources to research projects conducted by faculty and graduate students. They sponsor an endowed professorship in the Interdisciplinary Humanities, and they disburse the Mathé Allain Fellowship for the purpose of assisting members of the faculty in the Humanities in course development and/or enhancement. They have also sponsored international conferences in Rome and in Lafayette. Their support of the University Art Museum, the Louisiana Writing Project, and the Lafayette Library Foundation has been indispensable in fostering the growth of those institutions in the region. Many members of the Friends hold prominent positions on boards and councils of local private and public institutions, and the connections fostered by their work on behalf of the Friends has established a significant profile for the Humanities within the community at large. We are confident that the addition of a state-of-the-art computing lab to the Humanities Resource Center will spur interest among the Friends for supporting projects that will extend their benefits beyond the immediate community to the world at large.


Barnes, Heather. 2007. Folkstreams Guide to Best Practices in Film Digitization. Folkstreams.net. Accessed 15 October 2008. http://www.folkstreams.net/bpg/index.html.

Castille, Conni and Allison Bohl. 2006. I Always Do My Collars First: A Film about Ironing. Cinematic Arts Workshop and Folklore Studies.

Frischer, Bernie and John Unsworth (ed). 2006. Summit on Digital Tools for the Humanities. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Insititute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities.

Gibson, William. The Science in Science Fiction. Interview with Brooke Gladstone. Talk of the Nation. 1999 November 30. National Public Radio.

Greene, John C. Belfast Newsletter Index, 1737-1800. http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/bnl/.

Johnson, Sally & Astrid Ensslin. 2006. Language in the News: Some Reflections on Keyword Analysis Using Wordsmith Tools and the BNC. Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 11. Accessed 15 October 2008. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/linguistics/WPL/WP2006/5.pdf.

Laudun, John. 2003. Lache pas la patate: Digitizing Cajun and Creole Folk Music. Proposal to the Grammy Foundation.

Laudun, John. 2005. Rich the First Time: A Humanistic Infrastructure for Tourism. Proposal to Lafayette Convention and Visitors Center.

Laudun, John. 2007. John Colson: Filé Maker. Louisiana Folk Masters 1(1). Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Laudun, John. 2008a. Lou Trahan: Cajun Mardi Gras Mask Maker. Louisiana Folk Masters 1(2). Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Laudun, John. 2008b. De-Centering and Re-Centering the Library (and Archives) in the Humanistic Enterprise. Presentation to Project Bamboo.

McCarty, Willard. 2005. Humanities Computing. London: Palgrave.

McGann, Jerome. 2002. Literary Scholarship in the Digital Future. Chronicle of Higher Education 49.16.

Modern Language Association. 2004. Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the Modern Languages. http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital.

Rice, Claiborne and Jack Ferstel. 2005. A Clustered Workstation Classroom for Teaching Linguistics and Literature. University of Louisiana at Lafayette STEP Program.

Toolan, Michael. 2006. Top keyword abridgements of short stories: a corpus linguistic resource? Journal of Literary Semantics 35, 181-194.

[1]Dependent on final budget.