Digital and Computational Studies

Professors Corrie (Art and Visual Culture) and Schlax (Chemistry, chair); Associate Professors Engel (Politics), Imber (Classical and Medieval Studies), and Tefft (Economics); Assistant Professors Boateng (Mathematics) and Castro (Neuroscience)

Data and computers are transforming virtually every facet of our professional and personal lives. Increasingly, they are the dominant media for how we generate, apply, and share knowledge. The digital and computational studies program endeavors to prepare students for lives of work and study that require proficiency in using constructed electronic platforms, software, and large, complex data sets. The program is also deliberately problem-oriented and reflective. Instructors in the program assume that by paying attention to the values and motivations underlying the development and use of computers and the consequences of computers and computation for society students are more likely to understand what goes on beyond the user interface.

The faculty established a new interdisciplinary program in digital and computational studies in 2015-16. The program's goals are to advance learning and scholarship across multiple disciplines informed by concepts, methods, and tools of computer science and digital studies. Specifically the program aims to interrogate the values and assumptions of a digitized world; increase understanding of the power and limitations of computers in solving problems; advance understanding of the theory and logic of computation; promote proficiency in the assessment, analysis, and visualization of data; build competency in the analysis of complex relationships among data sources; promote creative and competent use of algorithms in problem solving; and foster connections across disciplines.

Currently, Committee on Digital and Computational Studies is developing the curriculum with new courses added during this and future academic years. As extant courses are cross-listed in digital and computational studies (DS) and new courses are developed in the program (DCS), they will be listed below.

DCS 101. Introduction to Algorithms.
Algorithms are step-by-step instructions to solving problems. Increasingly, they are indispensable tools in many aspects of our modern lives. In this course, students examine the workings of many common algorithms ranging in complexity and usage, and implement them with computer programs students write. Topics include sorting, searching, pair matching, and Google’s Page-Rank. Students also consider heuristic approaches to certain problems that do not have proven strategies for solving such as the "traveling salesman" problem, taking inspiration from nature. Finally, the course introduces Machine Learning, generic algorithms capable of solving any problem. No prior knowledge of programming required. Prerequisite(s): MATH 105. New course beginning Winter 2017. Enrollment limited to 30. One-time offering. R. Saha.
INDC 352. Preserving the Vibration: Digitizing the Legacy of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.
This course introduces public and digital humanities through the life and work of noted journalist, food anthropologist, and public broadcaster Vertamae Grosvenor. Public humanities is concerned with expanding academic discourse beyond academia and facilitating conversations on topics of humanistic inquiry with the community at large. Digital studies provide a plethora of unconventional ways to engage community in public dialogues for the greater good. Drawing from books, operas, NPR audio segments, interviews, cookbooks, and other artifacts of Grosvenor, students create and curate a digital archive. Themes include Gullah culture, African American migration, foodways, memoir, public memory, and monuments. Leading theories and methods of black feminism, material culture, race, food studies, new media and digital humanities are foregrounded. Cross-listed in African American studies, American cultural studies, digital and computational studies, and women and gender studies. Prerequisite(s): AA/AC 119; AA/HI 243; AAS 100; ACS 100; AC/AV 340; AC/EN 395B; AV/WS 287; INDS 250 or 267; REL 255 or 270; or WGST 100. New course beginning Winter 2017. Enrollment limited to 15. Normally offered every other year. M. Beasley.
Interdisciplinary Programs

This course counts toward the following Interdisciplinary Program(s)

DCS 360. Independent Study.
Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester. Open to first-year students. Normally offered every semester. Staff.
DC/EC 368. Big Data and Economics.
Economics is at the forefront of developing statistical methods for analyzing data collected from uncontrolled sources. Since econometrics addresses challenges in estimation such as sample selection bias and treatment effects identification, the discipline is well-suited for the analysis of large and unsystematically collected datasets. This course introduces statistical (machine) learning methods, which have been developed for analyzing such datasets but which have only recently been implemented in economic research. The course also explores how econometrics and statistical learning methods cross-fertilize and can be used to advance knowledge in the numerous domains where large volumes of data are rapidly accumulating. Prerequisite(s): ECON 255. Enrollment limited to 20. Normally offered every year. N. Tefft.

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

Short Term Courses
DCS s11. Introduction to Programming for Data Analysis and Visualization.
An introduction to computer programming with a focus on quantitative data analysis and visualization. Primarily using the Python programming language, fundamental programming concepts and high-level tools for data manipulation and visualization are introduced using a variety analysis projects with cross-disciplinary applicability. In addition to writing computer programs, the concepts and methods for effective presentation of data are covered. Students with no prior programming experience, but are interested in quantitative projects, are encouraged to participate. New course beginning Short Term 2017. Open to first-year students. One-time offering. R. Nelson.
DCS s20. Introduction to Computer Programming.
This course introduces students to some of the foundational concepts of computer science. Students analyze problems and implement solutions using languages such as C, Java, Python, PHP or Javascript. Irrespective of the particular programming language used, the goal is to ensure that each student acquires the basic concepts to be prepared to learn any programming language on their own in the future. No prior programming experience is required. Not open to students who have received credit for EXDS s20. Enrollment limited to 20. P. Jayawant.
DCS s21. Build with Pi.
The Raspberry Pi computer has greatly expanded the realm and scope of computing. These ultra-cheap and ultra-portable computers are able to directly interface with devices for a multitude of uses. A community of users has documented and showcased many such novel creations. In this course, students learn about the basic workings of a Raspberry Pi and create their own applications. Applications may include scientific measurements, robotics, home and systems automation, and art. Prerequisite(s): DCS 101 or s20; DC/MA s45T; or DC/EC 368. New course beginning Short Term 2017. Enrollment limited to 20. One-time offering. R. Saha.
DC/MA s45T. Mathematical Image Processing.
Digital image processing is a field essential to many disciplines, including medicine, astronomy, astrophysics, photography, and graphics. It is also an active area of mathematical research with ideas stemming from numerical linear algebra, Fourier analysis, partial differential equations and statistics. This course introduces mathematical methods in digital image processing, including basic image processing tools and techniques with an emphasis on their mathematical foundations. Students implement the theory using MATLAB. Topics may include image compression, image enhancement, edge detection, and image filtering. Students conceive and complete projects—either theoretical or practical—on an aspect of digital image processing. Prerequisite(s): MATH 205. Enrollment limited to 30. K. Ott.

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations