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 Digital Studies program 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 MA in Digital Studies 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.

Faculty and Staff

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. They share a common interest in understanding the impact of digital technology and in using digital tools to represent, analyze, and preserve the products of human language and culture. Collectively, their work shows how digital studies encompass the full range of human activities, from everyday speech and writing to historical documents and literary texts, and include music and art as well as mundane objects, places, and institutions.

Courses

The core courses and electives 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 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 information, with emphasis on the kinds of data commonly encountered in the humanities, including texts, images, maps, and other media.

Concentrations

In addition to the general MA in Digital Studies, which entails six core courses and three electives, there are three specialized concentrations in which two of the electives are replaced with courses in a particular subject area and students do a thesis project in that area. The three concentrations are the MA in Digital Archaeology, the MA in Digital Media, and the MA in Digital Texts.

Research Support

The Digital Studies staff 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. And they are themselves involved in the ongoing development and support of sophisticated software platforms tailored for the humanities, which students of Digital Studies are trained to use for their thesis projects and for faculty projects in which students serve as research assistants.

Photo by Robert Kozloff