English department celebrates launch of Digital Media Lab

The new Digital Media Lab, a small room with a few tables and chairs, as well as a large screen in one corner

Courtesy of Laura Clennon

Professor Brian Kim Stefans, director of the new Digital Media Lab, says he is "excited to see if we can create a whole new culture of English."

Anushka Chakrabarti | May 5, 2022

The UCLA Department of English will celebrate the launch of its new Digital Media Lab on Friday, May 6 at noon at its location in Kaplan Hall 211. 

The Digital Media Lab is the result of an initiative by a group of English faculty members whose students were increasingly interested in using multimedia resources in their scholarly work, according to department chair Ursula Heise, the Marcia H. Howard Professor of Literary Studies and director of UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies. 

“[The lab] is not only about the creation of digital works, or research on digital works,” Heise said. “We’re also envisioning video works — which, of course, are digital in format these days — and audio. Podcasts obviously have become a super popular and effective means of communicating about a lot of things, and an important area of narrative creation.”  

Heise says that as the study of literature has grown, the need to support digital media and digital humanities pedagogies has become increasingly important. The lab offers opportunities for all researchers, from those studying archival materials to those interested in learning about modern literature through gaming or podcasts. 

“For students who focus on older periods of literature, this lab really opens up a wonderful interface for them to be visually and audibly connected to earlier periods of literary creation,” she said.  

Danny Snelson, an assistant professor of English, says he is excited for students to have an access point to explore creative scholarship and activities that require the use of advanced technology. 

“I’m often teaching digital cultures and new approaches to creative scholarship and digital humanities, so my classes are already using a lot of these tools,” said Snelson, who is also a faculty member in the UCLA Game Lab, an interdisciplinary research center. “And I’ll be really excited in the fall to be able to offer my students an expanded array of options for their scholarly and creative endeavors.” 

For Snelson, the lab embodies the idea of how literature has evolved over time. “One of the things that’s been really exciting about being on this media lab team is the flexibility and nimble approach to offering the latest technologies to our students, so they can keep up with this very rapidly changing media environment.”  

Laura Clennon, chief administrative officer for the Department of English and UCLA Writing Programs, says the lab was made possible as the result of a collaboration with a longtime donor to the department. 

“The donor made a generous contribution to allow us to be able to open a space where our students and faculty can really work on digital projects,” Clennon said. She added that the donor’s contribution allowed the department to expand its vision of what could be done with the space.  

Brian Stefans, the Digital Media Lab’s director and English professor, said his interests range from digital humanities to conceptual art and literature. He says that he envisions the lab as a fun, creative and collaborative space for everyone, in which students with various interests will explore technologies while fostering community. 

“I’m excited to see if we can create a whole new culture of English,” Stefans said.