Digital Projects

In addition to teaching, research, and writing, I also spend my time working on digital projects, especially ones related to building online collections and developing software for film and media studies. Projects I've played a leading role in are listed below. My thoughts on what it's like to work across these different modes are described in the essay “Curating, Coding, Writing: Expanded Forms of Scholarly Production,” which is available as part of the free Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digita Humanities.

Media History Digital Library
MHDL - BookReader view

I am of the Director of the Media History Digital Library (MHDL), which I previously co-directed with the project's founder, David Pierce, from 2011 to 2017. The MHDL digitizes out-of-copyright periodicals relating to the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound and makes them widely available for public use. The MHDL has coordinated the scanning of over 2.5 million pages of historic books and magazines, including Variety, Photoplay, The Film Daily, and Moving Picture World. We've been able to achieve this thanks to the collaboration of the Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art, Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, and many other individuals and institutions.


I serve as the lead developer, designer, and producer of Lantern, the MHDL's search platform. Since its initial launch in 2013, Lantern has attrated hundreds of thousands of users. And, in 2014, the team behind Lantern received the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship -- the first time the award went to a digital project instead of a book. Like the MHDL, the work on Lantern remains ongoing. Proud of what we've accomplished; determined to make it better.

Project Arclight
Project Arclight Website

Charles Acland and I pitched Arclight as “Twitter analytics for film and media history.” We had watched as, over the previous few years, commercial media companies embraced computational analytics to identify actors and TV shows that were “trending” on Twitter. We believed that a similar methodology of analyzing discussions of media content across the MHDL could make important contributions to media history and the digital humanities. When we received a Digging into Data grant in 2014, the funding enabled us to put our ideas into practice. In collaboration with Acland and our teams in Madison and Montreal, I developed the publicly available Arclight software, co-authored several journal articles, and co-edited a book anthology.

PodcastRE Analytics
PodcastRE Analytics mockup

I'm currently collaboratring with my colleague, Prof. Jeremy Morris, on developing an analytics and visualization platform for PodcastRE (short for Podcast Research) -- the archive he initiated for researching and preserving podcasts. Wouldn't it be great if researchers had more tools for investigating the "golden age of podcasting" that we are living in? Thanks to funding from a UW2020 grant and NEH Digital Humanities Advancement grant, Jeremy and I are actively building such resources.

Unlocking the Airwaves: Revitalizing an Early Public and Educational Radio Collection
Unlocking the Airwaves logo

Stephanie Sapienza and I have been working on building a comprehensive online collection of early educational public radio content from the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). Despite its historic importance and contemporary relevance, most of the NAEB members’ programs were never heard again after their initial brief moments on the air. The archives for the radio programs and their related paper documentation have been split for over 25 years between two institutions: the University of Maryland and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Unlocking the Airwaves reunites the split collections, finally realizing the potential of the collections of the NAEB for exploration and and the broader public.

ScripThreads screenplay tool

ScripThreads is a software tool for the digital analysis and visualization of screenplays. ScripThreads allows users to visualize character interactions, identify patterns, and export statistical breakdowns. I collaborated on the project with Carrie Roy (who came up with the idea) and Kevin Ponto (who did most of the programming). My participation involved data munging and analysis, as well as leading the research and writing of what became the journal article, “Visualizing and Analyzing the Hollywood Screenplay with ScripThreads,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 8.4 (2014).