Tuesday, August 20

Humanities joins the digital age with new minor


New North Campus minor focuses on relationship between technology and society

For more info about the minor: www.digitalhumanities.ucla.edu

Recognizing the importance of technological innovation, the UCLA Humanities Division has created the digital humanities minor, which will begin offering new courses next fall. The minor is also made up of existing classes offered this school year.

The Undergraduate Council within Academic Senate approved the minor on Dec. 3. Digital humanities will allow students to study the social and cultural impact of new technologies, said Todd Presner, chair of the minor and a Germanic languages professor.

“The world is changing rapidly, and this is a minor that is meant to be about adapting to that world,” said Christopher Johanson, classics professor and one of the faculty administrators for the minor.

Though it may seem strange that the minor is grounded in humanities, Presner explained that this angle challenges students to critically analyze new technologies.

“(The minor) is diverse,” Presner said. “You couldn’t do something like this in hard times like now, unless there was broad interest and broad support.”

That support comes from multiple divisions within UCLA ““ the program includes courses taught by 34 professors from a wide range of departments.

Richard Weiss, co-chair of the Undergraduate Council’s Curriculum Committee, said that the minor partly relies on many classes that are already taught, preventing the minor from requiring extra resources. Other funding for the minor will come from Dean of Humanities Timothy Stowell’s budget and outside grants from two foundations.

A total of eight courses comprise the minor, with four electives from existing classes and four new digital humanities classes. Two of the new courses include a one-quarter apprenticeship/internship and a quarter of honors research ““ the capstone classes that offer hands-on experience.

“In terms of making people marketable in the job market or for applying to graduate schools, it gives them something that makes them unusual,” Stowell said. “It gives our guys a head start (on) the competition.”

Students will be able to participate in faculty projects during their second year in the minor.

For example, Presner is working on a geo-temporal argumentation project, which he likened to Google Earth with a time aspect. The mapping system lets researchers tell a story through space and time, to show, for instance, what segregated L.A. neighborhoods looked like in the 1950s.

Johanson said he thinks this collaboration will allow students to work on a more equal level with faculty and graduate students.

While Presner only expects a small number of interested applicants initially, the actual student response remains to be seen. Potential wide interest in the minor may limit its impact.

“The one thing I’m worried about is that we’ll have so many (students) that want to do (the minor) that we won’t be able to accommodate everyone,” Stowell said.

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