UChicago Campus - Photo: Robert Kozloff

Digital Studies at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago’s program in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History provides a one-year Master of Arts curriculum intended for full-time students who have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or in a related discipline such as history, anthropology, or linguistics. In addition, a joint BA/MA and undergraduate Minor in Digital Studies are offered to students in the College of the University of Chicago, and a Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies is available to graduate students in other programs of the University. The MA in Digital Studies qualifies as a STEM Designated Degree Program under the regulations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The Digital Studies program at the University of Chicago 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. The program equips students of the humanities 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.

The Digital Studies faculty and staff represent a wide range of academic fields, including linguistics, literary studies, media studies, history, philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, art history, visual arts, musicology, and religious studies. The participants in this program share a common interest in understanding the impact of digital technology in modern society and in using digital tools to represent, explore, analyze, publish, and preserve the products of human language and culture. Products amenable to digital study range from everyday speech and writing to historical documents and literary texts, and include music and art as well as mundane objects, places, and institutions.

The Digital Studies courses are designed to foster, not only technical skills in coding and data analysis, but also an understanding of the history of digital 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 three widely used programming languages: Python, R, 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 data, with emphasis on the kinds of datatextual, visual, sonic, spatial, and temporalcommonly encountered in the humanities.

This curriculum enables students, not just to understand and use computational methods, but to see digital computing as a cultural activity in its own right—an activity to be studied with respect to its historical development, social setting, cultural impact, and aesthetic qualities, as well as the ethical dilemmas it creates in our increasingly digitized and networked world.

Photo by Robert Kozloff