USC team collaborates on AIDS Memorial Quilt
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism professor Anne Balsamo and her team from the Annenberg Innovation Lab have worked with The NAMES Project Foundation for the past year to design digital interactive experiences that augment viewing of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which will be on display this summer in Washington, D.C.
The quilt will be featured this month at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. In July, it will be laid out in its entirety on the National Mall for the first time since 1996. It will take four days to display all 48,000 panels, which will coincide with the XIX International AIDS Conference to be held July 22-27.
The team is in the process of creating AIDS Quilt Touch, a mobile Web app that enables people to search for a specific name on a panel, contribute comments to a digital guest book and locate the display of a specific panel.
To create these and other experiences, Balsamo and her team collaborated with a nationwide network of artists, computer scientists, industry researchers and digital humanists.
“What we’re learning through these collaborations,” Balsamo said, “is that this project that began in the digital humanities — with its emphasis on the digital dissemination and preservation of an important piece of international cultural heritage — also raises interesting challenges for computer science and research.”
For example, Balsamo and co-principal investigator Dale MacDonald have worked with Microsoft developer Lei Yu to create a prototype of an analysis tool for the AIDS Quilt Digital Archive that would allow a user to filter the database of quilt images according to specific parameters: state, birth date, age, gender, submission date, etc. Such a sophisticated search capacity will enable researchers to investigate new dimensions of the creation of the quilt, such as how it grew over time.
In the course of producing the prototype, Yu learned that the scale and size of the database strains the capacity of consumer-grade computers. In other words, the creation of the analysis tool will require a breakthrough in the computation over large sets of meta-data rich images.