A graduate student in UCLA’s Digital Humanities program has won the world’s top prize for digital humanities research by a young scholar. Marie Saldana, a Ph.D. candidate in Architecture and a certificate student in Digital Humanities and a Fellow at the Experiential Technologies Center, won the Fortier Prize from the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations for “An Integrated Approach to the Procedural Modeling of Ancient Cities and Buildings,” a paper she presented on July 9, 2014, at the Digital Humanities conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Saldana’s paper presents a workflow for creating 3D models of Greek and Roman architecture using procedural modeling, a form of textual semantic description that preserves the metadata and decisions that shape the modeling process. In manual 3D modeling, a scholar draws polygons to build structures. With procedural modeling, a scholar writes rules to programmatically erect buildings. The technology has generally been used to build cities, but Saldana has shown how the approach might be used to re-create individual historical structures. Significantly, the rationale for each rule used in the modeling process can be fully documented with historical sources.
“I was very honored to receive this prize, and also encouraged, because I believe it indicates a receptiveness on the part of the DH community to the potential of procedural modeling as a research method,” said Saldana, who began exploring procedural software in 2010, at the suggestion of Chris Johanson, assistant professor of Classics at UCLA and a member of the Digital Humanities core faculty. Todd Presner, Chair of the UCLA Digital Humanities program, said that the award to Saldana “not only represents the highest honor bestowed on a junior scholar in digital humanities but also stands as a testament to the strength of UCLA’s digital humanities program.”
The UCLA Digital Humanities program, established in 2011, offers a graduate certificate and an undergraduate minor. The program, which enrolls about 20 graduate students and 40 undergraduates annually, draws on UCLA’s longstanding strengths in digital humanities, especially in the areas of 3D cultural heritage reconstruction.
The Fortier Prize honors the memory of Paul Fortier, late University Distinguished Professor of French at the University of Manitoba, Canada. It is awarded by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations for the best paper presented by a young scholar at the annual Digital Humanities conference.
Photo: Saldana receives the Fortier Prize in July 2014. Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.