Exploring Culture through Data: Digital methods & Data practices

Course code
Student fee
Course fee (excl. housing)
Course Level
Advanced Bachelor

The accelerating datafication of society constitutes challenges and opportunities for humanities research.

This course will acquaint you with (methodological) fundamentals of data practices in the Digital humanities. These will include data collection, data preparation, data visualisation, critical data and algorithm studies, network analysis, and an introduction to programming in Python. Besides training these skills, you will work in small teams on a hands-on case. To top it off, guest speakers from several fields will share their experiences with data practices.

The Utrecht Data School is a University platform for teaching data analysis and digital methods, for the exploration of datafication through (applied) research projects in cooperation with societal partners.

As our world gets increasingly connected and mediatised, input and expertise from the humanities and social science becomes essential to understanding the dynamics, ethics and pragmatics of a datafied society (José van Dijck, 2017).

Datafication of culture

Culture is datafied at a terrifying pace. Not only are cultural artefacts digitised, social interaction online is automatically recorded and commodified. Everyday activities, movements, transactions, communications and environmental properties are stored either through (applications on) mobile phones, or the countless sensors, camera's and other measurement devices spread out over the public spaces. Aside from the profound impact these data repositories have for society at large, they also constitute challenges and opportunities for research in the humanities. The need to occupy ourselves with data practices is twofold: 1) 'big data' affect society at large and the more it transforms the social and cultural domain, the more humanities scholars are needed to put their distinct expertise to use in describing, analysing and conceptualising the datafied society. 2) the data and analysis tools change research agenda's as they can be used for analysing culture.

Studying culture through data

In this online course, you get acquainted with some of the (methodological) fundamentals of data practices in the Digital humanities. You learn how to apply data analysis for research and how to review and inquire the data practices and tools. The days will be filled with tutorials and workshops in order to acquire methods and tools. These will include data collection, data preparation, data visualisation, critical data and algorithm studies, network analysis, and an introduction to code with Python. The online programme also includes lectures, student-presentations, and various social activities.

Utrecht Data School

Utrecht Data School is a platform for teaching data analysis and digital methods, and for exploring datafication through (applied) research projects in cooperation with our external partners. Founded in 2013, the Utrecht Data School provides interdisciplinary courses on BA and MA level and develops teaching formats and trainings for practitioners and students groups from various disciplines. Driven by our research interest into datafication and how it affects citizenship, participation in deliberative processes, the public sphere and cultural production, we conduct our research within the societal domains of public management, (public) media and the public space. Using our own practice of entrepreneurial scholarship, we develop services and products that are useful for partners within said domains.

Check our website for more information.

Course director
Dr. Mirko Tobias Schäfer

Target audience

This course is aimed at participants from a wide range of disciplines (e.g. media and culture studies, anthropology, sociology, journalism, public administration, philosophy, and others), with no prior skills in data methods, but a strong willingness to learn.

Aim of the course

A basic understanding in digital methods and data analysis. An overview of current data practices and tools used in various fields of the humanities to carry out research. An understanding for the epistemic impact of data practices and data analysis tools. The ability to apply this knowledge for carrying out a small research project.

Study load

The summer school will be a full work week (40 hours). Before the start of the summer school, participants have to read three articles and send in a small profile of themselves (around 150 words) for a digital introductory booklet.


Course fee:
Student fee:
Student fee
Fee covers
Course + course materials
Housing fee:
Housing cost
Housing provider:
Utrecht Summer School
Extra information about the fee

REDUCED FEE: 400 EUR for students accepted in the pre-MA New Media & Digital Culture at the Utrecht University / 500 EUR for other UU students. Please include in your short motivation if you are a student / if you are entitled to the reduced fee.

More information

Utrecht Data School | Department for Media and Culture Studies | Utrecht University
Address: Drift 13, 3512 BR, Utrecht
E: summer@dataschool.nl | website: www.dataschool.nl


Application deadline: 
Registration deadline
30 June 2021