Five of the Best: International Courses in Digital Culture

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the world is undergoing something of a digital revolution. So it makes sense that more and more people are devoting their time and money to trying to understand what impact that revolution in connectivity is having on us – as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a civilisation.

It therefore isn’t a great surprise that all over the world top universities are adding digital anthropology courses to their under-grad and post-grad curriculums. Here’s a quick overview of some of the programmes and schools throwing their intellectual and technological might at developing a deeper understanding of this emerging field.

1. Masters in Digital Anthropology, UCL

This MSc brings together three key components in the study of digital culture:

1. Skills training in digital technologies, including their own ‘Digital Lab’, from internet and digital film editing to e-curation and digital ethnography.

2. Anthropological theories of virtualism, materiality/immateriality and digitisation.

3. Understanding the consequences of digital culture through the ethnographic study of its social and regional impact.

Sounds pretty cool.

2. Master of Digital Communication and Culture, University of Sydney

What might be marginally cooler however is heading to Sydney’s top university to hang out on Bondi at the same as studying. It’ll cost you though – $25,000 to be exact which is no mean feat when the pound is struggling so.

While not as ‘heavy-weight’ as the UCL course – the course description certainly uses fewer words with four or more syllables – it is comprehensive, covering practical study in digital design to more theoretical approaches to the impact of technology on society. Plus, it’s in Sydney (have I mentioned that already?).

3. McLuhan Institute, University of Toronto

Even from their old (soon to be updated) website you can tell this is an institute of real calibre. It isn’t clear if they’re involved in the pedantry of Masters study, opting more for full on PhD research programmes in things like information ethics, ‘techno-psychology’ and ‘the era of the tag’.

Having met a few people who have done their PhDs here, it’s clear that it’s a place with a solid history in researching the impact of technology on the world – they have been so since the 60s, decades before the term ‘social media’ was even invented.

4. MIT, Boston, USA

Of course this would be no list at all without a mention for MIT and their Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society (or HASTS for short). While the site states ‘it is impossible for any program to cover the full range of problems raised by the multiple interactions of history, social studies, science, and technology‘, they seem to be giving it a fairly good go.

This one isn’t explicitly about digital technology – it covers everything from nuclear weapons to biomedicine, but they do run a course on the digital divide and it’s implications for development. Just up the road from Harvard, this is something of an intellectual technologist’s mecca.

5. Masters in Digital Culture, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

Taught entirely in English, this programme focuses on various aspects of culture and its digitalization, placing special emphasis on the relationship between humans and technology.
The best bit about this one is that there seem to be no tuition fees, which will come in handy when living in a place as expensive as Finland. Plus it’s in a pretty small town, so you’ll certainly have the chance to focus on your studies.

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