Digital Humanities Undergraduate Minor
Digital Humanities Minor
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The Undergraduate Minor in Digital Humanities is offered by the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. It has been designed for students who want to augment their disciplinary studies in the humanities or humanistic social sciences with advanced digital research techniques and in-depth engagement with theoretical, political, and practical questions raised by digital technologies. Students from outside the humanities are also welcome to enroll in the DH minor, e.g. to add a humanities dimension to a mostly science-and-tech curriculum.
“Digital Humanities” is more of an umbrella term for a diverse range of scholarly practices than a stable, coherent field. The minor in digital humanities reflects that diversity by bringing together coursework from across the university and by allowing for multiple pathways through the program. It is a very flexible minor that draws on faculty from many departments of the School of Arts and Sciences as well as other schools of the University and encourages students to enroll in courses outside of their major. Students minoring in digital humanities will have the opportunity to learn valuable programing and data management skills, to explore topics such as digital text analysis, digital mapping, 3D modeling, and the use of digital tools for collecting, organizing and studying material culture. Course work will also expose students to debates about the social effects of digital technologies and require them to attend lectures, workshops and other relevant events at Penn and around Philadelphia.
Once a small corner of the humanities, Digital Humanities has exerted a notable influence on literary studies, history, cultural studies, archaeology and anthropology, and has radically changed the way that many scholars conduct research and share work. As humanities fields evolve to incorporate digital tools and methods, an increasing number of scholars are finding it necessary to expand their digital understanding. While students may be able to learn specific tools and methods on their own or through their coursework, the purpose of the DH minor is to offer them a systematic program of study as well as an official credential to recognize their work and training. Students who successfully complete the requirements of the minor will develop the insight to be both thoughtful users of technology and sophisticated critics of digital work.
The Digital Humanities Minor will take 6 courses total and the sequence has is designed to guide students through three tiers of courses that begin very broad and then narrow in focus.
The first tier is the broadest and is intended to make sure students understand the basics of Digital Humanities. There are two required courses in Tier 1: Introduction to Digital Humanities (ENGL 1650) and one qualifying introduction to programing course. The School of Arts and sciences regularly offers Data Science for the Humanities (ENGL 1670) which has been designed to fulfil the programing requirement. However students may also count one of the introduction to programing courses offered by Engineering (such as CIS 1100). Skills and context learned in these courses will be used and built upon in subsequent courses.
In the second tier, students will choose at least one but not more than three classes that will help them focus on specific methodologies. The assumption is that students will want to dive a bit deeper into those specific trajectories within digital humanities that are most applicable to their own research interests. Courses in this tier will allow them to gain practical skills in a hands-on, project based environment.
While the first two tiers are focused on skill building, the third tier of courses gives students opportunities to use the skills they have learned to conduct original research. Students will take at least one but no more than three Tier 3 courses. Courses with significant digital content will be pre-approved for the minor. However, students may also work with their instructors to develop alternative digital projects or even independent studies. The goal at this level is for students to practice integrating digital humanities practice into academic work in non-trivial and critical ways.
The Digital Humanities Minor has been designed to enhance the research profile of participating students and to give them the skills needed to participate more effectively in contemporary disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarly debates. Furthermore, participation in the minor will help students develop valuable skills that may be utilized in a variety of professional settings both in and out of academia.
COURSES OFFERED SPRING 2024
Data Science for the Humanities
Instructor: J.D. Porter
This course fulfills Quantitative Data Analysis requirement. Over the last decade, humanists have turned to data and to computational methods of data analysis to seek new understandings of literature, history, and culture. This course will provide you with a practical introduction to data-driven inquiry in the humanities, with a focus on the Python programming language. (No prior knowledge of programming is required or expected.) In addition to learning foundational scripting and data science skills, we will ask questions about the role of data in the humanities. What new research questions in the humanities can we investigate using data-driven methods? How can we use humanities methods to reflect on data-driven research practices? And how can we make our conclusions relevant within the larger frame of humanistic inquiry? Course work will include readings, weekly programming exercises, a writing assignment, and a final project.
GIS for the Digital Humanities and Social Sciences
This course introduces students to theory and methodology of the geospatial humanities and social sciences, understood broadly as the application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis techniques to the study of social and cultural patterns in the past and present. By engaging with spatial theory, spatial analysis case studies, and technical methodologies, students will develop an understanding of the questions driving, and tools available for, humanistic and social science research projects that explore change over space and time. We will use ESRI's ArcGIS software to visualize, analyze, and integrate historical, anthropological, and environmental data. Techniques will be introduced through the discussion of case studies and through demonstration of software skills. During supervised laboratory sessions, the various techniques and analyses covered will be applied to sample data and also to data from a region/topic chosen by the student.
Digital Infrastructures & Platforms
Instructor: Rahul Mukherjee
Platforms ranging from ride-hailing and food delivery apps (Uber and Swiggy) to subscription based audiovisual content providers (Netflix and SonyLIV) mediate multisided transactions (markets) and operate based on algorithmic collection, circulation, and monetization of user data. In this course, we will engage with a variety of readings about multi-situated study of apps, paying attention to both app interfaces as well as their connection to backend systems and infrastructures like content delivery networks and software development kits. In what ways do processes of data storage/distribution, content encryption/decryption and encoding/decoding make “seamless” streaming on Hulu/Prime Video and instantaneous digital payments on Venmo and PayTM possible? We will begin with how infrastructures have been studied in the past, and then in particular focus on media infrastructures such as satellite systems, optical fiber cables, cell antennas, and data centers. The course readings will consider the varied definitions of platforms and examine the socio-political effects of the proliferation of platforms in different regions of the world. In studying superapps and platforms like WeChat (China), LINE (Japan), and Jio (India), we will try to comprehend in what ways have discourses of platformization been shaped by governmental regulation, cultural practices, and socio-politics of regions. We will explore questions like: in what ways are infrastructures and apps related? How do content creators and SVoD audiences navigate algorithmic opacity? Why do BigTech companies float competing discourses about platforms? What are the connections between infrastructural investments and platform capitalism? What does it mean to have digital lives in a platform society? In what ways do digital infrastructures and platforms create the foundations for smart cities and Internet of Things?
Art, Design and Digital Culture
Instructor: varies by section
This course is an introduction to the fundamental perception, representation, aesthetics, and design that shape today's visual culture. It addresses the way artists and designers create images; design with analog and digital tools; communicate, exchange, and express meaning over a broad range of media; and find their voices within the fabric of contemporary art, design, and visual culture. Emphasis is placed on building an extended form of visual literacy by studying and making images using a variety of representation techniques; learning to organize and structure two-dimenstional and three-dimensional space, and designing with time-based and procedural media. Students learn to develop an individual style of idea-generation, experimentation, iteration, and critique as part of their creative and critical responses to visual culture. If you need assistance registering for a closed section, please email the department at email@example.com
Design 21: Design After the Digital
Instructor: varies by section
Last century, the digital revolution transformed every aspect of our lives. It shaped every design discipline and defined the ways we imagine and fabricate anything from images to everyday products to clothing, cars, buildings and and megacities. Today, design is going through other technical and conceptual revolutions. We design with biotechnologies, fall in love in Virtual Reality with AI bots, rent our cognitive labor through cryptocurriencies. Our creative capabilities, on the other hand, are bounded by a polluted, over-crowded, and resource-constrained planet that is suffering major income and educational inequality. Design After the Digital interrogates the role of design for this century. The seminar survyes the conceptual and technical developments in the past decade to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of design, science and technology. We will study how new design and fabrication methods shape what we eat, what we wear, how we form opinions and express ourselves. The goal will be to develop new literacies of design that will help us acclimate better to the realities of the century as creative and critical citizens who can shape its products and values.
