Technology and the Liberal Arts

Technology and the Liberal Arts: Data Science and Digital Humanities report

Technology and the Liberal Arts: Science and Technology Studies report


Jeannie Albrecht, Dept. of Computer Science
Jon Bakija, Dept. of Economics
Phoebe Cohen, Dept. of Geosciences
Richard De Veaux, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
Laura D. Ephraim, Dept. of Political Science, Chair of Science and Technology Studies
Beth Fischer, Williams College Museum of Art
Barron Koralesky, Office for Information Technology
Tiku Majumder, Dept. of Physics
Laura Muller, Quantitative Skills Programs and Peer Tutoring
Jason J. Storm, Dept. of Religion
Chad Topaz, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
Chad Weinard, Williams College Museum of Art
Safa Zaki, Dept. of Psychology


We stand at a critical juncture in the history of the relationship between the liberal arts and technology. Few things are as urgent in our present moment as a greater understanding of the interconnections between science, technology, and society. These interconnections are at the heart of crucial issues from climate change to vaccination to medical ethics. One especially important area is a grand shift around the role of information itself. Many areas of modern society, including politics, the arts, health, science, and commerce, increasingly rely on the large quantities of data enabled by a revolution in computing over the past 30 years. The field needed to support the analysis of and critical thinking about such data is called data science. Data science, however, does not exist in a vacuum. During a time of unparalleled access to data and computational tools, it is crucial to communicate knowledge effectively, to be mindful of how knowledge is produced, and to be aware of the history, ethics, and social impact of digital work. The working group on data science, digital humanities scholarship, and science and technology studies will focus on strategies to:

  • Enable students and faculty members alike to understand the complex interactions between science, technology, and society.
  • Equip students, staff, and faculty across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences with digital and data-driven approaches
  • Enhance digital and data science approaches with domain knowledge and humanities-driven analysis
  • Address pressing contemporary challenges through the use and critique of digital and data-driven approaches
  • Facilitate the coherent, clear, and credible use of data and digital technology in scholarship and communication
  • Promote the ethical use of technology and data

This working group will consider the following questions:

  • How can Williams become a leader in the multidisciplinary study of the relationship between science, technology, and society?
  • How can we create a research environment that supports faculty and student work involving data science and digital scholarship?
  • What are the appropriate curricular structures to prepare students in these areas?
  • What can Williams learn from other institutions that have undertaken initiatives in data science and digital scholarship?
  • What resources are necessary to undertake new initiatives?
  • How will the college assess its level of success in the areas of data science and digital scholarship?