MA Digital & Public Humanities

Postgraduate, Full-time

Digital & Public Humanities MA

Study literature, film and culture, and learn about the theory and practice of digital media and arts in the community


This innovative course in vibrant, cosmopolitan Edinburgh allows you to combine academic study with specialised learning about digital and public humanities. 

You’ll practice digital research, community engagement and have the opportunity to pursue a placement with partners in the cultural sector, to gain knowledge of and experience in public-facing scholarship in the humanities. 

You’ll benefit from the research expertise of an enthusiastic teaching team and our practical experience in working with a range of external organisations, from UNESCO City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh International Book Festival to our award-winning partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and Fife College

You’ll engage with theoretical debates at the forefront of the two exciting new fields of digital and public humanities alongside practice-based learning about digital media and tools for humanities research. You’ll consider the interface between theoretical debates on community, culture, media, identity and audiences, and practical examples of community engagement in academia, cultural organisations and the third sector. This course allows you to tailor your programme of study to your individual preferences, from a focus on textual analysis to more digital content and practical applications.

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Mode of Study:

Full-time (available as part-time)


1 year

Start date:




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Course details

This course unites academic skills that employers value, such as research, critical thinking, writing and communication skills, with practical skills for the digital economy and creative industries. While the course seeks to enhance your employability, its ethos is also characterised by a strong commitment to raising awareness about social justice and social inequalities, including questions of access to the arts and education, and the impact of and potential solutions to the digital divide. 

A compulsory core module in Digital Humanities will develop your knowledge of various methods and approaches to practicing humanities research with digital tools, including online content production, digitisation, online curation, the usage and ethics of big data. 

The compulsory Public Humanities core module will introduce you to the different ‘publics’ cultural organisations engage with, and the theory and practice of outreach, access, advocacy, identity and cultural representation. 

A compulsory Research Methods module complements these areas with advanced training in generic humanities research and presentation skills. You'll benefit from a range of optional modules in related areas, including Design, Computing and Tourism, alongside literary and cultural studies.   

You’ll learn about theory, practices, and debates at the forefront of the Digital and Public Humanities, including a range of subjects from:
  • Intersections between literary and cultural studies and computing
  • Theories of the ‘public’ and communities, as they intersect with literary and cultural scholarship
  • Representations of technology and society in cultural texts, and genre formation in the digital age
  • Engaging the public with research through practices ranging from exhibition design to cultural heritage development
  • Community media practice

A work placement option, as well as module choices in related disciplines including Computing, Design, Film and Media, and Tourism, allow you to put learning from core modules into practice.

A dissertation or major project enables you to synthesise learning from taught modules and undertake substantial independent research in a topic that interests you. By the end of the course you’ll be able to engage in critical theoretical debates around digital culture and public-facing scholarship, and you’ll have gained practical skills for engaging the public with the arts, culture and research through both digital media and community outreach. You’ll also be prepared to undertake PhD study if you wish to continue your research.


Compulsory modules include: 
  • Introduction to Digital Humanities: Theories, Practices and Debates 
  • Interdisciplinary Humanities Research: Methods and Skills 
  • Introduction to Public Humanities: Theories, Debates and Engagement  
  • Mediating Culture: Self, Technology and Society
Options* include:
  • Contemporary Genres: Culture in the Digital Age
  • Web Design and Development
  • Making as Thinking
  • Moving Image Design
  • Interactive Media
  • Tourism, Society and Visual Culture
  • Work Placement

*Please note that not all options will be available every year, dependent on staff expertise and availability, and timetabling.

Student Testimonials

"This course has been really helpful in developing my knowledge and skills in a relatively new area of scholarship. The concepts and theories I've learned about and research skills I've developed have enabled me to apply these to my full-time role in digital outreach. I now feel well-equipped to lead on digital projects and contribute to my organisation's digital and public outreach strategies."
-Alice H

"We live in a time of rapid change that is largely aided by technological development so an MA in the Digital and Public Humanities could not be better timed. This course has made me consider the ways technology has impacted industries such as tourism, publishing, and film making. This course has taught me to be critical of the use of certain technologies but never fearful and if I were I to go into the creative industries now I would feel capable of making innovative and informed contributions. Highlights of this course for me have been studying emerging genres such as Instagram poetry and YouTube videos as well as putting on a public engagement event. Through this course, I have honed my critical eye, gained invaluable industry knowledge and developed skills in planning events and engaging with the public."
-Joanna S

  • calendar How you’ll be taught

    This is a full-time course studied over one year. You’ll learn by a variety of teaching methods including seminars, workshops, site visits, project work, collaborative work and independent research. On the work placement option and the dissertation/major project, you will work independently with the guidance and supervision of a member of staff.

    Programme Leader

    Dr Tara Thomson

  • note and pen Assessments

    Your knowledge and understanding will be assessed using a combination of methods such as essays and oral presentations, and a dissertation or equivalent major project. Some modules give you a choice between assessment options to reflect your own focus and research interests; such options may include oral history projects, portfolios, digital text analysis or geospatial analysis, blogs and video essays, alongside more traditional essay assignments.

  • briefcase Work placement

    The course includes an optional work placement module, which will enable you to understand the foundations for successful employability and to consider how working or volunteering can provide an environment for learning. Through an 80-hour work placement and a written critical assessment, you'll examine the interrelationships between the world of work or volunteering and your educational experience. We will support you in identifying a suitable placement, which may be with one of our existing partner organisations in the local cultural or third sector.

  • library Facilities

    Our students have access to facilities and libraries at three campuses, including the course base at Merchiston campus with up to 24/7 access to the Jack Kilby Computing Centre during term times.


Modules that you will study* as part of this course

Cities Real and Imagined ( CLP11148 )

On this module you will explore the idea that cities are more than mere physical places: instead, as some critics have said, cities ’are feats of the imagination and they affect the ability to imagine’. This module takes both contentions seriously, grappling with a diverse array of literary and cultural representations of urban space. Given that more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, the study of urban representation is more relevant than ever. Throughout this module, we will engage with theoretical concepts from cultural geography and urban studies to ask how literature, film and culture imagine the city and what unpalatable cruelties or empowering possibilities they discern in urban space. Indicative topics include: Urban representation and imagining the city; the sensory geography of urban space; gendered urban experience; urban space and social exclusion; dystopian urban fictions; and psychogeographies.

Studying a wide range of works about cities will build a critical understanding of the different ways authors and filmmakers have responded to urban geography. The city has always been pivotal to literary and cultural developments, particularly since the nineteenth century rise of urbanisation, and on this module we will scrutinise how literary and cinematic depictions of the city and the city-dweller have changed over time. We will begin the module by looking at nineteenth-century classics such as Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Man of the Crowd’ and Charles Baudelaire’s famous poetry of nineteenth century Paris (in translation). We will then read influential modernist gems like Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, followed by postmodern and contemporary depictions of urban space, like Paul Auster’s City of Glass, the works of Joan Didion, and films like La Haine (dir. by Matthieu Kassovitz) and Akira (dir. by Katsuhiro Otomo). Simultaneously, we will examine how changes in urban geography underpinned and enabled particular cultural tropes and movements, notably twentieth-century modernism and postmodernism, and how more contemporary works attempt to critically revise historical representations of the city and urban experience. Throughout the module, we will put our city fictions in dialogue with interdisciplinary readings analysing the city as an arena for economic, political and social action.

Further information

Community Media ( LMD11100 )

In this module you will develop a critical and practical knowledge of the range of contexts and forms of community media practice. This includes participatory and collaborative practice, alternative, radical and citizen’s media, local television and indigenous media. You will research Scottish and international examples of community media production, critically analysing broader political, social, economic and creative contexts. The module will expand your experience of media production encouraging close collaboration with communities and organisations and media producers working with communities.

