Study the relationship of technology, knowledge, and ethics in today’s society

For students who are interested in the social sciences and humanities, the Humanity in a Digital World program will study the relationships among technology and knowledge, society and ethics. Over the course of the two weeks, students will develop a deeper understanding of the complex interplay between the technological, artistic, informational, and social aspects of their world. 

Students will begin with spirited discussion of the values expressed through, and created by, human technologies. Students will visit Mindtrek VR, a multi-person virtual reality experience. They’ll get to explore a virtual world together, experience a spaceship breaking down, managing threats, and working together to make it through the experience. This experience will be used to motivate discussions about whether emerging technologies can replace current interpersonal interactions, whether they enable us to replace real relationships with virtual ones, what we can learn from virtual activities, and what the costs and benefits of doing so would be.

Students will also learn to create and run computer simulations to test hypotheses about the world. For example, students might create a simulation of climate or other resource negotiations to see what kinds of factors generate agreement or which factors undermine agreement. We will then talk about when to trust such simulations, when they can be a tool for thinking about the world outside the simulation.

In a second week of hands-on projects, students will explore how such contemporary technologies evolved from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. In hands-on projects, students will print using letterpress techniques and learn how today’s new media draw from their historical predecessors. In visits to local resources such as the Northeastern Archives, Museum of Fine Arts, and Massachusetts Historical Society, students will get up close with these histories. Finally, students will learn how computational tools can illuminate the past in new ways, experimenting with programming their own text analyses of historical texts.


Learning Outcomes

How we got here

The history of new media, from manuscripts on parchment to OLED smartphone screens. We will investigate historical and modern artifacts related to knowledge creation, study the ways they were produced and used, and gain new intellectual contexts for understanding our current media landscape.

Competency with textual technologies

Students will develop projects that help them learn to think and work creatively with historical and contemporary textual technologies, to even to blend modes. Students will operate a nineteenth-century letterpress printer, learn a basic form of bookbinding, gain the programming skills required to create Twitter poetry bots, and develop models for 3D printing.

Develop understanding of complex phenomena via modeling techniques

Students will learn to model interactions between individuals and how such models can be used to predict the outcomes of wide-scale interactions between people. For example, they will learn to model decision-making about climate change as a prisoner’s dilemma and explore what this means for our capacity to solve collective action problems.

Core philosophical and ethical reasoning skills

Students will learn how to construct valid arguments, how to reason inductively or probabilistically, and how to evaluate arguments based on these reasoning types.

Complete a hands-on projects

During the week students will create a letterpress-printed and bound book of memes drawn from their own Twitter bot creations.

Want to learn more?

Program Tuition

The program tuition is $5,895.

About Northeastern University

Northeastern is a top ranking experiential research university that prides itself on academic rigor, a diverse and talented population of students and faculty, and a powerful learning model that combines the classroom experience with hands-on work experience.

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