University of Richmond Professors Awarded $100,000 NEH Grant to Develop Software to Analyze Media's Cultural Influence

August 9, 2018

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.

arnoldThe funding allows Arnold and Tilton to develop an open source software library, named the “Distant Viewing Toolkit,” that will use computer vision techniques to analyze and organize the content and shooting style that makes up moving images. They will be collaborating with UR’s Digital Scholarship Lab and the Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth College.

“We are harnessing and developing algorithms that approximate the ways in which humans process moving images by identifying and tracking objects, people, sound, and dialogue,” said Arnold. “What would take a human years to process, this automated toolkit can do in minutes.”

Once complete, the Digital Viewing Toolkit will be open access and available to scholars, librarians, and students to download and install for free.

tilton“Analyzing moving images provides insight into our culture,” said Tilton. “Millions of people flocked to the theaters after World War I, tuned into television after World War II, and today Americans spend on average over 1.5 hours each day streaming digital media over the internet. Studying those images, and how they are created, offers a lens into a community’s ideals and values.”

Arnold and Tilton have both taught at UR since 2016. They have collaborated on previous projects including the digital project Photogrammar and their book Humanities Data in R

To learn more about Distant Viewing visit

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logoCreated in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: