About me

I am Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at New York University Abu Dhabi located on Saadiyat Island in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). Previously, I was Associate Professor in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon and served as department chair from 2010-14.

I am an interdisciplinary scholar-teacher with interests in Digital Humanities, Spatial Humanities, Visualization and AI/machine learning for the humanities. Trained as a medievalist, my research has focused on pre-modern court culture and knowledge transfer in the Euro-Mediterranean as well as digital inquiry into the modern and contemporary Middle East. At the core of my research are questions of spatio-temporality, multilingualism, interculturality and the materiality and variance of archival documents. I work in seven languages, including Arabic. For more details about my research interests and projects, see here.

My work is in dialogue with global research communities and aims at creating communities of digital research in the arts and humanities across the global university (NYU), as well as at a regional (MENASA) and local (UAE/Gulf) level.

I firmly believe that, if empowered by the methods in the critique, creation and management of digital knowledge, the Arab region can work to close the knowledge gap across many media. I am convinced that creating knowledge from within, and disseminating it openly and freely, allows us to critique received discourses about language, society and culture, supplanting them with alternative, informed ones.

Keywords for my research

digital humanities; spatial humanities; open corpora; open scholarship; AI for culture; multilingualism; AI; esports; medieval studies; French studies; Arabic studies; interculturality


Research Interests:

Digital humanities: I am interested in what might be called location-based or site-specific inquiry working with geospatial data to model phenomena of human culture, a field that has become known as the spatial humanities. The digital map interface interests me as a medium of data assemblage of cultural materials, both historical and contemporary. I am also particularly interested in mobile media and their role(s) in the spatial humanities for multilingual environments and through social, participatory creation. Furthermore, the spatial humanities research that interests me the most stems from underresourced domains and from non-Western cultures.Digital medieval studies: I am working to create open, inclusive corpora for computational textual research in medieval studies. Such research allows us to make micro-, meso- and macro-level observations about the interrelatedness of bodies of texts as well as to discover patterns of discursive similarity, thereby expanding traditional notions of intertextuality. I work with geo-visualization, network visualization and alignment as ways of framing old and new questions in literary history. Machine learning for entity extraction is an important method for connecting my interests in corpora and the spatial humanities.

Medieval studies: I have been interested for many years in placing medieval texts into a global, comparative, multi-lingual context. My research has focused on the mobility of texts between the Arabograph world of the southern and eastern Mediterranean and medieval Europe. I work in a number of medieval European and Mediterranean languages: middle English, old / middle French, Latin, old Spanish, medieval Italian and Arabic. I have published on questions of mouvance, compilation, rewriting and patronage in late medieval courts.


Winter Institute in Digital Humanities (WIDH). An inaugural digital humanities and research event at NYU Abu Dhabi in the tradition of other international institutes such as DHSI. It will serve to build digital communities of practice within the global sites of New York University (NYU), the GCC and the MENASA regions.Visualizing Medieval Places. A spatial humanities project investigating space/time in texts composed in medieval French.  10000+ toponyms from a large corpus of texts (200 and growing).

Open Medieval French (OpenMedFr). A text creation initiative aiming to publish open, plain text versions of works written over four centuries of Medieval French and related resources for scholarly, computational research. Available texts can be accessed at the project’s GitHub page. The Open Medieval French Zotero page can be found here.

Linguistic Landscapes of Beirut.  A spatial humanities project documenting multilingual usage of writing in public space in metropolitan Beirut, including digital mapping, multilingual transcription in YAML. The data can be consulted at the project’s GitHub page.

Open Gulf. A historical research project aiming to create open historical datasets about the Gulf region based on multilingual materials about the pre-oil history of the Arabian Gulf (17th to 20th centuries). It has begun by applying contemporary methods in the digital humanities to Lorimer’s Gazetteer, an example of early twentieth-century British India government data collection. Project page (currently only open within NYU).

Visualizing Mouvance (with Stefan Jänicke, Universität Leipzig).  Exploring computational alignment of medieval variant text traditions (using both user parameter driven and recurrent neural network approaches), innovative techniques in data visualization and what they can tell us about the instability of medieval texts. See our article here.

Digital Projects in Planning Phases:

The Arab World Publishing Project (AWPP). A textual and spatial humanities project building on the Mapping Beirut Print Culture project narrating thematic trends and spatial dimensions of print culture across the Arab and Arabograph publishing world from the 1950s to the present.



Coming up:

Exploring the Geographies of Froissart’s Chroniques“, paper for 66th Society of French Historical Studies Meeting, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, 7-10 July 2020.

