DH@WIT: Digital Humanities for Undergraduate Design, Engineering, and Management Students

Poster

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Abstract

Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT), an independent, co-educational, technical design and engineering college located in Boston, Massachusetts, offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary, project-based education that integrates classroom, laboratory, studio, cooperative and experiential learning. Our department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) is currently working to develop and promote a digital humanities-inflected undergraduate curriculum. Unlike more traditional humanities programs, we are using digital humanities to prepare students for careers outside of academia. This poster highlights the aspects of DH@WIT that we consider to be unique.

We are already a technology and design based institution immersed in a studio/lab-based culture, so, whereas most institutions with an interest in DH tend to bring technology to humanities, we are bringing humanities to technology.

Our department is already highly interdisciplinary and collaborative (with faculty offering courses in Literature, Art History, Film, Music, Philosophy, History, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics, Cultural Studies, and Communications), and thus we are not hampered by disciplinary boundaries that exist at many other institutions.

In collaboration with our Office of Institutional Research, we have, to date, commissioned three feasibility studies from the Hanover Research Group: New Media Programs in the Liberal Arts (an initial industry survey of institutions that have led the way nationally in incorporating the study of new media into traditional higher education); Market Analysis for a BS in Digital Humanities (a report analyzing the market for a bachelor’s degree program in digital humanities); and Job Opportunities for Digital Humanities Program Graduates (which analyzes occupational demand for DH graduates in related industries, builds profiles of relevant positions in related industries, lists relevant local employers, examines the educational and work experience of current professionals with a professed interest in DH, and surveys the sponsored funding environment for DH programs).

Our research suggests that DH graduates with a strong background in computer application design and programming are likely to have the best prospects for a job outside of academia. A more tech-training-oriented program would also align well with W.I.T.’s other institutional offerings. Including training in advanced technical skills such as graphic design or computer engineering, the DH@WIT curriculum offers significant advantages to students entering the workforce because their interests and skills are applicable to many opportunities in a wide range of industries. Overall, nationwide employment for occupations directly related to DH degree programs appears to be growing steadily. Thus, we are proposing a new degree program at Wentworth: a Bachelor of Science in Digital Humanities. This would be an interdisciplinary program of study that combines theoretical and practical courses, with the goal of educating new digital and media specialists for the growing knowledge and information economy. Such a program would provide students with a multi-disciplinary foundation in visual and digital literacy and competency.

Because the nature of DH work is applied and project-based, students in the BS program will have hands-on training in studio-based classes, in addition to the theoretical, critical, social, and ethical contexts for thinking about the making, and critique, of new knowledge through Digital Humanities/New Media research and applications. Learning outcomes will include digital literacy, visual literacy, rhetorical competence (visual and verbal), cultural awareness, creative self-direction, and intellectual curiosity.

A BS in Digital Humanities will include a cooperative education (co-op) requirement. Wentworth offers one of the most comprehensive co-op programs of its kind in the nation. The experience complements traditional classroom learning with a chance to build important skills and professional connections. Co-op experiences are directly related to our students’ fields of study. Students earn income and do not pay tuition during co-op terms. This kind of co-op opportunity is rare for an undergraduate program in humanities.

DH@WIT is conceived as our own unique response to the “two cultures” problem noted by Thomas Bartscherer in his introduction to Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts: “an attempt to bring scholars and artists into more robust dialogue with computer scientists and programmers”(2). We will prepare our students to serve as cultural-technological intermediaries.

References

Bartscherer, T., and R. Coover (2011). Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Job Opportunities for Digital Humanities Program Graduates. (2012). Hanover Research Group. Washington, DC. July.

Market Analysis for a BS in Digital Humanities. (2011). Hanover Research Group. Washington, DC. September.

New Media Programs in the Liberal Arts. (2011). Hanover Research Group. Washington, DC. February.

About Christopher Scott Gleason

Christopher Scott Gleason is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Florida International University and a Ph.D. in English / Creative Writing from the University of Utah. He teaches writing, literature, film, American popular culture, and a variety of digital humanities courses. He is also chair of Wentworth’s Media, Culture, and Communications Studies (MCCS) Task Force (formerly known as the Digital Humanities Task Force).