Transcriptions, begun in 1998, focuses on work in digital humanities and new media.  Transcriptions is both a digital humanities lab and an interdisciplinary center within the innovative framework of UC Santa Barbara’s English Department. Within this department structure, we work to transcribe, translate and transform humanist engagement into digital inquiry and vice versa. Our projects explore the different ways that we can use new media and digital technology to make meaning in the humanities and they range in size from collaborative, multi-year undertakings to smaller, individual experiments with the possibilities inherent in technological mediation. The Transcriptions Center is about providing an interface where students and faculty can research, collaborate and make possible new and innovative work in the humanities at large. Our overall goal is to build a working paradigm of a humanities department of the future that takes the information revolution to its heart as something to be seriously learned from, wrestled with, and otherwise placed in engagement with the lore of past and with other societies.

Currently, areas of inquiry that structure our activities include:

  • Electronic literature on and beyond the screen (new reading formats; locative and mobile media; alternate reality games)
  • Media ecologies (high-tech trash; media environments’ visualizations of climate and landscape; ALife; biomedia)
  • IT and the so-called new economy (theorizations of the network society, information society, and digital capitalism)
  • Digitization practice and its role in cultural institutions (how to build scanning stations for Humanities research and how scanning works in institutions from Google Books to Archive.org)
  • Film / collaborative production / making theory by making media

Further information about the center’s history, activities, and affiliations are detailed in a message from Professor Alan Liu located here.

Transcriptions hosts lectures, conferences, and other events that will be of general interest to the English department and to colleagues across the university. Stop by the studio at South Hall 2509 during open hours, watch the Transcriptions website, or follow us on Twitter, @_transcriptions, for announcements and coverage of Center-related news. Please feel free to contact us at transcriptions.ucsb@gmail.com with any ideas you have about our themes and activities.

At the Transcriptions center’s opening, Professor Barry Spacks, who passed away in February 2014, wrote this poem on October 21, 1998:


From the many-windowed House of Fiction,
wrote Henry James, comes particular view.
In this room where RAs will plot the connection
of learning and Net, speedy Windows boot through
as Newfield and Bazerman, Pasternak, Liu,
as Warner and Rose and deft students disclose
how PC and Server, Search-Engine, MOO,
by mouse and by modem will “Make It New!”

So we’ve gathered here to raise a Ya-hoo
for these hands on the strands of the Web of our Days,
this “Bridge to the 21st Century” crew
running hypertext maze, risking pixel-forays,
as research for courses on Info course through
amid the heuristic and belletristic
paideia-preserving pilot displays.
With cheers, pioneers, cyber laurels and bays!

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