The Digital Economy
Juan Castillo Hernandez
This is an advanced undergraduate course on the digital economy. Our two main goals are (a) to understand how people and companies interact in digital markets and (b) to understand how digital markets should be designed. The course uses a combination of theoretical modeling and empirical evidence in order to achieve those goals. We analyze some key features that are prevalent in digital markets, including network effects, two-sided markets, search and matching, reputation systems, and the use of data. We also zoom in on individual markets, such as search engines, e-commerce platforms, and the gig economy.
Television and New Media
Instructor: varies by section
How and when do media become digital? What does digitization afford and what is lost as television and cinema become digitized? As lots of things around us turn digital, have we started telling stories, sharing experiences, and replaying memories differently? What has happened to television and life after “New Media”? How have television audiences been transformed by algorithmic cultures of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video? Social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook have blurred the lines between public and private spaces, and ushered in a heightened sense of immediacy to mediations of everyday life. How have (social) media transformed socialities as ephemeral snaps and swiped intimacies become part of the "new" digital/phone cultures? This is an introductory survey/exploratory course and we discuss a wide variety of media technologies and phenomena that include: Internet of Things, hacking, trolls, “FAKE NEWS,” distribution platforms, AI/ChatGPT, surveillance tactics, social media, data centers and race in cyberspace. We also examine emerging mobile phone cultures in the Global South and the environmental impact of digitization. Course activities include analyzing/producing TikTok videos and Instagram curations. The course assignments consist of take-home mid-term of short answer-type questions, a short comparative TV essay, and a take home end-term of long answer-type questions.
We may be tethered to global networks, streaming content from around the planet, joining in conversation (or conspiracy) with folks from all corners of the earth, but we also live in places with local characters and concerns, among people with local needs and contributions. What happens when we lose the local media — the newspapers and broadcast outlets — that bind and inform our localized communities? In this course we’ll consider the important roles served by our place-based media, as well as what’s lost when our local modes of communication collapse. But we’ll also consider what might be gained if we think more generously about what constitutes local media — and if we imagine how they might be redesigned to better serve our communities, our broader society, and our planet. Through readings, listening and screening exercises, occasional in-class field trips and guest speakers, and low-barrier-to-entry in-class labs, we’ll study local news; local book cultures, including libraries and bookshops and independent printers; local music scenes, including performance venues and record shops and music reviewers; local infrastructures of connection and distribution, including post offices and community digital networks; local data creators and collectors; local signage and interactive public media; local emergency communication resources; local whisper networks and town gossip; and a selection of other case studies that reflect students’ interests.
Paris during the German Occupation and its Places of [Non-]Memory
In this course, we will explore the dark years that characterized the Occupation of France by Nazi Germany and the Collaboration between the two countries supported by the Vichy Regime.A course to explore a past that none of us has directly lived. And not just any past. A repressed, masked, disguised past. A past inhabited by shadows. A past that is whispered. A holed memory. The myth of Marianne Resistance fascinates only for a while before the reality of the camps and the Collaboration looms up with a grimace and provokes fright in us.How to talk about what happened? With what words to recount the story of the disappeared? This was the challenge for the post-Auschwitz society. This is the challenge of this course. Paris will be our anchor point. Capital witness, capital executioner, capital victim. Its streets and walls will whisper to us the stories that were confined between two brackets at the Liberation. It is these stories that we will try to catch on the fly to give them back shape and voice while we bend to the difficult exercise of remembrance. It goes without saying that the objective will not be to judge but to try to understand a past, a past that does not pass ... Assignments include weekly creative writings, translation of survivors' testimonies into English, research in the Archives de Paris and the French press of the time as well as digital mapping and the creation of a digital timeline (no previous skills in digital tools needed). The course is conducted entirely in French. Open to students with a solid advanced level.
The Digital Humanities Minor is directed by Stewart Varner in consultation with the Executive Committee of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. Dr. Varner will also serve as the designated advisor for students interested in the program as well as those who have declared it. Please contact us to declare the DH Minor.