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

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

The project, ACMI on the Global Map, aims to employ Geographical Information Technologies to develop a pilot version of the digital mapping system “Museum Soft Power Map”. This digital system will provide a new computation research method to explore contemporary museums and geography of their influence. It will geo-visualise museum “soft power,” defined as an institutional ability to mobilise global public, generate economic activity and attract international investments.

In collaboration with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), I am working on the demo version - a dynamic digital map to geo-visualise and assess the ACMI’s “soft” power in Melbourne and abroad. This digital tool maps the ACMI’s international engagements and impacts to reveal what factors affect its capacity to attract larger visitation and revenue in different geographic locations. The project employs the ACMI’s institutional records in collection acquisitions, international strategic programming and economic revenue to explore how the growing international exposure affects its brand recognition at home and overseas. It intends to reveal where exactly and why ACMI has a stronger “attraction” power, increasing its audience and generating income.

Recently launched online, the 3D demo version of the program maps the ACMI collection’s Appeal Power in different countries. It considers cultural, linguistic and social demographic criteria including immigration statistics, tourism rates and internet penetration data to calculate Collection Appeal Power Index for each country on the globe. This map not only reveals where ACMI collections can have a higher potential for discoverability, visibility and appreciation, but also helps to explore various factors that affect  this potential.

This project received a prestigious Scholar Award, granted by the International Museum Computer Network in November 2017 for developing innovative solutions to enhance museum transparency and strengthen proactive management in global PR. This research makes a significant contribution to the study of contemporary museums and facilitates a more nuanced contextual exploration of their impacts that can supply data for a more complex city-wide cultural research and planning.

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.

Melbourne History Workshop

Professor Andrew May, Director
James Lesh, PhD Candidate and Digital Project Officer

The Melbourne History Workshop is a studio-based research collaboratory in the History Program at the University of Melbourne under the direction of Professor Andrew May. It taps the pooled expertise of staff, research higher degree students and affiliates in order to provide innovative and rigorously-applied historical research, postgraduate training, industry collaboration and community-facing projects. The Workshop’s focus is the exciting synergy between urban history, cultural heritage and digital media technologies. Our mission is to assist appreciation of Melbourne’s history and heritage in the academy as well as in the general community. Current work includes:

  • My Marvellous Melbourne podcast
  • Block V Project (in collaboration the City of Melbourne arts residency and comouting/information systems interns from Melbourne School of Engineering, exploring ways to digitally render artistic drawings and fabricate a city bock as a multi-dimensional environment in the form of a web-based interactive)
  • Melbourne Directories digitisation project