Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
The Digital Humanities Minor Provides Opportunities for PW and XA Students
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The Digital Humanities Minor Provides Opportunities for PW and XA Students

Kristen Mapes, the Digital Humanities (DH) Coordinator for MSU’s College of Arts and Letters, thinks digital humanities are essential in allowing us to do new things with the humanities through new ways of researching and presenting information to the public. So, what is digital humanities? It is “incorporating digital methods for how we ask humanities questions,” says Kristen. “Digital humanities can be looked at as a way to approach pretty much any humanities field.” She notes that the DH community both at MSU and around the world tries to be open and welcoming, so members of the community are always asking questions and sharing information.

For Professional Writing (PW) and Experience Architecture (XA) students, there is a lot of room for opportunity within the DH minor, which consists of two core courses: DH 285 [Introduction to Digital Humanities] and DH 340 [Digital Humanities Seminar]. The other requirements for the minor are 2-3 elective courses with a DH focus, and an experiential capstone in which students complete an internship that focuses on a digital project or bring digital methods to a workplace experience. The DH minor pairs especially well with PW and XA degrees, in part because some of the requirements can overlap. Kristen has found that many concepts that are central to PW and XA, such as design, user experience, and accessibility, also resonate with DH.

Currently, there are a number of PW students enrolled in DH courses. PW senior Reyna Hurand has found that her PW and DH courses complement each other well. “A lot of our [PW] classes teach us about technology, how to code, and how to make our design appeal to diverse audiences. I think a lot of digital humanists use those same techniques to appeal to whoever they are trying to communicate with,” she says. “I think PW has a lot of the same values as DH.”

While many students in the DH minor come primarily from CAL, it is open to anyone; Kristen notes that the methods of digital humanities can be applied to any major. For example, the creation of data mapping and timelines is great for visualizing historical information, and text analysis is used in a variety of fields including English, political science, and philosophy. Just learning about how data is collected and presented can appeal to students in scientific and mathematical fields. Kristen enjoys the variety of students she meets in the DH minor. “I like seeing what people get inspired by and letting that energy feed everyone else,” she says.

Kristen Mapes presenting at one of the LOCUS Talks, which happen about every month on campus and span a range of topics on the humanities, technology, and digital tools. Photo by Tommy Truong

Kristen also appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of DH. “Digital humanities are a way of approaching humanities by taking you outside your field and allowing you to look at what you are doing from a different perspective,” she says. Sometimes, looking at things in a different way helps you to learn and understand better. Kristen hopes the program will offer even more course options as it continues to grow and develop.

The Digital Humanities Program currently offers a summer study abroad program to London that is open to all majors. This is a great introduction to the minor for students that may not have heard of or encountered DH before. Visit the program’s page for more information about cost and how to apply.

Between CAL and the WRAC department, there many opportunities to push the boundaries of what you can do with your major and how you can apply the principles you learn in class in different ways. The DH minor is just one avenue you can take that exposes you to  new ways of seeing things.

To learn more about MSU’s DH minor, you can contact Kristen Mapes at kmapes@msu.edu or visit www.dh.cal.msu.edu.

Written by Suzanna Smentowski
Thumbnail photo by Maddie Shellgren
14 December 2017