The University of Chicago’s M.A. in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History is a one-year (12-month) program intended for full-time students who have a B.A. in the humanities, arts, or history. This M.A. program introduces students to computer programming and the use of cutting-edge software tools for representing, exploring, analyzing, and publishing the products of human language and culture. These products range from everyday speech and writing to historical documents and literary texts, and they encompass music and art as well as mundane objects, places, and institutions.
With respect to the practice of humanities research, digital representations of cultural knowledge are not alien to our work but are ways of implementing the objective procedures for organizing and comparing evidence that have long characterized scholarship in the humanities. Critical text editions, dictionaries, concordances, catalogues, maps, timelines, bibliographies, and other indexes can now be created more efficiently using digital methods. Beyond this, however, digital methods open up exciting new possibilities for studying huge numbers of written texts and visual images, as well as audio and video, in a way that could never be done without computers. Digital methods reveal patterns in linguistic, cultural, and historical materials which we would never notice otherwise but which provoke new questions and call for new interpretations. Graduates of this M.A. program will thus be empowered to facilitate traditional kinds of work; to detect patterns that stimulate new insights; and to reflect critically on digital computation itself and its meaning in our culture.
Coursework in the M.A. program will help students to understand and use digital tools and also to see digital computing as a cultural activity in its own right. Digital computing is an activity to be studied with respect to its historical development, social setting, cultural impact, and aesthetic qualities, as well as the ethical problems it creates in our increasingly digitized and networked world. Computational concepts and software are themselves humanly produced cultural materials that raise important philosophical questions. This program does not require a background in mathematics or computing and is specifically designed for students in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. Students with a background in computing can also benefit from this program and may be exempted from some courses in order to take additional electives in the humanities.