1994

The Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities


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On the face of it, one might not think that scholars in the arts and humanities would have much to do with computer technology. But in fact, at the UW, an interdisciplinary research center has been created to cultivate computer-based and multimedia projects in the arts and humanities, and it is thriving.

It's called the Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities, or CARTAH, and its mission is to foster the development of an interdisciplinary community of artists and scholars engaged in computer-based research. CARTAH aims to support, on a project basis, novel computer-based and creative work in the arts and humanities at the UW.

"CARTAH can be viewed as an experimental work in progress," notes director Richard Karpen, who is a UW music professor. "When I walk into CARTAH and find, for example, scholars of medieval English, Asian languages, women studies, and artists from creative writing, art, music, all working in the same facility at the same time, sometimes even sharing their work, I feel excited and very optimistic about the future vitality of our community."

CARTAH builds upon a foundation laid by the Humanities and Arts Computing Center, initiated in the early 1980s by UW professor Leroy Searle with the support of then Dean Ernest Henley. When Karpen came on board, the focus was expanded as the Center was transformed into its current incarnation.

CARTAH has assembled a laboratory facility containing state-of-the-art hardware and software for work in multimedia--the computer integration of text, image, sound, video, and computer graphics animation. Moreover, the center recently announced the establishment of its Laboratory for Animation Arts, which will be used to support a new multidisciplinary curriculum in integrated animation arts technology involving linked courses in the University's School of Art, School of Music, and Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

The center supports a mind-boggling array of projects that range from an effort to preserve the endangered language and oral traditions of the native Tewa peoples in the southwestern U.S. (see Saving the Tewa Stories: A Model for Preserving Native Languages), to a project to translate recently-discovered ancient manuscripts that in some respects are to Buddhism what the Dead Sea Scrolls are to Christianity (see The Buddhist Manuscript Project).

In another case, Paul G. Remley of the UW English department is developing a Medieval studies database. Remley has developed new software in connection with his coverage of forty scholarly journals on medieval Latin and medieval studies for the MLA International Bibliography, the world's largest on-line bibliographical resource treating studies of world literature. Since he joined the UW faculty in 1988, Remley has undertaken a variety of computer-based projects, including a hypertext edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. He also is working on a book on computing in the arts and humanities. Remley teaches courses on Anglo Saxon poetry, Arthurian literature, and Chaucer's writing. "There is a lot of interest in my classes for the use of computers to develop multimedia presentations, illustrations of medieval clothing, armor, feasts, and so on," he notes.

Other examples: An American popular music database is being developed at the center by Sue Neimoyer and Larry Starr of the music school. The database will serve as an important resource on historic recordings of several different genres, including Tin Pan Alley, Country, and Rhythm & Blues, and will cover the time period between 1920 and about 1970.

Joseph Kautz of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature is developing a Home Page on the World Wide Web dedicated to Russian Sign Language. Matthew Bennett of ethnomusicology is developing a dynamic display of musical sound and time that can help analysts investigate microdiscrepancies in music performance.

The list goes on and on. Meanwhile, researchers are gearing up in the center's Laboratory for Animation Arts. The facility was established by Karpen of the music school with Shawn Brixey of art and Anthony DeRose and David Salesin of computer science and engineering, and with a donation of $450,000 in equipment from Silicon Graphics, Inc., the premier manufacturer of high-end multimedia systems. In addition, Alias/Wavefront, Softimage, and Pixar are donating modeling, animation, and rendering software. The UW is supporting the effort through the office of the associate provost for computing and communications, the dean of arts and sciences, the art and music schools, and the computer science and engineering department.

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