Penn is introducing a new digital humanities minor designed to expose students to technical skills that they can use to solve practical problems in the humanities.
The minor was created to bridge the divide between humanities and STEM disciplines. Sponsored by the Price Lab for Digital Humanities, which applies technology to issues in the humanities, the minor includes coursework in departments ranging from Computer and Information Science to Philosophy.
“Right now there is quite a chasm between the STEM curriculum and the humanities curriculum," said English professor James English, who supported the creation of the minor.
"The DH minor is designed to guide students on a comfortable curricular pathway to become familiar with some of the computational tools and techniques that can be useful for their humanities research, and to help them see ways to be in dialogue with more tech- and math-intensive fields,” he added.
The minor requires an introductory computer-related course, such as CIS 110, and five courses that involve both humanities and digital science. These courses range from the anthropology class “Mapping for Social Justice” to the religious studies class “Spirituality in the Age of Global Warming." Students can craft the minor to suit their interests and connect concentrations in humanities to topics in digital research.
The main goal of the minor is “to provide students with a real credential for work they may already be doing in order to explore digital humanities," Stewart Varner, managing director of Price Lab, wrote in a statement.
"As we've already seen, the ubiquity of technology and the power of data are raising huge questions about culture and identity," he added. "I'm thinking of questions around online surveillance, bias in algorithms and artificial intelligence."
Digital humanities is a relatively new field at Penn. It was formally introduced with the creation of the Price Lab in 2015, and remains uncommon among most of Penn's peer institutions. Professors said interest in the discipline has risen along with the application of mathematical models to solve problems including gerrymandering and public opinion polling.
The opportunity to shape the minor around each student's interests is at the heart of the program, Varner said.
“We've designed the minor in a way that reflects the fact that DH is not just one thing," he wrote. "Each student is encouraged to build a pathway through the minor that complements their major and resonates with their interests.”