Generally, the seminar group offered more questions than answers, but the list of problems which follows may help guide the thinking of the committee.
Should we have an MA in Digital Media?
The committee will need to answer subtler questions: if yes, WHY? Why should such a program exist HERE (what about our particular relationship to the field calls for such a program?) and how should it exist here (how will our institutional situation affect the program?)
What are the costs and benefits of making the MA a "track" in existing departments (English, Architecture, etc.)? or should it only exist as a stand-alone program? Is this a program which will cross schools (such as Biomedical Engineering or Engineering Physics)?
There was some discussion about staying "above" or "below" the SCHEV approval threshold. One option would be to start with a program within an existing department and work attract students and faculty. When the program is a working success, then we could move to create a separate department. However, the seminar group seemed decided that the need for new faculty, facilities, and research agendas precludes starting small. Now seems to be the time to campaign aggressively for a large-scale Digital Media program.
What should be the character and purpose of such a program?
One way to address this issue is to analyze the sorts of humanities computing projects which are already being undertaken at UVA. For example, lots of electronic editing, architecture/archaeology, and history work is being done. There is an absence here of computational linguistics (which seems NOT to be missed) and of work in music (which IS percieved as lacking).
Another way to address the question is to define a central research problem in Humanities Computing and work to attract faculty and students interested in it. The general consensus of the seminar is that this problem should be articulated in terms of "knowledge representation" -- that we are now confronted with new ways of understanding, creating, and teaching information. The structures of and modes of representing that information should be an object of study.
Clear statement of central research questions will go a long way toward legitimizing a Digital Media program and separating it from the "collegial service" model pervasive in Humanities Computing.
A possible objection to the program took the form of a question: Why is a program in humanities computing needed when no such need for one in Computing and Science is perceived? The central lesson of the long discussion which followed is this: avoid such questions in committee if you want to get any work done.
The group decided it was better to focus on practical issues such as students, projects, and aims of the program. The central concept that everyone DOES knowledge representation but that few actually STUDY it seemed most acceptable to the seminar. The heterogeneity of a program in Digital Media would be its greatest strength.
Staffing the program will be an issue. Will staffing problems argue more for a stand-alone department or for integrating the program into existing Universty structures?
The seminar feels strongly that (even if the program is offered as a "track" in present degrees) we should bring in new faculty and a new pool of graduate students. Graduate members of the seminar expressed concern with dependence on grad student labor for staffing the required programming classes.
The problem of resistance from existing departments may be ameliorated by working toward joint faculty appointments.
How long should this program be? Are we talking about a terminal MA or a point of entry into PhD programs?
The seminar feels that a terminal MA should take no longer than two years. If the degree is offered jointly with a traditional MA on the way to a UVA PhD in another department, then it may take as much as three years to complete requirements for both degrees. These requirements will have to be worked out with various departments and schools.
The seminar suggests that the committee plot out two scenarios in designing a curriculum: a terminal MA program and a course of study preliminary to a PhD.
Should the program be open to students enrolled in other schools, such as Engineering, Architecture, Law, and Business? The consensus is yes -- but the individual schools will have to decide the terms of study for their students.
What will be the core curriculum of the MA?
A strong programming component should be required early on. This must, as well as introducing students to various programming languages, be envisioned as a course in software design. (The committee may wish to examine Computer Science's early sequence: 101, 201, and 216.)
In addition to an EFFECTIVE programming course, students should be introduced to philology, textual studies, and bibliography as a model of a field with similar tools, methodologies, and skills.
Perhaps the best way to structure a two-year program would be to offer technical courses in the first year and reflective, theoretical courses in the second.
The research interests of faculty will drive elective courses. The committee must make some decisions about how faculty research projects will be incorporated into the curriculum.
Other elective courses should treat such topics as text-, image-, and time-based media, systems theory, library science, the ethics of information, and the history of technology.
Internships must be made a crucial part of the program, especially for terminal MAs. A final project should be required of all in the program. Collaboration should be strongly encouraged but groups must not be mandated, so as to allow students to work on projects beneficial to their future job prospects or dissertations.
The committee must address the facilities required for a Digital Media program.
Three sorts of computer labs are requested by the seminar:
The seminar realizes that space is at a premium at the University but feels that we should present our ideal facilities to the committee.
There was some discussion about whether the Digital Media facilities need to be near the primary resources students may work to digitize. It was ultimately decided that this was less important than being near the people and programs at the University engaged in similar work (IATH, VCDH, etc.). The facilities should not be far removed from Central Grounds, and a space in or near Alderman Library or the new Special Collections building would be ideal.