Snapshots of a Discipline in Transition


  • Todd Presner UCLA


digital humanities, visualization, gis, mapping, disciplinarity


Laura Mandell interviews Todd Presner, creator of the Hypercities project, about digital humanities, disciplinarity, and visualization, including the essays in this special issue.

Full Sound: HTML

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Author Biography

Todd Presner, UCLA

Todd Presner is Professor of Germanic Languages, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies.  He is Chair of the Digital Humanities Program and co-Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies (with David Myers) and will become the Director of the Center in Spring 2011. His research focuses on European intellectual history, the history of media, visual culture, digital humanities, and cultural geography.  He is the author of two books: The first, Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (Columbia University Press, 2007), maps German-Jewish intellectual history onto the development of the railway system; the second, Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (Routledge, 2007), analyzes the aesthetic dimensions of the strong Jewish body.  Presner is the founder and director of HyperCities, a collaborative, digital mapping platform that explores the layered histories of city spaces.  Awarded one of the first “digital media and learning” prizes by the MacArthur Foundation/HASTAC in 2008, HyperCities is an interactive, web-based research and teaching environment for authoring and analyzing the cultural, architectural, and urban history of cities.  Our first HyperCities are Los Angeles, Berlin, New York, Rome, Ollantaytambo, and Tel Aviv, with many more in the works.  The project co-PIs are: Dean Abernathy, Mike Blockstein, Philip Ethington, Diane Favro, Chris Johnason, and Jan Reiff.In the field of Digital Humanities, his current research focus on the development of the geo-spatial web, digital publications,  issues of temporality and GIS, and the technical media that enable visualizations of complex city spaces.  Together with Willeke Wendrich, Diane Favro, and Jan Reiff, he is one of the co-director’s of UCLA’s new undergraduate Keck Program in Digital Cultural Mapping. Together with Phil Ethington (USC, PI), the HyperCities project recently won a Haynes Foundation Grant for “Mapping LA Research Online” and, under the leadership of David Shepard (HyperCities, Technical Lead), a Google Digital Humanities Grant for “Geo-Scribe” (a map mark-up tool integrated with Google’s Book Search).