Courses

Below you find the course descriptions of New Media & Digital Culture. The programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, an internship and a Master's thesis. Read more about the curriculum.

Research Lab 1: Situating Research (compulsory)

This module will re-introduce students to the methods and methodologies that are viable in the field of new media studies in the humanities at Utrecht University. On top of this, students wil engage in meta-reflection about the conceptual underpinnings these methods; ie. they will learn about the traditions, assumptions and the explicit or implicit connections with certain new media theories in the humanities that are taught in the concomitant New Media Theories module. In connection with learning to identify the assumptions and traditions behind these methods, students will learn to assess the possible ethical issues involved in the application of each individual method and the justification in light of research ethics when formulating a methodology or research question.

Career orientation:
This module aims to teach students advanced academic professionalisation skills, and therefore will incorporate many key examples and case studies from the academic working field. Students work in teams on an actual commissioned assignment from the field of new media, and through this get to know people and organizations (and their aims, concerns and ways of working) outside of academia.

Research Lab 2: Designing Research (compulsory)

This module will focus on the development of academic competencies related to achieving a level of professionalisation that is indicative for any academic researcher at the start of her/his career. In this module, students will learn how to write an individual research proposal which can serve as the foundation for writing a thesis. The module will teach students to formulate appropriate research questions, methods, and methodologies; combine such methods with appropriate theoretical frameworks; and think through the ethical implications of such methods. It will also incorporate various forms of academic professionalisation such as participating in a graduate journal editorial board, pitching an abstract for a journal CfP, and setting up a conference or workshop in the field of new media studies.

Career orientation:
This module aims to teach students advanced academic professionalisation skills, and therefore will incorporate many key examples and case studies from the academic working field.

New Media Theories: Thinkers, Debates, and Questions (compulsory)

This module will get students acquainted with the state-of-the-art controversies, insights and debates around the cluster of new media theories in the Humanities taught at Utrecht University. Such controversies may involve the tensions between issues of representation and/or processuality/functionality; technological determinism and the social construction of technology; and media as potential instruments of empowerment and oppression, but may also segue into other points of philosophical or epistemological debate. The module will delve into the various traditions of thought that underlie these new media theories, and help students to determine which theories are appropriate for their own research project that they will further develop in the Research Lab 2 module. The module will also, when relevant, draw connections to the academic research skills and methods taught concomitantly in the Research Lab 1 module.

Career orientation:
As a predominantly theoretical module, this course will incorporate mostly case studies and debates from the academic working field in its curriculum; present-day cultural and social media phenomena and issues will act as 'objects to think with'.

The Ludification of Culture (compulsory)

We will focus on Games for Change (www.gamesforchange.org), and its yearly Festival. Founded in 2004, G4C empowers game, play and VR creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games and technology that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. Like the Utrecht Center for Game Research (www.gameresearch.nl), G4C focuses on Civics & Social Issues, Knowledge & Literacies, and Health & Wellbeing. This MA course expresses Utrecht University’s focus on and contribution to societal challenges.
For the three thematic weeks (3, 4, 6), student groups are asked to present particular topics to fellow students and engage in a critical discussion on the discursive practices surrounding games for change. For the individual assignment, students are asked to take this critical discussion, formulate a theoretical framework, and analyse a specific playful media object using approaches from game and play studies.

Career orientation:
The course incorporates some critical and analytical-oriented assignments, which combine theoretical issues and practical rationales. Moreover, the topics and critical discussions address issues (civics & social, knowledge & literacies, and health & wellbeing ) that are relevant for the work field and methods (discourse, game and affordance analysis) that are practically valuable.

The Datafied Society: Networks, Software, and Politics

In almost all areas of our contemporary society and culture, data collection, databases, algorithms and software emerge as crucial actors in processes of social (inter)action, cultural production and decision-making. This profoundly affects our understanding of authorship, consumption, cultural participation and political agency.
Existing approaches to digital phenomena including software studies, platform studies, critical code studies and game studies provide theoretical framing and place related research endeavours in the broader field of science & technology studies. Within the humanities, the computational turn labeled as 'digital humanities' builds on that foundation: it expands the research abilities by valorizing the existing debates in combination with novel, genuinely digital methodologies.

Career orientation:
The course refers explicitly to practical cases from the fields of software development, public administration, the app ecology, and policy-making. The focus of the course will be on conducting digital humanities research and applying appropriate methods for researching digital phenomena.

Urban Mobile Media: The Myth and Messiness of Connectivity

In a relatively short time span our communication patterns and computing habits have been ‘mobilized’. Mobile and social media have rapidly become part and parcel of urban life. They shape how we live, work, travel, spend leisure time, and meet. This has profound consequences for our sense of place, social relationships, and our sense of self.
Moreover, digital media technologies today are part of the infrastructures, practices, and institutional arrangements on which urban life itself is based. So-called “smart cities” experiment with digital media, like sensors, data, the internet of things and social media dashboards, to help improve urban life. In this course we focus on this amalgamation of telecommunications devices, portable computational devices, and smart and connected objects in urban settings. We investigate how the social is mobilized, and at the same time how mobile media are tied to urban places, situations and developments.
Students develop an in-depth understanding of the ways mobile/social media technologies shape urban life. They become familiar with main themes, concepts and approaches in the multidisciplinary field of urban new media research, and with adjacent fields of research.

Career orientation:
The course will invite guest speakers, stimulate visiting relevant cultural events, and train professional communicative skills during assignments.

Cultural Analytics: Data Mining of Cultural Corpora

This course provides an introduction in the analysis of digital and digitized culture. It opens up – and scrutinizes – the methodology concerning data practices and digital methods for the inquiry of cultural corpora. Students are introduced to text mining and database exploration with programming language R, Jupyter notebook, Gephi, modes of Distant Reading or analysis, and to discipline of Cultural Analytics as coined by Lev Manovich. The objective is to develop the students skills in the computational analysis of corpora of cultural objects, be it new media, traditional media, art or beyond, and gain a critical understanding of what the epistemological implications of these digital methods may be. At the end of this module the students will be able to analyse various corpora of cultural data (e.g. social media data, text files, images, or time based files), while addressing underlying assumptions and outcomes of large data queries, quantification, and datafication. The students are expected to find their own topic during the first weeks of this course, which will determine their trajectory during the second part of it, ending with a small research and a corresponding research paper.

The course is part of the Master programme New Media and Digital Culture but is open for students from other fields who want to engage with data-related research of large cultural corpora.

Career orientation
Introduction to emerging data practices in media industries; presentation by practicioners, teaching of currently much needed skills (data practices, programming, network analysis).

This course is for students in the MA New Media; students from other MA programmes should check with the course coordinator before enrolling. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.

Transmedia

‘Transmedia’ has in recent years become one of the key buzzwords in the digital media landscape. Transmedia storyteling most commonly refers to a process of dispersed storytelling: using multiple media working in tandem to tell a single story. While this narratological approach has remained one of the main paradigms for understanding the term, ‘transmedia’ has also come to relate more broadly to diverse immersive uses of multiple media working in conjunction with each other, either to facilitate bottom-up media production or to increase the reach of top-down media franchising. In this course, we will start with narratological approaches to transmedia, then expand our perspective to include fan culture and audience participation, and finally examine the political economy of media- industrial transmedia franchising.

Career Orientation:
The course familiarizes students with textual, social, and industrial practices related to transmedia phenomena. Students solidify professional research skills and train communicative competences to transfer their knowledge to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Master's Thesis in New Media & Digital Culture (compulsory)

The MA thesis is a scholarly text in which you are expected to contribute, on the basis of independent research, to a debate within the field of new media and digital culture. It should be structured around a central research question which is clearly formulated in the introductory chapter and has a strong relevance to active scholarly discussions. The body of the text should show the methodology you employed to answer this question, the theoretical considerations you have made, and what your findings were. In your conclusion you should analyze your findings in the light of your original question and explain the broader implications of your conclusions.

Career orientation
The MA Thesis is a scholarly work that adds to the academic debate on new media and digital culture; as such, it showcases the student's ability to (largely) independently report on research findings, a professional skill that is highly valued within the working field.

Research Internship New Media & Digital Culture (compulsory)

The MA internship gives you the opportunity to test actual new media practices against new media theory. During a period of three months you will work within a company, a governmental, educational, cultural organization, an NGO or any other place where new media play a significant role, and you will be asked to reflect upon your activities by producing an internship research report, based on a carefully designed research proposal. This report should be the result of a critical analysis of the working experience from an academic perspective.

Career orientation:
The research internship provides you with opportunities par excellence to get acquainted with the processes and discourses of the working field of new media; it is where you test your academic and professional skills, and where you build networks that help you find a job after you have graduated.