The International Distributed Little Red Hen Lab™ is a global big data science laboratory and cooperative for research into multimodal communication.


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Who is Red Hen? Who can become a Red Hen?

Red Hen is a cooperative of engaged researchers who collaborate closely and contribute power and content to Red Hen and hence to each other and to future researchers. Red Hen lacks the resources and organization to serve scholars other than those who work in the cooperative. Red Hen's vast and growing archive is not designed to be a corpus, but some collaborators use it to help create corpora for specific purposes. Researchers who would like to work on yet newer ways of deriving corpora from the archive, on providing user-friendly interfaces for the archive, on improving the tagging of data, or on anything else that would benefit the distributed laboratory are warmly encouraged to write to the directors. See Access. See also the history of our Google Summer of Code ideas pages by clicking on the appropriate links in the navigation bar (three parallel horizontal lines, top left of this page). See also our Barnyard of Possible Specific Projects—our concrete to-do list. Join us and dig in!

Tools developed or deployed by Red Hen—theoretical, computational, technical, statistical—are meant to help advance research in any study of multimodal communication, including any area in which there are records of human communication: speech in any language, infant vocalization, Ancient Near Eastern writing systems, Classical Archaeology, text of any kind, notation systems, audio recordings (radio, interviews, . . .), audiovisual records, architecture, signage, gesture, pose, Greek vase painting, Roman sculpture, representations of co-speech gesture in Medieval paintings, and of course, but not foundationally, modern digital media. Red Hen focuses on basic mental operations of cognition, affect, creativity, and communication that appear to have been common across our species for at least the last fifty thousand years, and which have been recruited to great effect by various forms of media. Red Hen finds non-human animal communication interesting, too. Records and methods related to non-human communication or communication between species (e.g., border collies responding to pointing gestures) accordingly fascinate Red Hen.

Red Hen is directed jointly by Francis Steen and Mark Turner. See Red Hen's twitter feed and Crowing Rooster's News & Announcements, or our github account. Red Hen's cross-disciplinary research projects have been funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, by a Cyberenabled Discovery and Innovation program of the US National Science Foundation CNS 1028381 and 1027965 (2010-2016, PIs Zhu, Groeling, Steen, & Zhai), by an Anneliese Maier Research Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awarded to Turner (2016-2020), by the Research Council of Norway, by Google Summer of Code four years in a row (see the reports for 2015, 2016, and 2017), and by many other funders. For particulars, see Red Hen awards.

CWRU high-performance computing logo

Brief introduction to Red Hen Lab, at the National Academies of Science:


See the recorded talks for the past several International Conferences on Multimodal Communication:

  1. ICMC2021

  2. ICMC2020

  3. ICMC2018

  4. ICMC2017


  1. Why is it called the "Distributed Little Red Hen Lab™"? Because we are a worldwide, networked cooperative of self-reliant, closely-collaborating researchers contributing to each other and to future researchers. The Little Red Hen is an industrious character in a folktale, always open to collaboration but able, willing, and proud to do any job herself, and in good time. We have named our lab in her honor. The very first Donald Duck cartoon (1934) is an adaptation of this folk tale; there is also a 1956 Russian version. Here are a few classic renditions of the folktale in English:


  1. View a presentation of the Red Hen Lab™ by Mark Turner, 2 March 2012.

  2. Read an article by Francis Steen & Mark Turner on the use of Red Hen to study Multimodal Construction Grammar.

  3. View a presentation of the use of the Red Hen collection to study Causal Reasoning in the News by Francis Steen at MIT, 6 September 2012.

  4. Hear another podcast about the Red Hen Lab™ by Mark Turner. Delivered (in the MIT Media Lab under emergency lighting and without presentation technology, during a blackout!), 29 November 2012.

  5. Read about the history of the development of UCLA NewsScape, Ren Hen's largest multimodal dataset, March 2014.

  6. Examples of High School Research in the Red Hen Lab™.

  7. A syllabus for a self-taught course in how to use the statistical software package R on Red Hen data.

The Distributed Little Red Hen Lab™, also known as "Red Hen Lab™" or "Red Hen," utilizes high-performance computing clusters and sophisticated videoconferencing capacities provided by Case Western Reserve University. We are grateful to Information Technology Services at Case Western Reserve University for providing these resources. Principal nodes of the research network include

  • Francis Steen, Communication Studies, UCLA

  • Mark Turner, Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University

  • Jungseock Joo, Communication Studies, UCLA

  • Erik Bucy, Texas Tech

  • Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas, University of Murcia, Spain

  • Anders Hougaard, Communication Studies, Southern Denmark University, director of SoMe Lab

  • Anna Pleshakova, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford, UK

  • Heiko Schuldt and the iMotion group at the University of Basel, Switzerland

  • Peter Uhrig, FAU, Germany

  • Javier Valenzuela, University of Murcia, Spain

  • Jacek Woźny, Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw, Poland

Red Hen conducts transdisciplinary research in multimodal communications, linguistics, computational linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, education, statistics, media effects studies, political communication, and library science.

Red Hen builds tools across a range of tasks, including automated data acquisition, distributed data storage, data enhancement, joint text, sound, and vision parsing, statistical analysis, multimodal search engines, user interfaces, presentation tools, publishing platforms, and pedagogical applications. We develop open-source software at RedHenLab on Github.