Randall Cream@thinkingtogether.org


Program of Research

My research plans for tenure and external funding combine an interest in four areas with a passion for collaboration: data mining, tool building, gaming, and technologies of writing.

Humanities Data Mining
Grant Narrative   DHO Discovery    Presentation on Serendipitous Discovery    

My work in humanities-centered approaches to data mining and text processing has attracted substantial collaboration from external partners (JSTOR, Collexis, Google, NCSA, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and several universities in the US, Canada, and Europe). Humanities data mining differs from traditional data mining because we are interested in being surprised; humanists are much more interested in 'outliers' than in the efficient processing of large amounts of data. I developed an approach to the problem of concept modeling within very large data archives of scholarship (JSTOR) that proved attractive to both our partners and external reviewers.   The multi-institutional Human Voices Project, initiated in response to the Digging into Data challenge, uses automated citation matching to separate humanities scholarship into units of contextual meaning, creating semantic relationships between the texts that cite and refer to each other.  While that model received a negative funding decision from the NEH/NSF/SSHRC, the problems it takes on continue to find purchase in other projects. One example is my work on serendipitous discovery within large datasets, the DHO Discovery browser, using Europeana semantic elements metadata for cross-collection discovery.

Tool Building in the Digital Humanities
Sapheos Project Website     Grant Narrative

One of the research aims of work in the Digital Humanities is to create new tools that respond to existing problems in the humanities. Tool building, in the Heideggerean sense, is a necessarily theoretically sensitive area, since our hands grow to resemble the shape of those tools we use. One project begun at South Carolina is especially interesting as a solution to long-standing problems and a tool that has the ability to shape and structure the way we interact with cultural objects.  The Sapheos project uses MATLAB to automate multi-image representation and digital collation by “stacking” images of pages together, forming a virtual assemblage of codices that reveals collational variants transparently to the viewer.  Initially funded through a generous NEH startup grant, the Sapheos project is currently under revision for sustainable funding to IMLS, NEH, and other funding agencies. In Digital Editions, the problem is precisely the reverse—our challenge lies in building interfaces that tap the potential of the rich XML data in a way that users wish to interact with again and again. To this end, I am part of an international group of software developers in the Digital Humanities collaboratively building a shared toolset for Digital Editions.

Gaming in the Humanities
Humanities Gaming Institute Website     Grant Narrative

One area of ongoing research I’ve begun is gaming in the humanities. I am particularly interested in games’ ability to model ethical decisions in a simulated environment. The trajectory of my research on gaming can be seen via an NEH-funded Institute, a project on ethical gaming for a startup grant (‘Littlefoot’) for a startup grant, and an infrastructural project for a platform to support student-centered learning through gaming and augmented reality (10th Dimension, narrative).  My own research is supported and developed by students with whom I’ve been fortunate to work:  undergraduate students in Media Arts, Visual Communications, Computer Science, and Biology, and graduate students in Computer Science, Philosophy, and English. 

Technologies of Writing
Stibos Project Website     Grant Narrative

I remain interested in research that connects technologies of writing and modes of knowing. I’ve developed one project, Stibos, that examines relationships between undergraduate research behavior and inquiry. Using an open source browser plugin (Zotero) to monitor research in real time, Stibos is planned as a longitudinal study of student behavior across their four-year collegiate careers. Pitched to an NSF CDI competition in 2009, Stibos remains under active development even as software moves forward. As a pedagogical tool, Stibos gives students incentives for undertaking research as a recursive component of education that weaves together writing and research as it combines the work of others with our own efforts to contribute.
Classes This Semester