Co-offering workshop “Introduction to Computation for Literary Studies” (with R. El Khatib), Digital Humanities Summer Institute, University of Victoria, Canada, 1-5 June 2020.

Co-organizer, Winter Institute in Digital Humanities (with Beth Russell), NYU Abu Dhabi, 19-22 January 2020.

Speaker (and panel organizer) “Open Gulf: Collating the Imperial Knowledge of Historical Gazetteers of Arabia” on panel “Gazetteers for Digital Geographic Research on the Historical Middle East” Middle East Studies Association meeting, New Orleans, 14-17 November 2019.

Digital Humanities Practices and Archive Appraisal in the Contemporary Arab World” (paper with Brad Bauer), Digital Archives in the Arab World, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi / National Archives, 27-28 October 2019.

Co-convener, Global Shakespeare and Digital Humanities conference, NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, 7-9 October 2019.

Co-offering workshop (with R. El Khatib), “Humanities Data and Mapping Environments”, European Summer University for Digital Humanities 23 July-2 August 2019.

Past events:

“Mapping English in Contact in the Contemporary Middle East” paper for digital humanities panel “Space, Pattern and Scale: Digital Investigations” International Association of University Professors of English, Poznan, Poland, 21 July 2019.

“Using Visualization to Understand the Complex Spatiality of Mappae Mundi” (long paper with Martin Reckziegel, Taylor Hixson and Stefan Jänicke) Association of Digital Humanities Organizations DH2019 Proceedings, Utrecht, NL, 9-12 July 2019.

“Active Learning from Scratch in Diverse Humanities Textual Domains: Optimizing Annotation Efficiency for Language-Agnostic NER” (long paper with Alex Erdmann and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel) Association of Digital Humanities Organizations DH2019 Proceedings, Utrecht, NL, 9-12 July 2019.

Co-offering workshops (with G. Riva) at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds (1214 & 1314) “Medieval Vernacular Corpora and Digital Textual Analysis, I: Text Creation & II: Text Analysis” 3 July 2019.

Co-offering workshop “Introduction to Computation for Literary Criticism” (with R. El Khatib), Digital Humanities Summer Institute, University of Victoria, Canada, 3-7 June 2019.

Offering workshop “Quantified Self” at Digital Humanities Institute Beirut 2019, Beirut, Lebanon, 3-4 May 2019.

“Making/Thinking with Information” keynote for the Information Literacy Network Spring Symposium: Education, Impact, Reflection, Abu Dhabi, 24 April 2019.

“Co-Occurrence Networks of Place in Literary Corpora” Workshop on the Frontiers of Network Science, NYU Abu Dhabi, 8 April 2019.

“Revisiting Caxtonian Style,” paper for the “New Technologies and Renaissance Studies IV: Digital Textual Studies” panel, Renaissance Society of America (RSA), Toronto, Canada, 17-19 March 2019.

“Enacting Open Scholarship Within Transnational Contexts” paper and “HSS Infrastructures for Open Knowledge and Data Science?” panel at the INKE Winter Gathering, Victoria, Canada, 16 January 2019.

Attending Linked Pasts IV: Inside the LOD Cloud, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany, 11-13 December 2018.

“HPC and Digital Scholarship in the Humanities,” High Performance Computing (HPC) for Graduate Research, American University of Beirut, 16 November 2018.

Cartographier la poésie des troubadours: modélisation, visualisation, interprétation” Workshop AcTo, Centre interrégional du développement de l’occitan, Béziers, France, 15-16 November 2018.

Pre-Visualization” at “Vis4DH <=> DH4Vis” workshop at IEEE Vis, Berlin, Germany 21-22 October 2018.

Opening keynote “Recasting the Can(n)ons: Towards a New Generation of Computational Medieval French“, at The Medieval Canon in the Digital Age, Ghent University, Belgium, 17-18 September 2018.

Co-leading workshop “Humanities Data and Mapping Environments” (with R. El Khatib), European Summer University of Digital Humanities, Leipzig, Germany, 17-27 July 2018.

Mapping Lorimer: Using Digital Methods to Explore the Discursive Construction of Gulf Space, societies and cultures/economies” with (N. Barakat, E. Fakhro, N. Fuccaro),  Beyond Oil, Sheikhs and Security: Plotting New Trajectories in Gulf Studies, Exeter Centre for Gulf Studies, UK, 2-3 July 2018.

Co-leading workshop “Semi-automated Alignment of Text Versions with iTeal” (with S. Jänicke), DH2018, Mexico City, Mexico, June 2018.

