Hello! My name is Liao Zhang, and I am a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Michigan State University. It is my honor to join the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative and become a junior fellow in the 2019- 2020 academic year. My academic interest generally lies in understanding the vast Eurasian landmass and its rich human history. More specifically I research the Soviet Union and its Far Eastern peripheries. My doctoral dissertation is a thematic investigation into the transformation of one of the relatively understudied Eurasian borderlands, namely the Amur River Basin in North Asia, in the early Soviet decades. In my dissertation I uncover and recount stories that illustrate how a once culturally and socioeconomically coherent borderland community became fragmented along national lines in the 20th century. In addition to studying and writing history qualitatively, I incorporate methods and approaches of geospatial sciences in my research. I have familiarized myself with using tools and technologies in the Geographic Information Systems and earned the Professional GIS Certificate from the Geography Department at MSU.
I appreciate the opportunity to work with many inspiring CHI fellows and learn both philosophical and applied skills pertaining to computational and digital humanities from them. I am especially keen to deepen my knowledge of data management, processing, and visualization. Although my dissertation is coming along in a rather traditional format, I hope to convert a quantitative data-heavy chapter of my dissertation into a potential digital humanities project. In addition, I have in mind a more ambitious yet quite preliminary DH project of using user-generated social media content, such as tweets or IG posts, to gauge contemporary Sino-Russian Northeast Asian borderland residents’ (mis)perception of each other. I hope I can materialize it at the end of my fellowship.