In groups/pairs or, depending on technical ability, individually, you will work on a collaborative or participatory community based production. You will plan, manage and produce a piece of community-based media that reflects your engagement with participatory production practices. You will devise the production with members of a community and implement an appropriate strategy for distribution and exhibition. You will reflect on the alternative processes of production and distribution, the impact of the work and situate these within contemporary local and international media production contexts. You will produce a Critical Reflective Report based on a blog or production diary, and informed by a theoretical aspect of community media production. This might include questions of practice, distribution, audience, technology or content. The report will demonstrate critical thinking, informed engagement with the field of community media production through research and practice, and the development of your technical and creative skills as well as other transferrable skills developed while working with communities.

Further information

Contemporary Genres: Culture in the Digital Age ( CLP11142 )

This module seeks to examine genre in the digital age in three ways or senses. Firstly, we will start by considering the ways that more conventional literary and cultural narratives have dramatized or represented the digital revolution or age of the internet. Secondly, we will look at narratives that have been disseminated digitally and which use digital technology like mobile apps or GPS systems. Finally we will look at genres across a range of forms, including game narratives, web series, digital music and its micro-genres, as well as collaborative fiction that uses the internet to tell / build stories collaboratively or interactively. By doing this we will both map out new genre categories but also look at the way the digital revolution might invite us to challenge the confines and hierarchies of genre.

Further information

Crime in Text and Film ( CLP11145 )

Crime, its causes and possible remedies have preoccupied commentators from all classes and backgrounds throughout history. This module introduces you to representations of crime, punishment and the convicted from the nineteenth century onwards—in a range of literary texts and other media—giving you an opportunity to explore changing definitions of criminality. Whilst the module asks you to think about depictions of crime and punishment within their specific cultural-historical context, you are also encouraged to consider differences and continuities in the ‘criminal imagination’ between different historical periods. The module aims to provide you with the ability to critically analyse and compare representations of people who commit crimes in literature, the media, film and TV and to examine the relationship between these representations and wider social concerns. By using a range of media, including online resources, the module offers you the opportunity to engage with a variety of cultural products and to develop a number of advanced research and transferable skills.

Beginning with the nineteenth century, you will read popular execution broadsides that were sold to the crowds at public executions, comparing and contrasting such early cultural representations of the death penalty with contemporary writings from death row in the American context. You will also study murder poems by canonical Victorian writers like Robert Browning and consider how such texts engaged with emerging theories of criminal psychology. In these writings from the nineteenth century and moving on to the contemporary period, you will be encouraged to consider how representations of criminality intersect with ideas about deviance from dominant class, racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identities. The module offers you an opportunity to engage with a range of genres, from poetry, street literature and historical fiction to film and TV series (such as Orange is the New Black). Brief overviews of contemporary debates on prison education and US mass incarceration will complement our textual work to broaden your perspective and encourage interdisciplinary engagement with sociological and criminological debates in this area.

Throughout the module, you will also be asked to think about the importance of self-representation as a response to debates about law-breakers, and you will therefore look at a number of textual spaces where the voices of so-called delinquents themselves emerge. The weekly lectures will provide an introduction and set the context for group and individual work. Interactive exercises will focus on close reading and analysis of the assigned material. You will also be asked to engage with recent scholarly and wider public debates on the material in question.

Further information

Design Dialogues ( IMD11112 )

Design dialogues will cover the practical methods involved in gathering user requirements with respect to a wide range of interactive applications for work, the web and the home and designing to meet those requirements. The methods will include techniques such as interviews, observation, modelling of existing practice, participatory design techniques and user and expert based techniques for evaluating system usability.

Further information

Dissertation or Major Project ( CLP11143 )

The dissertation or major project is the culmination of the Master’s programme and will draw on your learning over the course of the programme. The dissertation or project is studied independently with the guidance of a supervisor and is a chance for you to pursue and develop academic research in an area of particular interest within the Digital and/or Public Humanities. You will design your own research questions, and will be able to choose one of two options: 1) a conventional Humanities-style written dissertation, or 2) a major project including a digital or public engagement project element, alongside a written dissertation that draws on relevant research to complement and critically reflect on the project element.

