Research conducted by the USC Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) at USC Viterbi has been awarded the 2023 Richard Deswarte Prize in Digital History.
The Lab is a place where various disciplines naturally converge. SAIL’s director and USC University Professor, Shri Narayanan, has long collaborated with researchers across various disciplines, including psychology, linguistics, and medicine.
Narayanan and researchers at USC SAIL apply machine learning and AI to find patterns in and interpret data. They have developed and employed media intelligence tools in collaboration with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Google to identify bias in film scripts and separately, within conversations General Assembly of the United Nations.
It was a paper written by SAIL researchers and collaborators that caught the attention of the U.K.’s Royal Historical Society. The paper, titled “Studying Large-Scale Behavioral Differences in Auschwitz-Birkenau with Simulation of Gendered Narratives” (published in Digital Humanities Quarterly in 2022), leveraged SAIL’s tools to study the oral text of thousands of Holocaust testimonies housed in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive.
The paper’s lead author was SAIL post-doc and historian Gabor Toth, who is also affiliated the USC Shoah Foundation. The paper was co-authored by Krishna Somandepalli and Shri Narayanan of USC SAIL, along with Tim Hempel of the Freie Universtät Berlin.
Toth said, “Oral history interviews are ubiquitous sources of modern history. The computational tool we developed helps historians unlock them in an unprecedented way; it uncovers the structure of narratives through which communities remember about their past.”
Narayanan was surprised to receive the award but grateful to provide digital tools to support historians and scholars in gaining a greater understanding of lived human experience and to quantify learnings from spoken testimony.
According to the Royal Historical Society, the prize “recognizes the best of digital history and published works that make a substantial contribution to the historiography to their field and interview in debates concerning methodology.” The award was conferred on October 24, 2023.
This recognition comes on the heels of other prominent awards that Professor Shri Narayanan has recently received. He was the recipient of the 2023 International Speech Communication Association (ISCA) Medal for Scientific Achievement, the most prestigious award offered by the preeminent organization in the field of human speech communication research at the global level. He was also named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2022.
Published on November 6th, 2023
Last updated on November 15th, 2023