Education Programs: Humanities Connections

Period of Performance

5/1/2017 - 9/30/2020

Funding Totals

$64,670.00 (approved)
$44,805.44 (awarded)

Building a Humanities Minor: Construction and Critique in Digital Technology

FAIN: AK-255350-17

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY 12180-3590)
James W. Malazita (Project Director: October 2016 to May 2022)
Rebecca Rouse (Co Project Director: March 2017 to May 2022)

A two-year interdisciplinary faculty project to develop a four-course minor that integrates critical humanities analysis with applied computer science.

This proposal develops a new, 4-course minor titled "alt.code," to be housed in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The goal of the project is to develop a humanities curricula that leverages the techno-centric passions of both Humanities and STEM students in our Engineering-Centered Institution, while also providing those students with a critical lens to historicize, contextualize, and deconstruct the roles, values, and histories of digital technology.

Media Coverage

Can Higher Education Make Silicon Valley More Ethical? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Nell Gluckman
Publication: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Date: 3/14/2018
Abstract: Jim Malazita, an assistant professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, believes higher education has played a role. He thinks there’s something about how the STEM disciplines are taught — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — that discourages students from considering ethical questions as they learn the skills they need to work for big technology companies. But if colleges and universities are contributing to the problem, then they can also help fix it.

Epistemic Infrastructures, the Instrumental Turn & the Digital Humanities (Media Coverage)
Author(s): James Malazita
Publication: UC Irvine Donald Bren Lecture Series
Date: 4/9/2018
Abstract: Public talk describing findings from the funded activities at University of California Irvine

Associated Products

Infrastructures of abstraction: how computer science education produces anti-political subjects (Article)
Title: Infrastructures of abstraction: how computer science education produces anti-political subjects
Author: James Malazita
Author: Korryn Resetar
Abstract: Abstraction, defined in Computer Science (CS) as bracketing unnecessary information from diverse components within a system, serves as a central epistemological axis in CS disciplinary and pedagogical practices. Its impressions can be seen across curricula, syllabi, classroom structures, IT systems; and other dimensions of the epistemic infrastructure of CS. As we will argue in this essay, abstraction in CS serves as an epistemic, cultural, and ideological wall to integrated critical-technical education, rather than as a bridge. Further, this wall is disguised as a bridge: the common language used across CS and the Humanities gives the impression that abstraction can be leveraged as a boundary object, as a point of connection among conflicting or incommensurable epistemic cultures. Rather, computational knowledge practices leverage abstraction’s homographic-ness, epistemically structuring collaborative efforts in anti-political ways. To illustrate the impacts of abstraction, this essay will introduce ‘Critical CS1,’ a hybrid pedagogical approach to teaching Computer Science through feminist and critical race theory. However, other components of the epistemic infrastructures of Computer Science, from curricular structure, to IT systems, to classroom culture, to the epistemic practices of coding itself, resisted these intervention efforts, and reproduced marginalizing effects upon students within the course.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:,-Full%20Article&text=Abstraction%2C%20defined%20in%20Computer%2
Access Model: Subscription
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Digital Creativity
Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Critical Computer Science Educational Resources (Web Resource)
Title: Critical Computer Science Educational Resources
Author: James Malazita
Author: Naya Murdock
Abstract: Assignment frameworks, syllabi, guidelines, and Frequently Asked Questions about integrating questions of gender, race, and power into computer science undergraduate coursework.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:

Someone Else ’ s Story: An Ethical Approach to Interactive Narrative Design for Cultural Heritage (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Someone Else ’ s Story: An Ethical Approach to Interactive Narrative Design for Cultural Heritage
Author: Rebecca Rouse
Abstract: This paper outlines an approach to community based co-design of interactive narrative (IN) cultural heritage experiences, based on the author’s development of an advanced-level project course on the topic over the past six years. Several projects are discussed as case studies, including projects that address the history of Irish immigrants working as domestic laborers in Troy NY in the 1850s; urban renewal in Albany NY and Troy NY in the 1960s and 1970s; the Native American nations’ Iroquois Confederacy in present-day Cohoes NY; and the upstate New York history of Harriet Tubman, the legendary African American liberator of hundreds of enslaved people during the 1850s and 1860s. Issues highlighted include the ethics of telling other people’s stories in the IN medium, the myth of the designer as impartial facilitator, the power structures of different types of design processes, and complexities of large scale projects that incorporate emergent technology, contested histories, and a wide range of stakeholders and participants. Lessons learned are shared in the form of a set of guidelines to help shape design and development of interactive narrative projects in educational, museum, and heritage settings.
Date: 12/9/2019
Primary URL:
Conference Name: International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling