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Digital Showcase Touts Interdisciplinary Innovation
Anthropology professor Susan Slyomovics worked with Center for Near Eastern Studies staff to create "Teaching Arabian Nights," which includes video clips of modern performances of the tales.

Digital Showcase Touts Interdisciplinary Innovation

Nearly 350 faculty, staff, students and others packed the crowded exhibition space at Perloff Hall, peering at computer monitors, test-driving Web applications, taking notes, and trading ideas and business cards.

It is really interesting to see that digital innovation is not in one little niche of the campus but is all over the place.


This article was first published by UCLA Today Online.

By Judy Lin   

Todd Presner could send his students to a traditional textbook to read up on Berlin. Instead, the assistant professor of Germanic languages sends them on a singularly unique visit to that city via Hypermedia Berlin.

Through the Internet-based digital mapping platform, Presner's students can not only visit Berlin as it exists today, but can time-travel through 800 years to experience the city, language, history and culture of another era — adding insights and discoveries of their own to the site along the way. The project is Presner's brainchild, put together with help from an interdisciplinary team of geographers, urban planners, architects and computer scientists. (For a tour, see www.berlin.ucla.edu and click "tutorial.")

Hypermedia Berlin was one of more than two dozen digital creations showcased May 10 at "Countries, Cultures, Communication: Digital Innovation at UCLA," hosted by the Office of Vice Chancellor for Research Roberto Peccei, the Institute for Digital Research and Education, and the Center for Digital Humanities.

Designed to highlight the innovative uses of digital technology in research and teaching at UCLA, the event also encouraged further interdisciplinary collaboration. Nearly 350 faculty, staff, students and others packed the crowded exhibition space at Perloff Hall, peering at computer monitors, test-driving Web applications, taking notes, and trading ideas and business cards.

There was much to peruse. The World's Columbia Exposition of 1893, produced by Lisa Snyder and Bill Jepson of the Urban Simulation Team, offers viewers a real-time, fly-through visual simulation model of the historic event that took place in Chicago.

The project, Teaching the "Arabian Nights," provides video clips of storytellers as they convey these classic fables. Developed by Susan Slyomovics, professor of anthropology and Near Eastern languages and cultures for use in her classes, the resource also incorporates information on American Orientalist popular culture provided by Jonathan Friedlander, assistant director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies.

The Living Independently in Los Angeles Web site, created by Alan Toy of the School of Public Affairs, gives Los Angeles County residents with disabilities access to more than 3,000 resources to enhance their lives, from subsidized housing to wheelchair repair services.

"This showcase presents the best of UCLA," Vice Chancellor Peccei told those attending. "It is really interesting to see that digital innovation is not in one little niche of the campus but is all over the place."

Other projects included the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, the St. Gall Virtual Reality Project, the Electronic Literature Collection, the Encyclopedia of Egyptology, the Chicano Archives Digitization Project, the California Land Opportunities Tracking System and the Qumran Visualization Project.

For more information on these and other projects, visit www.digitalinnovations.ucla.edu.