Digital Humanities: Digital Humanities Advancement Grants

Period of Performance

10/1/2018 - 4/30/2022

Funding Totals

$99,984.00 (approved)
$93,090.57 (awarded)

Distant Viewing Toolkit (DVT) for the Cultural Analysis of Moving Images

FAIN: HAA-261239-18

University of Richmond (Richmond, VA 23173-0001)
Lauren Tilton (Project Director: January 2018 to November 2022)
Taylor Arnold (Co Project Director: May 2018 to November 2022)

The development of an open source software library that will allow scholars, teachers, and students to analyze time-based media including films, news broadcasts, and television programs.

This project allows scholars to work with large-scale collections by building an open source software library to facilitate the algorithmic production of metadata summarizing the content (e.g., shot angle, shot length, lighting, framing, sound) of time-based media. The software allows scholars to explore media in many forms, including films, new broadcasts, and television, revealing how moving images shape cultural norms.

Media Coverage

University of Richmond Professors Awarded $100,000 NEH Grant to Develop Software to Analyze Media's Cultural Influence (Media Coverage)
Publication: University of Richmond Newsroom
Date: 8/9/2018
Abstract: University of Richmond statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton have been awarded nearly $100,000 in grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop software that will analyze how moving images such as film, television, and news broadcasts shape cultural norms.

Associated Products

Distant viewing: analyzing large visual corpora (Article)
Title: Distant viewing: analyzing large visual corpora
Author: Lauren Tilton
Author: Taylor Arnold
Abstract: In this article we establish a methodological and theoretical framework for the study of large collections of visual materials. Our framework, distant viewing, is distinguished from other approaches by making explicit the interpretive nature of extracting semantic metadata from images. In other words, one must ‘view’ visual materials before studying them. We illustrate the need for the interpretive process of viewing by simultaneously drawing on theories of visual semiotics, photography, and computer vision. Two illustrative applications of the distant viewing framework to our own research are draw upon to explicate the potential and breadth of the approach. A study of television series shows how facial detection is used to compare the role of actors within the narrative arcs across two competing series. An analysis of the Farm Security Administration–Office of War Information corpus of documentary photography is used to establish how photographic style compared and differed amongst those photographers involved with the collection. We then aim to show how our framework engages with current methodological and theoretical conversations occurring within the digital humanities.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Access Model: Free Access.
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Digital Scholarship in the Humanities
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Visual Style in Two Network Era Sitcoms (Article)
Title: Visual Style in Two Network Era Sitcoms
Author: Taylor Arnold
Author: Lauren Tilton
Author: Annie Berke
Abstract: This essay shows how face detection and recognition algorithms, applied to frames extracted from a corpus of moving images, can capture formal elements present in media beyond shot length and average color measurements. Locating and identifying faces makes it possible to algorithmically extract time-coded labels that directly correspond to concepts and taxonomies established within film theory. For example, knowing the size of detected faces, for example, provides a direct link to the concept of shot framing. The blocking of a scene can similarly be deduced by knowing the relative positions of identified characters within a specific cut. Once produced on a large scale, these extracted formal elements can be aggregated to explore visual style across a collection of materials. It is then possible to understand how visual style is used within the internal construction of narrative and as a way to engage broadly with external cultural forces. The method is an example of an approach to large scale image analysis that Arnold and Tilton have termed distant viewing.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Access Model: open access
Format: Journal
Publisher: Journal of Cultural Analytics

Analyzing Moving Images at Scale with the Distant Viewing Toolkit (DVT) (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Analyzing Moving Images at Scale with the Distant Viewing Toolkit (DVT)
Author: Lauren Tilton
Abstract: Analyzing Moving Images at Scale with the Distant Viewing Toolkit (DVT)
Date: 07/23/2019
Conference Name: DH2019

Colab Notebook (Course or Curricular Material)
Title: Colab Notebook
Author: Arnold and Tilton
Abstract: An introductory notebook for working with DVT.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Colab Notebook
Audience: General Public