The dissertation requires you to put into practice a range of skills developed over the course of the programme, such as: research project design and management; searching, critically appraising, and synthesising knowledge from relevant academic literature; applying theoretical and practical frameworks; independent critical analysis; creative engagement with forefront debates in the field; and research writing and dissemination.

Further information

Exhibition Design ( DES11129 )

Studio-based design projects form the core of the module. You are required to critically explore design proposals in response to project briefs that deal with the exhibition and display of objects and/or narrative. In developing design proposals you are required to undertake thematic, contextual and material research and to illustrate how your design solutions provide for enhanced user experience and interaction in a defined exhibition environment.

Further information

Fictions of Terror: From Dynamite Violence to Media Spectacle ( CLP11141 )

On the Fictions of Terror module, you will engage with the way literature and culture has responded to one of the most inflammatory and divisive global phemonena: terrorism. We will work through a diverse range of texts and contexts beginning with Joseph Conrad’s account of a London bomb plot in The Secret Agent (1907) – which includes the first literary ‘suicide bomber’ and concluding more than 100 years later with contemporary texts such as Hany Abu-Assad’s cinematic exploration of suicide violence, Paradise Now (2005) and Amy Waldman’s 9/11 novel The Submission (2013). Despite this diversity, the texts on the syllabus invite us to make connections between the ways they have dealt with terror within different contexts. The module will include novels, poetry, films and a television series as primary texts giving you the chance to compare form and style across different media. Additionally you will engage with key theoretical writing and criticism on terrorism, trauma and contemporary geopolitics. Each week you will learn about a new text and context. However, the overarching trajectory of the module will broadly trace a narrative of globalization and we will discuss and debate the way terrorism has characterised an increasingly global society.

Further information

Interdisciplinary Humanities Research: Methods and Skills ( CLP11146 )

The module comprises a programme of lectures and workshops. The programme will develop your research skills in a number of areas including skills, such as communicating with different audiences, using sources, archives and data; frameworks, such as integrating theory into your project, ethics and (auto-)ethnography, knowledge production; and bringing your project together, including situating yourself within the academic field, project management techniques and sample case studies of successful projects. Summative work will focus on referencing skills and critical engagement with sources for research in the form of an annotated bibliography and critical review of selected sources.

Further information

Interpretative Design ( DES11131 )

Studio-based design projects form the core of the module. You are required to critically explore design proposals in response to project briefs that deal with narratives in the presentation of objects, spaces and experiences. In developing design proposals, you will be required to undertake thematic, contextual and material research and to illustrate how your design solutions provide for enhanced user experience and interaction in a defined environment.

Further information

Introduction to Digital Humanities: Theories, Practices and Debates ( CLP11140 )

This module will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the exciting field of Digital Humanities, which explores the various intersections between literary and cultural studies, digital media and computing technologies. Digital Humanities (DH) is both a theoretical and methodological field: some DH work is about applying computing methodologies to literary and cultural research, to enable new insights into existing questions for literary studies; the theoretical strands of DH critically examine digital discourses and platforms – including code, interactive text, and social media, among others – from a Humanities perspective. DH critically examines the impact of digital technologies on literature, arts, and culture, with an awareness of both the continuities and discontinuities in reading practices across history, ‘from Codex to Hypertext’.

The module is organised around three topic headings: theories, practices and debates. On the theory portion of the module you will explore critical theories of textuality, reading, and communication in the context of ‘new media’ and information technologies, as well as the production, distribution and consumption of literature, culture, and scholarship in the digital age. You will read key works of cultural and media studies foundational to the field of Digital Humanities, such as Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage and Bolter and Grusin’s work on media and ‘remediation’, alongside contemporary theories in posthumanism, technology and discourse, such as N. Katherine Hayles’ How we Became Posthuman and Jerome McGann’s ‘Rethinking Textuality’. Armed with this theoretical framework, you will then explore some of the key practices and methodologies that underpin digital humanities research, including distant reading, data visualization for literary studies, and archival research and digitization. The module then explores debates at the forefront of the field, focused on access and accessibility, cultural representation, equality and the digital divide, and the ways that reading communities are constructed and interpellated via digital media, literature, culture and scholarship.

