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Coming soon: new MS and PhD programs in Technology and Humanities

Edited 03/27/2015: We’ve made it past the first institutional hurdle! Come join us!

My colleagues and I in the Department of Humanities at IIT are hard at work developing new MS and PhD programs in Technology and Humanities, and I’m blogging to tell you more about them. The impetus for my post is a question Nathan Matias (@natematias) asked at a CSCW 2014 panel on big social data. He asked for pointers about how to include ethics in educating computational social scientists. We in the Humanities department don’t educate computational social scientists, per se, but we do train students to do some of the activities Nate and the panelists were discussing (e.g., build systems for accessing big data, using computational tools to analyze data from social media). What “counts” as social science and what “counts” as humanities I leave for you to decide. The degrees are still being developed, and I welcome your feedback. So, how do we train them (or will we, once we’re up and running)?

The overarching goals of the PhD program in Technology and Humanities are to prepare students to

  • Conduct original research on some aspect of technology and humanities; and
  • Design and build a technical artifact such as a web application, game, or simulation.

To achieve those goals, we require students to take a two-year core curriculum that is common to all MS and PhD students in the program. PhD students then take five more courses in a concentration before moving on to their dissertation work. The core includes classes that address these learning goals

  • Understand a variety of methods employed in technology and humanities research
  • Gain in depth knowledge and practice in at least one research method
  • Understand major theories in technology and humanities research
  • Practice skills needed for success in and beyond academia such as giving talks, searching for jobs, designing courses, and entrepreneurship
  • Write effectively, especially for academic audiences
  • Produce technical systems
  • Recognize and analyze ethical issues in technology and humanities and engage responsibly in research*
  • Gain familiarity with the major theories and practices in each of the Department of Humanities’ core areas: history; language and linguistics; philosophy; and communication, information, and media studies

You’ll notice one learning goal with a (*), and that indicates the only goal that doesn’t have a stand alone course assigned. Instead, we integrate ethics across the curriculum in the spirit of the Center for Ethics in the Professions here at IIT. We want our students to recognize ethical issues as relevant and important in all aspects of their work. By integrating ethics into each course, we are able to emphasize that ethics are always at play and cannot be relegated to a separate space or discussion. Similarly, we integrate instruction on writing and production across the curriculum but include stand alone courses in these subjects to provide students extra space to practice their skills.

By the end of their second year, students will also complete a thesis (MS) or qualifying paper (PhD) that demonstrates their mastery of the core and preparation for further study. PhD students continue through a concentration in one of four areas:

  • History (the name of the concentration is being determined)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Communication, Information, and Media Studies


I forgot to mention in my original post that Ph.D. students will also have 3 elective courses that can be taken outside the Department. For instance, students who work with me may benefit from courses in advanced statistics, machine learning, and political communication that are not available in Humanities but are in the Stuart School of Business, Department of Computer Science, or Department of Social Sciences. These electives allow us to expose our students to research traditions and findings outside our core competencies and to provide individualized academic plans for each student.

So, what do you think ?

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