COLA Connections Newsletter: Fall 2015

A New Degree for COLA: Digital Humanities & Social Sciences

We are happy to announce that the College of Liberal Arts is expanding!

RIT celebrates the approval of the first Bachelor of Science degree in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) to be offered in the country. While there are graduate programs and undergraduate minors or certificates available at colleges and universities across the world, only a few undergraduate degree programs of this kind exist. The degree at RIT is particularly unique because it is an interdisciplinary, joint program offered by the College of Liberal arts, Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.  By rethinking our liberal arts traditions, we explore innovation across the changing landscape of technology and consider what it means to be human.

Technologies are always social.  Any historian of technology can point out numerous examples of technically-superior tools that were never adopted due to inadequately considered social, economic and political conditions. The DHSS program is dedicated to the development of better tools that store, distribute and develop our humanistic traditions, as well as actively enabling the ability to learn and understand broader spatial, temporal, and cultural processes. This is crucial when it comes to developing technologies that will actually be adopted by users, be they commercial users in corporate Beijing or kindergartners in Des Moines. This sensibility and awareness is a core value at RIT, one that will only be strengthened by the addition of a program in DHSS.

The degree will be hosted by the College of Liberal Arts with coursework spanning the departments of History, Philosophy, English, Performing Arts and Visual Culture, Communication, and Criminal Justice. Students will also take coursework in GCCIS and CIAS to develop competency in web development and design, data management, and GIS.

Although this is a new degree program, the faculty and students of the College of Liberal Arts have long been at work in the field.  Current projects include collaborations between the departments of English, Visual Culture, and IGM to create a role-playing game called “Steampunk Rochester” that requires students to learn Rochester history and its systems of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Other projects reach beyond RIT to cultural heritage spaces. Faculty and students in History and School of Design are working with digital curators to exhibit rare books from The Library Company of Philadelphia online.

The DHSS program will provide students with the integrative literacies increasingly necessary for careers in cultural institutions, government, educational institutions, and technology firms.  The program’s first students will be enrolled in Fall 2016.