Further information

Introduction to Public Humanities: Theories, Debates and Engagement ( CLP11139 )

This module will provide you with an introduction to the exciting interdisciplinary field of Public Humanities, which explores the various intersections between academic study in the humanities, cultural organisations and the wider community. This module is not simply a ‘how to’ guide on community engagement but also invites you to critically reflect on key concepts such as the public sphere, community, and the politics and ethics of public engagement. The module’s aims are thus theoretical, practical and methodological, equipping you with knowledge of some key debates in the public humanities as well as practical ideas for implementation.

The module is organized in three interrelated parts, beginning with the theorization and definition of key concepts such as the public, public humanities, public intellectuals and community. You will consider classic social theory such as Jürgen Habermas’ writings on the public sphere, and critiques of it, and Paolo Freire’s influential work on education and democracy alongside more recent research on participatory culture, citizenship and social justice, with a particular focus on the role of arts, literature and literacy in the community. In the module’s second part, you will begin to consider some practical examples of literature and the arts in the community, from book clubs, reading groups and reading charities to festivals. You will also study the political uses of the arts and humanities in relation to activism and advocacy and cultures of self-determination. The module’s third and final part will be focused around tourism, cultural heritage and practices of commemoration. You will engage with recent research on the aesthetics, politics and ethics of exhibition design and institutional knowledge production in a museum context before moving on to critical reflections on literary tourism and dark tourism. The module concludes with a discussion of the theory and practice of commemoration with a focus on the construction of collective memories in relation to war, terror and trauma in the community.

Weekly sessions will feature specific examples from local and global contexts, underpinned by discussion of theoretical readings on key questions.

Further information

Mediating Culture: Texts, Technology and Society ( CLP11147 )

This module is concerned with ways in which the technological and the society are entangled, and how these entanglements are represented in cultural texts. You will study a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century texts and artefacts that lie at intersections of technology with the social world. You will examine these in the context of debates and issues around the development, production, consumption, representation and ethics of technologies and their uses historically and in the contemporary moment.

The module examines imaginaries of future technologies in written, screen, and artistic texts, and in public-facing and digital contexts such as galleries, exhibitions, and online spaces, including at least one guided site visit. You will consider the role of the humanities (including through the genre of science fiction) in predicting and thinking through the social implications of technological developments. You will consider ways in which meanings and successes or failures of technologies (such as technologies of music production, personal lifestyle, or modern urban culture) are socially shaped rather than inherent. You will explore how representations of technologies engage with topical issues, controversies, and debates such as, for example, those around the environment, biotechnology, the information age, or AI.

The module begins with H. G. Wells, whose fictional and speculative work imagining the mutual developments of technology and society laid important foundations in the early twentieth century. Thereafter, you will zoom in on a selection of texts from writers, musicians, artists, and theorists including Eduardo Paolozzi, Christine Brooke-Rose, Donna Haraway, and David Mitchell, as well as analysing how certain public, urban or online spaces exhibit social-technological entanglements.

Further information

Tourism, Society and Visual Culture ( TSM11109 )

This module will involve the study of many complex issues within tourism studies including:
- the history of tourism and its visual culture;
- representations of places and cultures in popular tourist materials and other popular media;
- film induced tourism;
- art and tourism;
- tourist experiences: visual consumption, the tourist gaze and photography;
- impacts of contemporary tourism and its visual culture on societies, cultures and the industry.

