A Research Laboratory

Humanities + Design is a research and design program of the Stanford Humanities Center operating as a laboratory member of CESTA (Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis) on the 4th floor of Wallenberg Hall. We are developing new approaches to modeling uncertainty and complexity in the visualization of large datasets applied to humanities research through the generation and design of new tools.

What We Do

Our mission is to produce, through the lens of humanistic inquiry, new modes of thinking in design and computer science to serve data-driven research in the humanities. We believe that humanistic inquiry, grounded in interpretation, has much to contribute to the development of technologies if they are to help us reveal uncertainty and ambiguity, and allow human-scale exploration of complex systems.

We focus on developing skills that are broadly applicable to the data humanist including data management, collaboration, visual literacy, and the production of publication-ready visuals. The laboratory setting fosters critical engagement around digital methods and provides a context for the development of a visual language around specifically humanistic inquiry into data. In the process we build both small and large-scale tools driven by specific research needs.

Humanities scholars have an important role to play in problematizing data structures and visual models of data. To do this, humanities scholars need to develop an understanding of technology and its influence in the construction of meaning. Technology has a mediating influence on research, but we can influence the design of those mediating technologies.

Our research agenda is not defined by any one technology nor does it assume that the application of computing to humanities research requires quantitative methods. Instead the aim of the lab is to empower researchers to apply their own methods by exposing them to techniques and tools for managing and manipulating data.