Research

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, to be used in dialogue with historical geographic argument and recent advances in critical geography. 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 under-resourced domains and from non-Western cultures.

Digital medieval studies: I am working to create open, inclusive corpora for computational textual research in medieval studies. I do this using public domain critical editions, but also increasingly using manuscripts, with the help of technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR) and handwritten text recognition (HTR). 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. Named entity recognition is an important method for connecting my interests in corpora and the spatial humanities. Furthermore, I have grown increasingly interested in the potential of algorithmic image analysis using digitized medieval manuscripts.

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. A focus on corpora creation, I believe, can allow scholars to ask many, new questions and shift the field.

Computer Science: Approaches in computer science that inform my research include information extraction, NER, machine learning, human in the loop & active learning strategies, interactive visualization systems, explainable AI.

Projects:

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.

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.

OpenGulf. OpenGulf is set of interconnected digital projects focusing on historical documentation about the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the larger Gulf region. OpenGulf was launched in the Arts and Humanities Division of NYU Abu Dhabi. The projects publishes open historical datasets, placeographies, personographies, corpora of colonial documents and digital exhibits with the aim of opening Gulf Studies to digital historical exploration, analysis and interpretation.

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).

Abu Dhabi Calling! One of the signature projects of OpenGulf, Abu Dhabi Calling! explores phone directories over the period 1970-2000 in order to understand locational patterns in demographics, ethnicity and urban development in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates across a period of rapid growth across three decades of late twentieth century history. (Download our poster about Abu Dhabi Calling! from the 2020 NYU Abu Dhabi Winter Institute in Digital Humanities here)

Deep Illumination An early stage project combining very close and distant viewing algorithmic techniques for analysis of medieval manuscript illuminations exploring facial recognition, feature & object detection, gender (non) recognition, skin color, pose, perspective.

Past projects

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.

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.