On Alignment of Medieval Poetry,” (with S. Jänicke) long paper for DH2018, Mexico City, Mexico, 26-29 June 2018.

‘Moon’: A Spatial Analysis of the Gumar Corpus of Gulf Arabic Internet Fiction” (with Hind Saddiki) poster for DH2018, Mexico City, Mexico, 26-29 June 2018.

Participating “Open Access and Open Social Scholarship” at Digital Humanities Summer Institute, Victoria, BC 11-15 June 2018.

Co-organizing (with Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel), “Exploring the Geographic Information of Literature and Art History,” a spatial humanities workshop, NYU PSL Global Alliance Partnership, Ecole normale supérieure / NYU Paris, 4-8 June 2018.

Co-presenting Digital tools for teaching, writing, and research: Building capacity in the Digital Humanities (AMICAL 2018), American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, 4-5 May 2018.

Presenting at Text Analysis Using Stylometry, AUB, Beirut, Lebanon, 24-25 April 2018.

“Mapping the Geographic Information of the Corpus” at Mapping the Text 2018, New York University, New York 21 April 2018.

Co-led workshop (with Gimena del Rio Riande and Gustavo Riva) Técnicas para la creación, enriquecimiento y análisis de textos digitales: Una introducción al proyecto Open Medieval French (OpenMedFr) [Creating, Enriching and Analyzing Digital Texts: Introducing the OpenMedFr Project], NYU Buenos Aires, 22-23 March 2018.

“Electronic Literature in the Context of Digital Humanities” lecture at Arabic Electronic Literature: New Horizons, Global Perspectives,” RIT-Dubai, 25-27 February 2018.

“Towards an Open Corpus of Medieval French,” Renaissance Knowledge Network Sessions, Arizona Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies Annual Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona, 8-10 February 2018.

“Operationalizing Literary and Linguistic Geographies,” The Politics of Space and the Humanities, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece, 15-17 December 2017.

“Can Computers Critique the Media?” (workshop) Young Arab Media Leaders, Abu Dhabi, 19 November 2017.

“Disrupt(,) or Bust” at “The ‘Crisis’ Humanities and the Digital Humanities?: New Directions in the Humanities,” NYU Center for the Humanities, New York, 14 November 2017.

“The Space of Curation: On the Possibilities of Open Cultural Data in Arabia,” The Third International Conference on Museums in Arabia, Manama, Bahrain, 11-13 October 2017.

“What Can Spatial Data Tell Us About Genre in Medieval French Literature?” Humanidades Dixitais: olladas cara á Idade Media, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 9-11 October 2017. 

“Creating Geotagged Humanities Data via Mobile Phone: Opportunities and Challenges” (with Mario Hawat and Dalal Rahme), Japanese Association of Digital Humanities, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, 12 September 2017.

Teaching workshop “Humanities Data and Mapping Environments” at European Summer University in Digital Humanities, Leipzig, Germany 18-28 July 2017.

Attending DH Benelux, Utrecht, Netherlands, 4-6 July 2017.

Mapping Minds, Worlds, Territories – A Workshop, University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway / Bibliotheca Herztiana, Rome, 11-13 June 2017.

Attending “Cloud Powering DH Research” DHSI, Victoria, Canada, 5-9 June 2017.

“Notes from DHIB 2017” and ““Digital Project Brainstorming: One-on-One Consultations” at AMICAL Consortium Annual Meeting, Thessaloniki, Greece, 17-20 May 2017.

“What is Web Hosting, and What Kind(s) of Writing Take(s) Place Therein?“ NYU Abu Dhabi Writing Studies Working Group, Global Literacies and the Liberal Arts, 27 April 2017.

Digital Humanities Abu Dhabi (conference), NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 10-12 April 2017

“Toolkit or Toychest?: the Digital in the Classroom,” American University of Paris, Paris, France, 17 March 2017.

“Digital Project-Based Scholarship and Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts Institution,” American University of Paris, Paris, France, 16 March 2017.

Keynote, Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon, 10-12 March 2017.  Video here (starts 35:00).

“TopoText: Interactive Digital Mapping of Literary Text” (with R. El Khatib, J. El Zini, M. Jaber and S. Elbassuoni), COLING 2016: 26th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Osaka, Japan, December 2016.

GIS Day 2016, NYU Abu Dhabi, November 2016, blog post here.

Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities (organizing committee) at IEEE Vis, Baltimore, 24 October 2016.

