First 'VisualEyes' Cohort Attracts Wide Range of Research Projects

January 14, 2010 — Roman baths. American cemeteries. Tibetan monasteries. A memoryscape of Charlottesville's Vinegar Hill neighborhood. These and other projects are among the diverse work of the University of Virginia's first "VisualEyes" cohort.

VisualEyes is an interactive Web-based resource developed by SHANTI, U.Va.'s Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives, whose aim is to encourage scholars across disciplines to develop new ways of thinking visually, and to make evidence-based arguments through computer-based visualizations for public display.

VisualEyes cohort members were selected in fall 2009 from among the inaugural group of U.Va. SHANTI fellows. Their work was well-suited to visualization techniques, VisualEyes project director Bill Ferster explained.

The SHANTI Cohort Fellows Program creates teams of five to 10 faculty members, graduate students and staff to do yearlong explorations of innovative research, teaching, publication and engagement strategies enabled by the creative use of new digital technologies.

The first VisualEyes cohort is a "lively group" that has attracted a variety of remarkable projects, including African-American cemetery mapping, interactive mathematics education, a project that marries environmental data with Chesapeake Bay history, 17th-century American maps, Native-American pipe characteristics, mapping of Tibetan monasteries and visualizing the thermodynamics of the Roman baths, Ferster said. The cohort members meet every two weeks to discuss and receive feedback on their projects, and learn how to render them in VisualEyes, he said.

VisualEyes was initially developed for historians at the Virginia Center for Digital History under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"Now that VisualEyes is a part of SHANTI, I'm excited by the potential for a wide array of academic disciplines beyond history," Ferster said. "It is a tool that makes it easy to author graphically rich and interactive Web sites using primary sources and data to support inquiry and argument."

To see what VisualEyes can do, visit

Applications are being accepted through September 2010 for the next group of SHANTI fellows, from which the next VisualEyes cohort will be selected. Apply online here.

The work of SHANTI and VisualEyes is similar to that of U.Va.'s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. However, IATH collaborates with individual U.Va. faculty members on very intense design and development tasks for their faculty-proposed projects, including programming support for development of new tools and financial support. Ferster said. The SHANTI VisualEyes Cohort Fellows program supports a group of scholars to develop their projects using the VisualEyes tool.

— By Rebecca Arrington

Inaugural SHANTI VisualEyes Cohort

• Elizabeth Bollwerk, Ph.D. candidate in archaeology
Visualization of archaeological patterns

• Max Edelson, associate professor of history
2D Timeline for Historic Digital Artifacts

• Ismini Miliaresis, Ph.D. candidate in art history/archaeology
Visualization of the Roman Baths

• Lynn Rainville, research professor at the Virginia Center for Digital History
American gravestones

• Daniel Tillman, Ph.D. candidate at the Curry School of Education
Event Segmentation in Math Education

• Scot French, associate professor of history
Vinegar Hill: A Memoryscape / Fourth Street Project

• Lyndele von Schill, program manager at Environmental Science
Biocomplexity Project

• Steve Weinberger, manager of the Tibetan Himalayan Library
Tibetan Himalayan Library Monastery Maps