Ph.D. Candidate Has Best of Both “Worlds” in Digital Humanities Center

Ph.D. Candidate Has Best of Both “Worlds” in Digital Humanities Center

December 5, 2014

Watch a video interview here.

When Iskandar “Izul” Zulkarnain isn’t teaching or writing papers, he can often be found in the Digital Humanities Center (DHC) examining Twitter feeds and immersing himself in simulated environments. For those with a passion for digital media, the DHC is the best of both the physical and the virtual worlds.

Originally from Indonesia, Zulkarnain moved to the United States in 2006 and landed in Rochester in 2008. He is now a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Visual and Cultural Studies Program in the Department of Art and Art History. He first became involved with the River Campus Libraries (RCL) as a student worker in the Art/Music Library, helping to manage the Visual Resources Collection for the Art and Art History Program. It was through this position that he began to collaborate with staff members in the Multimedia Center, which became the DHC in 2014.

“When they first reestablished the Multimedia Center as the Digital Humanities Center, I was so excited,” Zulkarnain said. “That’s the kind of center that I really need for my project.”

His thesis, “Programming” the Archipelago: Digital Visual Cultures and Nationalism in Indonesia, examines how ideas of nationalism in that country are changing as a result of promoting them through digital media. The final chapter involves data mining the Twitter feeds of one Indonesian Twitter account. The work has led Zulkarnain to collaborate with Joshua Romphf, a programmer in the DHC. The team is now working to prepare Zulkarnain’s research for interactive data visualization. Zulkarnain says the DHC’s facilities, equipment, and expertise are making his project possible.

“People tend to think of the library as just borrowing books and reading books, but the modern library right now has become developed,” he said. “You can do a lot of things with the help of the librarians.”

Zulkarnain says his most memorable moment in the library was the first time he entered a virtual world created by DHC staff using the Oculus Rift. An Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset for 3D gaming.

“It was a bit surreal for me to be in the virtual reality environment, and it looks really realistic,” he said.

As a member of the Rush Rhees Library Master Planning Program Committee – a group dedicated to developing a ten-year strategy for the library – Zulkarnain is able to share his passion for the libraries and help guide the RCL into the future. He says being a part of the libraries has led to his success as a student, and he would urge all students to immerse themselves in the libraries’ culture.

“All the library staff here are really helpful,” he said. “I would encourage people to try and see what [they have to] offer in terms of their academic career.”

To learn more about the Digital Humanities Center, click here

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