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Digital Innovations

Digital Innovations

Six new media projects with Middle East themes were showcased by the UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education.

The May 10 showcase, Digital Innovation at UCLA, sponsored by Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Peccei and the UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education, featured six new media projects with Middle East themes, including Teaching the Arabian Nights.

Created by Susan Slyomovics for her bilingual Comparative Literature course on The Thousand and One Nights (Alf Layla wa Layla), Teaching the Arabian Nights is a multimedia project, soon to be accessible on the web, produced by CNES designer Rahul Bhushan. It juxtaposes oral versions of the 1001 Nights performed by professional storytellers before live audiences in the Middle East (filmed in the field by Slyomovics) with American Orientalist popular culture collected by Jonathan Friedlander.

Building Virtual Research Tools and Environments for Access to Primary Source Materials, directed by Stephen Davison, head of the UCLA Digital Library Program, will provide online access to the Caro Minasian Collection, a rich repository of Islamic learning, including more than 1500 manuscripts in Arabic and Persian dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries on astronomy, government, history, language and grammar, law, literature, philosophy, religious practice, and science. In April 2007, the Library received a $346,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to assist the project, which expects to have digitized 470 mss (nearly 100,000 pages) by the end of 2008. The goal of the project is to create a virtual research environment with a search and retrieval system that supports discovery, display, navigation, and annotation in English, Persian, and Arabic.

Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), directed by Robert K. Englund, an Assyriologist in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department (NELC), assisted by Stephen Davison, is a joint project of UCLA and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, pursuing the systematic digital documentation and electronic publication of all cuneiform inscriptions from the beginning of writing (ca. 3350 BCE) onward. CDLI is also partnering with the Federation of American Scientists, Washington, DC, to create educational content on Babylonian history for young learners.

UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE), headed by editor-in-chief Willeke Wendrich and co-editor Jacco Dieleman (NELC), will cover the period from 3500 BCE to 400 CE. Scholars from around the world have been commissioned to contribute articles, images, interactive maps, and virtual reality models of ancient cities and sites. The first phase of UEE will be online in 2008.

Open Context: Community-Based Data Sharing and Tagging documents joint excavations led by Elizabeth Carter (NELC) and Stuart Campbell (University of Manchester) at Domuztepe, an 8000-year-old site in Turkey with extensive prehistoric architectural, burial, and occupational remains as well as evidence of Roman and medieval occupation.

Excavation! developed by John Lynch, graduate student in Assyriology (NELC) and UEE Research Assistant, is a computer game designed to reinforce instruction in ancient history in California’s 6th-grade social science curriculum. The game simulates an archaeological dig at real sites in Iraq, in the context of a modern mystery story. Written using Adobe Flash, it can be played on virtually any computer with a web-browser.

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