Mandate Overview

The MeTA Digital Humanities Lab at VIU is a Canada Foundation for Innovation Leader Opportunity Fund infrastructure project, with match-funding from the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund and VIU’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The lab is managed by Dr. Richard J. Lane and Dr. Daniel Burgoyne, Department of English.

The main aim of the MeTA project is to facilitate new academic approaches to studying the critical and cultural relationships of media text clusters.

What is a media text cluster?

This project aims to use media text clusters to study the graphic dimensions of publication and reception of Canadian literature, but its scope extends to all other literatures. This project will develop an online database application called Media Text Assemblage (MeTA) that will allow for the definition of unique media text clusters that utilize other humanities databases. Media text clusters are unique groups of related samples of the production and reception of a literary work such as a novel. Media text clusters are newly defined entities in humanities computing and, as such, their study is an emerging and innovative field. Specifically, these clusters enable the study of the intersection between the graphic surface of a work, which reflects its historically specific cultural environment, and more conventional content-based textual information.

Facilitating Research

MeTA will have an academic framework and some internal data, but its primary purpose is to facilitate research by drawing on other, existing resources (e.g., Early Canadiana Online, ARTstor, Orlando, and Streetprint). In this sense, MeTA will act as a unique dynamic interface, drawing on other resources with a set of academic filters and rules. For example, rather than an open-ended image search, it would direct search queries to pre-established, relevant, quality databases using established key terms and search strategies in a manner that would either currently not be possible or would be prohibitively time consuming using existing resources. This will enable researchers to engage in extended comparisons of the media text cluster, to investigate the historical and cultural context by retrieving other examples, and to find relevant critical information.

Graphic Surfaces

Researchers will also be able to visualize and critically ascertain the role of the graphic surface in the production of literary and cultural value. For example, advertisements represent a novel using historically specific graphic design—typography, integration of writing and image, cultural iconography—and the comparison of advertisements from two time periods may show how the novel is being interpreted in each time period. The initial focus will situate the Canadian novel in relation to the emerging Canadian nation, although MeTA will facilitate research in any genre or national literature. We will define media text clusters for novels from pre-Confederation to the Modern periods. These clusters will allow researchers to see where novels were being published, differences between editions, and how they were advertised and reviewed.

Open Invitation

We invite participants to apply to join the MeTA research project as collaborative researchers or to make use of the MeTA Digital Humanities Lab for research projects exploring the graphic surface of texts.

Please send us a short description of your proposed project.


Lab Location

Building 340, Room 136

900 Fifth Street

Nanaimo, B.C.

Canada V9R 5S5