Researchers from UCSB’s English department and Media Arts & Technology Program are working to create a new bibliographical social network designed to change the way students perform academic research.

The project, dubbed the Research-oriented Social Environment, is headed by English Dept. Chair Alan Liu and establishes profiles for authors and literary works that are updated as continued research is conducted. Each individual author’s or work’s profile will outline a network consisting of their contemporaries, similar works and modern criticisms, aiming to bring a more contextual understanding of individual works and entire movements.

According to Liu, the technology’s goal is to serve as a continuously updating library of research and knowledge.

“There are a fair amount of sites online that allow people to collect and talk about books in a social way, but the books themselves aren’t integrated very well into the environment,” Liu said. “We decided we wanted to put all of our effort into creating a technology that would act as a library in terms of collecting knowledge and as a social network in an integral way.”

Liu said in order for such a system to function, a comprehensive library of researchable literary texts had to be compiled; as such, much of the metadata for the system was retrieved from larger, publicly available networks like Project Gutenberg.

RoSE is funded by a $50,000 grant awarded to the project by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additionally, UCSB has agreed to match approximately half of the NEH’s contribution to offset rent and other institutional costs. Liu said this allows much of the NEH grant to be used to for graduate student compensation.

The research team also includes assistant project scientist in the English department Rama Hoetzlein, associate professor of English Rita Raley and a team of graduate students from the English and Media Arts & Technology departments.

The project is designed for students and researchers of all disciplines, according to Liu.

“Our idea is that if you’re a researcher or student interested in a particular area, author or international movement, our system will allow you to go in and create your own connections between authors,” Liu said. “You can control the complexity of your own system to study certain movements from the ground up.”

Third-year psychology major David Badal said the project will be a comprehensive resource that will aid countless scholastic endeavors.

“It would be nice for research to be a more involved experience,” Badal said. “It seems like a Frankenstein concoction of Wikipedia, Facebook and an academic database.”

The website is already running in a prototype phase, requiring special permission to access it, but the project team hopes to make it functional for use in classes on an elective basis as early as this spring.