[TEACHING] Virtual Reality Module: Analyzing Representations of Angkor

This is a teaching module I designed for my course, “Contested Histories of Colonial Indochina” at Brown University, Fall 2019. [See below for full teaching module or Download Teaching Module Update: Remote Virtual Revised version below or Download Remote Teaching Module] I connected with an ambitious, award winning project “Virtual Angkor” which brings the 13th century Cambodian metropolis of Angkor to life through virtual reality and 3D simulation. Led by the talented team of Tom Chandler, Adam Clulow, Bernard Keo, Mike Yeates, and Martin Polkinghorne (SensiLab, Monash University, UT Austin, Flinders University), Virtual Angkor allows students to experience and pose questions about Angkor’s social life, trade networks, structure of power and kingship, as well as architectural layout.

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Texts as Data—Data as Texts


Rather than get lost in the semantic battle of defining disciplines (What is/are the digital humanities?), this presentation explores how we as humanists can use data to help us think through our humanities questions, evidence, and argument. Drawing from ‘digital’ and ‘data science’ methods of experimental design and operationalizing, I shared my data science project on the library of congress collection of Vietnamese materials.


Video of presentation

This talk was part of the “Texts as Data—Data as Texts” Seminar and Workshop at Yonsei University in Seoul on January 12, 2017.

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A Humanist Does Data Science: ‘Deconstructing’ Libraries Project

Library of Congress Main Reading Room
Library of Congress Main Reading Room

Spring of 2016 I enrolled in my first ever graduate level data science course at the School of Information at UC Berkeley. The course ‘Deconstrucing Data Science’ investigated quantitative methods of machine learning and data analysis. Coming from a humanist background, the course challenged me to think in drastically different ways about evidence, data, and argument. In the process of learning new data science methods, we reflected on experimental design and challenged the underlying assumptions of empirical methods. These critical reflections resonated with similar debates around the ‘scientific’ character of history and the social sciences to draw informed conclusions about the past and society.

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(Digital) Humanities: It’s all one in the same in my research

The map interface for searching materials. The Vietnam Project MSU Archive


While writing about my data science course at the School of Information in the spring of 2016, I realized that I needed a long preface to explain why it was that a historian of Vietnam was using computational methods in their research. My long engagement with the world of ‘tech’ has become less of a dabbling and more of a blurry (exciting) amalgamation where all of my work in history, digital humanities, quantitative methods, data science, and information science have converged.

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Data and the Humanities: Digital Humanities and Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries

Below is a working paper I wrote for my graduate course on the History of Data Science led by Professor Cathryn Carson Spring 2015 at UC Berkeley. You can see the bibliography of readings from our class on my Zotero library.


What does data mean to a humanist? What would it mean to datify humanistic inquiry? This paper examines the recent literature on data within the humanities and critical debates about ‘digital humanities’. As I demonstrate in this paper, the debates around data within the humanities fits within three interlocking frameworks: first, the tensions between relevancy and distinction within the humanities in relation to the sciences; second, the boundary work of defining and distinguishing ‘digital humanities’; and third, the shifts in methods occurring across all disciplines around data, data intensive sciences, mixed methods, and scholarly communication.

I recognize that debates around disciplinary identities and methods can transform into polemical battles around academic territory. I seek to immerse myself in these debates to understand the contours and ridges and to understand the boundary making processes currently manifesting within the humanities. Observing historical patterns within these debates, I conclude that a historiography of data science, data intensive humanities, and digital humanities is inevitably a narrative about disruption of existing disciplinary boundaries.

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Poster at Berkeley DH Faire 2015 on Henri Oger

This past spring our team of awesome dh-ers at Berkeley put together the 2015 Berkeley DH Faire. Here is the quick poster my collaborator Amy Zou (Cognitive Science & Linguistics) put together.


My Berkeley Digital Humanities Working Group (BDHWG) Co-convener and friend, Camille Villa, wrote this great recap of the event by  on the DH@Berkeley blog:

DH Community Gathers for 3rd Berkeley Digital Humanities Faire

A Community of Curious Cats: Berkeley DH Working Group

I have a confession. I’ve attended DH conferences, worked as the ‘Digital Humanities Assistant’ on campus, and advocated for the development of DH resources here at Berkeley, but…I’m still working through what Digital Humanities actually means for me and my research.

The good thing is, this is exactly the purpose of the Berkeley Digital Humanities Working Group BDHWG (or #BDHWG for those following our updates on twitter, sorry for the long acronym) is a Townsend Center for Humanities working group started four years ago. Over the course of those years, we’ve held big events like the DH project fair, talks with Dan Cohen and Rob Nelson from DH institutes across the nation, co-organized HackFSM, and collaborated with regional DH groups and THATcamps.

These big events are a product of the immense diversity and creativity of our working group—a small to mid sized community of students, faculty, and staff interested in learning more about the digital humanities. In the spirit of ‘working groups’ we believe in the values of curiosity, collaboration, and diversity.

What is DH? image credit @Elijah_Meeks

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Discovering Digital Humanities at UC Berkeley

This post was originally published at the UC Berkeley Digital Humanities blog on November 20, 2013.

Chris Church leads a workshop at D-Lab. Image Source: D-Lab

Campus resources can be both exciting and dizzying. As a new graduate student at UC Berkeley, I spent most of my first semester lost in a sea of academic resources, departments, research centers, and events. I realize now that many of my meaningful connections I made revolved around the burgeoning community of digital humanities here at UC Berkeley.

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Digital Project Planning: Vietnamese Printing Houses

Last summer I started thinking about translating historical texts into ‘data’ and wrote a short blog post about it when I worked on the Cultural Heritage Informatics project. At that point, I pondered about the limitations of my recently minted Master’s thesis, where I analyzed tourism advertisements and travel stories to understand how individuals ‘mapped’ places with cultural, colonial, and personal significances.As a heavily theoretical cultural history project, I enjoyed the textual, literary, and tentativeness of such an endeavor. However, I could not answer many structural questions about the nature of Vietnamese tourism and genre of travel stories more broadly because of the qualitative nature of my project.

I wonder if others have had this experience in their own historical research? I myself am drawn to digital tools and more quantitative ways of thinking as a way of offering a broader perspective to my often very textual-based questions. With a deep yearning for more ‘concrete,’ quantitative data, I hope to create a digital history project within this line of thinking: translating historical text to data.

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