Teaching and Skills Development for Students

The Forum for Digital Culture offers courses and tutorials in Digital Studies for graduate and undergraduate students via a master’s program, an undergraduate minor, and a Ph.D. certificate.

The University of Chicago Forum for Digital Culture offers a variety of academic programs in which students learn coding skills relevant to research in the humanities and discuss the impact of computing on society, culture, and the arts.

The Forum’s curriculum responds to the growing demand for academic rigor in the loosely defined field of digital humanities and the need to certify technical competence in this area. It equips students to pursue careers that utilize their skills in research, writing, and critical thinking in tandem with the use of software for the study of human languages and cultures, past and present.

Master’s Program in Digital Studies

Students can earn the Master of Arts in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History, following either a one-year curriculum with no thesis requirement or a two-year curriculum with a specialization and thesis project in one of the following areas: Digital Texts, Digital Media, Digital Archaeology, or Artificial Intelligence and Language. A specialization in Digital Ethics is planned for the future.

Please note that the two-year M.A. option will be available only to students entering in the autumn of 2024 and later.

The master’s program is designed for full-time students who have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or in a related discipline such as history, anthropology, fine arts, or linguistics. Students with a background in the sciences, including computer science, may also benefit from this program and are encouraged to apply.

The master’s program qualifies as a STEM Designated Degree Program under the regulations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. However, the focus is not merely on acquiring technical skills. Students learn computational methods while also investigating computing as a cultural activity in its own right — an activity to be studied with respect to its historical development, social settings, and aesthetic qualities, as well as the ethical dilemmas it creates in our increasingly digitized and networked world.

Click here to apply for the M.A. For more information, please send email to digitalstudies@uchicago.edu.

Programs for UChicago Undergraduates and Ph.D. Students

In addition to the stand-alone master’s program, to which everyone may apply, students in the College of the University of Chicago can apply to do an undergraduate minor in Digital Studies or a joint BA/MA, earning a master’s degree concurrently with their bachelor’s degree.

University of Chicago Ph.D. students and students in two-year M.A. programs can earn a Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies by taking four core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and incorporating digital methods in their thesis work. This certification will be noted on their academic transcript.

The Forum for Digital Culture also supports the undergraduate program in Media Arts and Design and the undergraduate program in Cognitive Science. Students majoring in these subjects may take courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and work on faculty projects under the supervision of the staff of the Forum.

Courses and Tutorials in Digital Studies

The core courses and elective courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) are designed to foster, not just technical skills in coding and data analysis, but an understanding of the history of computing and its cultural impact from the perspective of the humanities. Students in these courses are introduced to computer programming and the use of software libraries via two widely used programming languages: Python and JavaScript.

Learning to code in these languages is the gateway for students to understand and use cutting-edge digital tools and data standards to manage, analyze, and publish information. The Digital Studies courses emphasize the kinds of data commonly encountered in the humanities, including texts, images, maps, and other media.

Students who have previously taken college-level courses in programming and/or statistics in which they earned a grade of B (3.0) or higher will have fewer required core courses and more elective courses, allowing them to pursue other interests. In-person class attendance is mandatory in all Digital Studies courses except in case of illness.

In addition to courses for degree credit, the Forum for Digital Culture offers a series of non-credit tutorials on computational tools and skills commonly used in the humanities and social sciences. Students in the various Digital Studies programs are encouraged to attend these tutorials to acquire additional skills not taught in the Digital Studies courses.

Teaching Staff and Faculty Advisory Board

The core courses and tutorials are taught by the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture. In addition to their computational expertise, they are all trained as scholars in the humanities or related social sciences. This informs their teaching and enables them to understand the best way to apply computational methods in academic research.

The faculty advisory board of the Forum for Digital Culture oversee the curriculum in Digital Studies and the other activities of the Forum. Members of the faculty board serve on M.A. admissions committees and teach elective courses of interest to students in the M.A. program. They may also serve as M.A. thesis advisors for students doing the two-year research intensive M.A.

The Forum’s faculty advisory board is drawn from seventeen different departments in the University of Chicago. They represent the full range of academic fields in the humanities and related social sciences, including linguistics, philosophy, literary studies, cultural studies, media studies, history, anthropology, archaeology, art history, visual arts, musicology, and religious studies. They share a common interest in understanding the impact of digital technology in the present day and in using digital tools to represent, analyze, and preserve the products of human languages and cultures, past and present. In their academic work they show how Digital Studies encompasses the full range of human activities, from everyday speech and writing to historical documents and literary texts, and includes music and fine art as well as mundane objects, places, and institutions.

Student Research

The staff of the Forum for Digital Culture have extensive experience in the use of computers for research in the humanities. In addition to teaching courses, they consult with University of Chicago faculty members and students in a wide range of departments and disciplines to give advice concerning computational resources and services available on campus. The Forum staff are themselves actively engaged in developing and supporting sophisticated computational platforms tailored for the humanities and they train students of Digital Studies on how to use these platforms for their thesis projects and for faculty projects in which students serve as research assistants. In this way, teaching and research are closely intertwined in the Forum for Digital Culture.

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