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Visualizing Cultural Collections

PhD position


Visualization can be a powerful way of making available cultural collections to broad audiences, and it can encourage new and inspiring perspectives as part of casual exploration and research (see [1,2,3] for examples). However, current visualization approaches in this context also have limitations. Print-based cultural collections are often unique in their material and visual aesthetics (e.g., size, paper texture, fonts, images and illustrations, and marginalia), and visualizing just their textual content cannot do them justice [4]. In fact, the material characteristics of cultural collections can provide important details on their history, inherent production processes, intended audiences, and how items were handled and shared – all important aspects to consider as part of humanities research. Reading has been recognized as an inherently embodied experience and, therefore, representing material qualities is also important for casual readers.


This PhD project will focus on the question of how to systematically expand visualization as a method of representing abstract data to allow for the integration of material and visual characteristics of cultural collections. This research can take several directions. For example, data physicalization may be applied as a way to explore the unique characteristics of a cultural collection through different modalities. Another avenue could explore how to combine visualization design with computational approaches, such as computer vision and machine learning to enable the rapid classifications of material and aesthetic characteristics.

Supervisory Team

The main supervisor on this project will be Dr Uta Hinrichs who is an expert in data visualization and human computer interaction. Her research specifically focuses on research methods at the intersection of visualization and (digital) humanities.

Since this is an interdisciplinary research project, additional supervisor(s) from the humanities will be invited to join the supervisory team once a PhD candidate is selected.


How to Apply

The start date of this position is flexible. If you are are interested in this position and would like to get more information about the project and funding opportunities, please get in touch with Dr Uta Hinrichs via email: uhinrich[at]edi.ac.uk. You can also directly apply here.


[1] Uta Hinrichs, Simon Butscher, Jens Müller and Harald Reiterer. Diving in at the Deep End: The Value of Alternative In-Situ Approaches for Systematic Library Search. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’16), pages 4634-4646, 2016. DOI:10.1145/2858036.2858549.

[2] Alice Thudt, Uta Hinrichs and Sheelagh Carpendale. The Bohemian Bookshelf: Supporting Serendipitous Book Discoveries through Information Visualization. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’12), pp. 1461-1470, 2012. DOI:10.1145/2207676.2208607

[3] Uta Hinrichs, Holly Schmidt and Sheelagh Carpendale. EMDialog: Bringing Information Visualization into the Museum. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proceedings InfoVis’08), 14(6):1181-1188, 2008. DOI:10.1109/TVCG.2008.127

[4] Stefania Forlini, Uta Hinrichs, John Brosz. Mining the Material Archive: Balancing Sensate Experience and Sense-Making in Digitized Print Collections. Open Library of Humanities, 4(2):1-36, 2018. DOI: 10.16995/olh.282