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Data and Society

Programmes involved: Arts and Culture Studies, Romance Languages and Cultures, Art History, History, Dutch Language and Culture
Minor coordinator: Dr. Helleke van den Braber
Open to: Students from all programmes
Entry requirements:
Period: 3 en 4


Society is currently undergoing profound transformations brought about by the digital revolution. Within the humanities field, cultural studies, linguistics and history have been experiencing a distinct ‘computational turn’ (Berry), with Digital Humanities gaining ascendancy since the 2010s. This transformation has been accompanied by the popularization of terms such as ‘distant reading’ (Franco Moretti) , ‘macro analysis’ (Matthew Jockers) and ‘cultural analytics’ (Andrew Piper). Using digital technologies enables researchers to study larger quantities of material, and in different ways than was previously possible. The large-scale digitization of various sources is well underway (Google Books, EBBO and ECCO, DBNL, Project Gutenberg, etc), and the development of user-friendly software and analysis tools is high on the humanities agenda. Accompanying these scholarly developments, (big) data has made its definitive entry in society at large (politics, the corporate world, social media, etc.).

This minor offers students an introduction to digital approaches in scholarship, as well as to critical reflections on the impact of (big) data in society at large, from a non-technical perspective. Its aim is to stimulate reflection on the methodologies and theories of digital approaches and tools, while demonstrating the possibilities offered by a (minimal) use of quantification and digital technologies for the study of literature, culture and history. It will pay particular attention to the interaction between (big) data and societal change, and how scholars’ uses of digital tools implicate their audiences in new ways. As part of the minor, students may familiarize themselves with a programming language such as Python (http://www.karsdorp.io/python-course/ ), but that is not the programme’s primary objective. The minor consists of three courses of 5 EC each, focusing respectively on the theory, practice and societal impact of digital technologies: