The Digital Studio is home to a growing number of exciting projects at the intersection of social sciences, humanities and the digital world. From online heritage to data mining, we provide space, advice and equipment for the cutting edge of digital research.

Current Projects

Deep Mapping: Harnessing Museum 'Soft Power'

Dr Natalia Grincheva, Research Fellow, Research Unit in Public Cultures

With strong expertise in museology, international relations and new media, I am pursuing my career in the field of digital humanities focusing on development of computational methods to study contemporary museums as important players in creative economy. Currently, I am working on the project Deep Mapping: Harnessing Museum ‘Soft Power’, which received the 2017 Museum Computer Network Award for developing innovative solutions to enhance museum transparency and strengthen proactive management in global PR.

The project aims to employ Geographical Information Technologies to develop a pilot version of the digital mapping system “Museum Soft Power Map.” It aims to visualise time-space development of museum 'soft power', defined as an institutional ability to attract large and diverse audiences and generate economic capital. In collaboration with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), I am working on the demo version - a dynamic digital map to visualize a growing in time geographic diversity of the Centre's collections, programming, audiences and partnerships. This digital map is designed to reveal what factors affect the development of the ACMI’s global brand recognition and influence its capacity to attract larger visitation and revenue.

The major outcome of this project will be a research platform that can make a contribution both to applied knowledge and to academic scholarship. On the practical level, this research system can improve ACMI proactive management in global PR and programming. The digital map will reveal geographic areas of missed opportunities by exposing locations where ACMI has a low or no cultural affiliations. Also, the system will help to identify “hot spots” of social density in terms of visitation and social activities, as well as to explore if stronger institutional efforts to target specific locations can result in a higher economic return on institutional investments. In academic terms, such a digital mapping tool will advance the digital humanities scholarship by developing computational methods to explore cultural institutions and their impacts upon audiences. It will combine quantitative and qualitative traditions within cultural mapping to reveal how collections, curatorial expertise and international programming strategies can generate museum “soft power.”

Creative Convergence: Enhancing impact in regional theatre for young people.

Professor Rachel Fensham, School of Cultures and Communications, Chief Investigator
Associate Professor Paul Rae, School of Cultures and Communications, Chief Investigator
Dr Jennifer Beckett, School of Cultures and Communications, Chief Investigator
Dr Megan Upton, School of Cultures and Communications, Research Assistant

A recent five-day fieldwork experience in East Gippsland working with Arena Theatre Company saw team members observing a digital story telling workshop called “DrOne”, and implementing a new research workshop model titled “My Online Life”, an interactive exploration of young people’s engagement with social media.

Asking questions such as, 'Do they see their online lives as performative?' and 'What kind of affective relationships do rural adolescents construct through social media participation?' we used survey tools to identify the extent of their use of social media, and conducted interviews with teachers about the impact of social media in the school context. During the workshop, we also worked with the students to create performance poetry that illustrated their social media identities in an everyday context.

This fieldwork exemplifies the range of methodologies we are using to understand the concept of “convergence” in this project. We are particularly interested in convergences between what live theatre can offer, and convergence in digital spaces such as social media. Could potential convergences between theatre and digital media enhance the impact of a theatre experience for young people? Can it circumvent distance? Can it prolong a conversation that enables young people to navigate transitions in their lives? Can it expand their experiences?

The Digital Studio has provided support for building our data storage plans and for mapping preliminary and documenting qualitative and quantitative data in ways that are suitable for wider dissemination.

Project Partners: Arena Theatre Company; Arthur - a theatre company; Bell Shakespeare; Creative Victoria; Geelong Performing Arts Centre; HotHouse Theatre; Melbourne Theatre Company; Theatre Network Australia.

Investigating Actual and Perceived Videotext Complexity in Second Language Video Comprehension

Emad Alghamdi, PhD Candidate, School of Languages and Linguistics

The overarching aim of my research is to understand what makes a video complex for (language) learners. As a digital artefact, video is a dynamic, interactive and complex multimodal artefact in which meanings are constructed through the interactions of different (semiotic) communicative modes (language, visual, and acoustic) across spatial-temporal dimensions. Language is the most expressive mode, yet it is one among many other communicative modes in videos. Visuals (eg images, diagrams, speaker’s facial expression and gestures) and acoustic features (eg pitch, rhythm, and speaker’s accent) do also contribute to meaning constructions in videos.

The complex interactions of these modes can be better understood through systemic multilayered analyses of how meaning constructions within and across modes. Using various analytic tools (advanced Natural Language Processing, Data Mining models, and learner-centric visual complexity measures), I will first investigate what video features, eg linguistic, visual and acoustic features, contribute to the complexity of meaning comprehension for language learners. Additionally, I will develop an interactive online tool for video data visualization which can be used for educational and research purposes.

A secondary aim of my research is to develop machine learning models that could predict the complexity level of videos based on the linguistic, visual, and acoustic features found to be difficult for language learners.

Theatre and Dance Platform

Professor Rachel Fensham, School of Cultures and Communications, Chief Investigator
Professor Denise Varney, School of Cultures and Communications, Chief Investigator
Andrew Fuhrmann, School of Cultures and Communications, Research Assistant

The Theatre and Dance Platform is a digital archives project hosted by the Digital Collections repository at the University of Melbourne which aims to diversify and enhance the University’s contribution to AusStage, an online database that records information about live performances in Australia. The platform, managed through the Digital Studio and created with LIEF 5 support, hosts a range of digitised material related to the performing arts, includingphotographs, scenic and costume designs, video recordings, posters and textual material such as programmes, reviews and correspondence. Using a visual and readily accessible search interface, the project’s key research focus is the cultural heritage and legacy of national and internationally significant dance and theatre collections, such as those of the Melbourne Theatre Company, Lucy Guerin Inc and La Mama Theatre. Digitised visual and textual material and its information architecture is linked to Austage, and is compliant with national and international metadata standards. Currently, with LIEF 6 support, we are adding material related to the venues of the theatre and dance collections listed above, as well as Arts House, the Union Theatre, Russell Street Theatre, and the Malthouse Theatre. These venues map the development of major production venues across the City of Melbourne over a fifty year period. Each venue is a public venue, funded through the grants system and the metadata will enable us to map programming as increasingly multi-functional and entrepreneurial.