Further information

Web Design & Development ( SET11112 )

Current ideas on web page design; Document Object Model (DOM); Document Type Definitions (DTD); web page construction using appropriate IDE tools such as Eclipse; HTML coding; client and server side scripting; database connectivity using PHP & MySQL; Cascading Style Sheets

Further information

Work Placement ( CLP11144 )

Working or volunteering in an area relevant to your studies allows you to make a contribution to society and/or industry while enhancing your academic work with real life experiences valued by employers. This module is designed to enable you to understand the foundations for successful employability and to consider how working or volunteering can provide an environment for learning. Through your activities you will critically engage with other employees or volunteers and the wider community. You will examine the interrelationships between the world of work or volunteering and your educational experience.

By taking responsibility for yourself and your learning you will develop and demonstrate a wide range of personal and professional skills. There is an emphasis on recognising and demonstrating your learning and the transferable employability skills you have developed through the experience. You are also expected to relate this experience to the content of the course you are studying and reflect on the value of your prior learning. This module is delivered in Trimester 2, but it is essential that you identify and secure an appropriate work or volunteering experience in Trimester 1. Part-time students also have the option to take this module during Trimester 3.

There are two ways in which you can engage with this module.
You should select one approach.

a) You may already be working or volunteering in a role relevant to the MA and you may wish to use your ongoing employment (or volunteering) to complete the assessments for this module.

b) You may want to pursue a new work placement or volunteering opportunity once you have built up experience on the programme and decided where your interests lie.

The programme staff, in conjunction with employability staff at Edinburgh Napier, will offer support to you during your decision process and while sourcing an appropriate opportunity (although we cannot guarantee that we can source a placement for you). The work placement can be taken at any point during Trimester 2 (or Trimester 3 for part-time students) as negotiated with the employer/host organisation, and in line with the overall number of hours specified under 16. below.

Through engaging in a work placement or relevant voluntary work related to your course you will explore the concepts, debates, policies, initiatives, and funding related to the area in which you are working. You will undertake self-assessment and write personal learning outcomes to enhance your employability and confidence. Reflective and critical thinking will be a key part of your submissions.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.


Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

The entry requirement for this course is a Bachelor (Honours) Degree at 2:1 or above. We look for applicants to have a background in English Literature or a closely related Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences discipline such as Film, Philosophy, History, Media Culture, Cultural Studies, Literature (in languages other than English), Politics, or Sociology in order to be eligible for the programme.

English language

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English, or your undergraduate degree was taught and examined in English (within two years of starting your postgraduate course). Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
Entry requirements by country

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:
  • BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)
  • BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We’re committed to admitting students who have the potential to succeed and benefit from our programmes of study. 

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures, and how we use the information you provide us in your application to inform the decisions we make.

Undergraduate admissions policies
Postgraduate admissions policies

Fees & funding

The course fees you'll pay and the funding available to you will depend on a number of factors including your nationality, location, personal circumstances and the course you are studying. We also have a number of bursaries and scholarships available to our students.

Tuition fees
Students From 2020/21 2021/22
Home/EU £6,330 tba
Overseas £14,062 tba

Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual review and may increase from one year to the next.
For more information on this and other Tuition Fee matters please see Frequently Asked Questions about Fees

Click this link for Information of Bursaries and Scholarships

The University offers a 10% discount on MSc Postgraduate Taught Masters programmes to its alumni. The discount applies to all full-time, part-time and online programmes.

The University offers a 10% discount on MSc Postgraduate Taught Masters programmes to its alumni. The discount applies to all full-time, part-time and online programmes

Doctor Tara Thomson

Doctor Tara Thomson is the Programme Leader of this course. Her research interests fall generally into modernist studies, critical theory, women’s writing, urban studies and the Digital Humanities.


A range of professional and research roles in different sectors including:

  • cultural and literary heritage
  • museums and galleries
  • charities
  • publishing
  • web design
  • data analysis for arts and public sector organisations
  • outreach for cultural organisations
  • teaching
  • creative industries
The course will also equip you for further study at PhD level in related subject areas.