“What is Spatial Literary Historical Knowledge?” (lecture) and “Co-Created Cultural Gazetteers for Digital Spatial Research: Models, Desiderata, Implications” (workshop) at “Creating Spatial Historical Knowledge: New Approaches, Opportunities and Epistemological Implications of Mapping History Digitally,“ German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, 20-22 October 2016.

Event and World System: (Digitally) Mapping the Age of Peter I” for the conference “The Reign of Peter I of Cyprus: Crusading and Diplomacy in the Late Medieval Eastern Mediterranean,” University of Notre Dame, Rome, Italy, 13-15 Oct 2016.

“Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage in the U.A.E.: Opportunities and Challenges for Future Collaboration” at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute workshop “Dialogues with the Past: Documenting Heritage in the UAE,” Abu Dhabi, 5 October 2016.

“Digital Humanities in the Arab World in 2016” for the 3er Encuentro de Humanistas Digitales, Colegio de México, Mexico City, 12-14 September 2016.

“Spatial Humanities for Beginners: A Workshop” for the 3er Encuentro de Humanistas Digitales, Colegio de México, Mexico City, 12-14 September 2016.

“Caxton and Computational Stylistics,” to be presented at International Association of University Professors of English Triennial Conference 2016, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, London, 29 July 2016.

“From Text to Map: Modeling Historical Humanities Data in Mapping Environments,” workshop co-led with Maxim Romanov, European Summer University in Digital Humanities, University of Leipzig, 19-29 July 2016

“Visualizing Mouvance: Towards an Alignment of Medieval Vernacular Text Traditions” (with Stefan Jänicke) Long Paper for Digital Humanities 2016, Kraków, Poland, 12-16 July 2016.

“Exploring Modes of Authorship in Caxton: Rolling Delta for Early English Printed Texts” at Digital Literary Studies Seminar, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27 June-1 July 2016.

“TopoText 2.0: Prototyping Modes of Interactive Mapping and Social Knowledge Creation” (with Randa El Khatib, Julia El Zini, Shady ElBassuoni and Mohammad Jaber), Innovative Interrogations: Modelling, Prototyping and Making, Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Conference @ DHSI 2016, Victoria, BC, 10-11 June 2016.

“Locative Devices and Web Mapping in the Humanities” at AMICAL annual conference “Libraries and Digital Initiatives,” American University of Rome, Rome, Italy, 12-14 May 2016.

“Digital Humanities Project-Based Faculty Learning Communities: From the Local to the Consortial” (with Rayane Fayed) at AMICAL annual conference “Libraries and Digital Initiatives,” American University of Rome, Rome, Italy, 12-14 May 2016.

“Beirut publishes… / وبيروت تطبع: Digital Spatio-Temporal Narratives of the Lebanese Publishing Industry (1920-present)” to be presented at Books in Motion Conference, American University of Beirut, Beirut, May 2016.

“Linguistic Landscapes at Scale: Affordances and Limitations of Mobile Data Collection“ to be presented at Linguistic Landscapes and Multilinguality: Sociolinguistic, Cultural and Psychological Perspectives, 37th International LAUD conference, University of Landau, Germany, 4-6 April 2016.

Facilitator, Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo unconference, American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, 20-23 March 2016

Organizer, Medieval Academy of America Meeting, Digital Humanities Session “Place in Corpora” including my paper “Toponymic Strata in a Large Corpus of Medieval French,” Boston, MA, February 2016.

“Does Literature Have Data?: On Extracting and Representing Entities from Texts,” (with Shady Elbassouni) Research Incubation Seminar, Center for Research on Population and Health, AUB, Spring 2016.

Organizer, Modern Language Association, Special Session on “The Visual Display of Literary Information,” Austin, Texas, January 2016.

“Using Stylometry to Model Transmission of Arabic in Medieval Europe: the Case of the Bocados de oro,” La Asociación de Humanidades Digitales Hispánicas. II Congreso Internacional. Innovación, globalización e impacto. Madrid, 5-7 October 2015.

Keynote/Workshop, “Exploring Space-Time Representation in the Digital Humanities,” Digital Humanities Day, American University of Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, 30 September 2015. Storify here.

“Evaluating Peer Review Criteria: The Geo-Twist” (with Kathy Weimer and Karl Grossner), Digital Frontiers, University of Texas – Dallas, 17-19 September 2015.

“Machaut, Mézières and al-Nuwayri al-Iskandarani: ‘Rapport de Fait’ or Interliterary Mediterranean System?” Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg “History and Society during the Mamluk Era (1250- 1517)” University of Bonn, Germany, 10 August 2015.

“Maps and Networks in Medieval Studies,” European Summer University Culture and Technology, Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, 5 August 2015.

“Toward an Assessment of the Heterogenous Digitally-Inflected Undergraduate English Course” (with Najla Jarkas)  on the “Innovations in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Local, National and International Training,” ADHO DH 2015, Sydney, July 2015.

Co-organized and led pre-conference workshop DH2015 “Exploring Peer Review in the GeoHumanities” (with Kathy Weimer and Karl Grossner).

“Supporting Peer-Review for GeoHumanities and Spatially-Inflected Projects” (poster with Kathy Weimer), Association of Digital Humanities Organizations DH 2015 Conference, July 2015.

Led workshop, “Representing Space and Time in Digital Environments” Dartmouth College, Leslie Center for the Humanities, 4 May 2015.

“How are Medieval Places Different from Ancient Ones?: Thoughts on Digital Mapping the Middle Ages,” Columbia Medieval Colloquium, New York, 22 April 2015.

“Visual Exploration of Medieval Textual Histories: the Case of the French of Italy,“ (with Laura Morreale and Abigail Sargent) Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Philadelphia, PA, 22-24 July 2015.

“Author! Author! Christine de Pizan’s Styles : Did She Have a Moi prosaique Distinct from Her Moi Lyrique ? The Comparative Insights of a Tradition Stylistic/Thematic and a Stylometric Analysis of Christine’s Writings” (with E.J. Richards and Liliane Dulac), IXe Colloque International Christine de Pizan, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 7-11 July 2015.

“How are Medieval Places Different from Ancient Ones?: Thoughts on Digital Mapping the Middle Ages,” Columbia Medieval Colloquium, New York, 22 April 2015.

Co-organizer, four-part workshop series “Topics in Digital Mapping,” Fordham University, Spring 2015. Summary of part one here.

Organizer, Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut and co-organizer ThatCamp Beirut, March 2015.

“Islamicate Worlds, the Late Medieval Court of Burgundy and the Mediterranean,” Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University, New York, 9 December 2014.

Participant, “What is the Vernacular?” a workshop at Fordham University, Center for Medieval Studies, 5 December 2014.

“Big (comma) Open Data in the Humanities,” Research Without Borders panel, Columbia University Libraries, New York, 4 December 2014.

“Visualizing Medieval French Places: Spatial Information, Scale and Literary History,” Mahindra Humanities Center, Medieval Studies/Cartography Seminars, Harvard University, Boston, 20 November 2014.

Co-led “Spatiality and Digital Mapping” workshop, Fordham University Digital Humanities, New York, October 2014.

Attended Text Corpora and Digital Islamic Humanities workshop, Brown University, October 2014.

“Lieu, Temps, Réseau : la modélisation des géographies littéraires du moyen âge français” accepted on the panel “Les « interfaces numériques » dans la recherche aujourd’hui,” Journées francoromanistes allemandes, “Schnittstellen / Interfaces,” Münster, Germany, 24-27 September 2014.

“Doing Things with a Spatial Dataset of Medieval Literature,” presented at the workshop Applying New Digital Methods to the Humanities, British Library, London, 27 June 2014.

“Modeling Literary Geographies: a Medium-Data Approach to Medieval French Literary History,” presented at Medieval Francophone Literary Culture outside France conference, King’s College, Cambridge, UK, 10-12 April 2014.

“A Modular Mediterranean Classic: Al-Mubashshir’s Mukhtar al-Hikam in Late Medieval Europe” presented in the seminar “On the Classics: Debating a Concept Across the Premodern Mediterranean World,” American Comparative Literature Association, New York University, New York, 20-23 March 2014.

“A Spatial and Network Analysis of Outremer in Medieval French Texts” presented at The French of Outremer: Communities and Communications in the Crusading Mediterranean Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University, New York, NY, 29-30 March 2014.

Organizer, Modern Language Association Meeting January 2014, Special Session on “Geospatial Literary Studies”.

“Visualizing Medieval Places in Overlapping Uncertainties of Time” with Christian Heine and Stefan Jänicke presented at the European Summer University of Digital Humanities ‘Culture and Technology,’ Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, July 2013.

“Visualizing Uncertainty: How to Use the Fuzzy Data of 550 Medieval Texts?” presented at Digital Humanities 2013, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, 16-19 July 2013. Abstract here.

“Guillaume de Tignonville’s Dits Moraux des philosophes: Modeling the Circulation of Greco-Arabica in 15th century Europe” presented at the Oxford University Medieval French Seminar, Oxford, UK, February 12, 2013.

Three-day workshop and mini-conference “Digital Humanities @ AUB,” 15-17 April 2013.

© 2023 David Joseph Wrisley