Director's Welcome

Dear friends, 

Photo of Giovanna Ceserani in a white collared shirt and gray blazer with her hand under her chin

CESTA has grown exponentially since its founding in 2012. Its three original labs, dedicated respectively to spatial history, computational literary criticism, and data visualization, have blossomed into a community of more than twenty-five faculty, dozens of projects, and myriad undergraduate and graduate students from across the university.

The interdisciplinarity modeled by the original three lab-teams has generated an exciting sense of cross-pollination among disciplines and methodologies, which is at the heart of CESTA’s work. Students experience this innovative and transdisciplinary humanities research both by collaborating on faculty projects and by developing their own.

Indeed, like no other place on campus, we at CESTA work across the boundary typically separating the humanities and technology, asking essential questions about the future of humanistic thought.

How is humanities research transformed in a digital age? How can we harness the power of digitization in order to recover, preserve, and curate cultures and cultural artifacts? How does the creation of dynamic digital maps, or the computational study of 100,000 novels at once, help us to generate new research questions and gain new insights? What are the ethics of collaborative work in the humanities, and how can we provide a liberal arts education for an age in which data literacy, digital accessibility and data equity are crucial? These questions are at the core of CESTA’s mission at a time when technology is more and more imbricated in daily humanities research, even as technology's forms, potentials, and pitfalls continually and rapidly evolve.

Long before I took over as Faculty Director in Fall 2019, CESTA had been a home for my own intellectual work, under the leadership of directors Professor Zephyr Frank (2012-2016) and Professor Elaine Treharne (2016-2019). CESTA is where I learned to think anew about my longstanding work on eighteenth-century travel to Italy, incorporating data visualizations, spatial networks, and multidimensional relationships involving thousands of travelers—a scope and a scale of research inconceivable without computational methods.

It is also where I encountered a supportive and collaborative lab environment that has been essential to this work, with teams spanning undergraduate and graduate contributors, colleagues from multiple departments, and specialists in design, data science, and other computational approaches. It has been an honor to contribute to an institute that's been so crucial to my own work, and to help facilitate CESTA's continuing development in these challenging yet transformative years.

Some of this development reflects the changing contours of our institutional life here at Stanford. We now share our space with the fellows from Stanford Data Science, collaborate with Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), and create initiatives and run workshops with our partners at the Stanford Humanities Center.

Please take a moment to learn more about our core labs and projects, as well as about the programs which sustain our work and train students, both graduate and undergraduate. See the published research produced by our faculty, students and affiliates since CESTA's founding, reveal evolutions in technology and attendant approaches. And please, join us at our upcoming events, while also exploring our archive of past events, many of which are available as recordings


"Giovanna" -- signature of Giovanna Ceserani

Giovanna Ceserani

Associate Professor of Classics and, by courtesy, of History 
Omar and Althea Dwyer Hoskins Faculty Scholar
Faculty Director, CESTA