PhD Program Background

In May 2016 the Duke University Board of Trustees formally approved the creation of an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental PhD program in Computational Media, Arts & Cultures. The core partners in the new program are the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, the Program in Literature, the Information Science + Studies Graduate Certificate Program, and the Franklin Humanities Institute. The program is being supported in part by grants from the Mellon Foundation, following upon the successful Visual Studies Initiative at Duke and builds upon (and replaces) the Visual and Media Studies track within the Art History PhD in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies.

The CMAC PhD program — small, experimental, and interdisciplinary — focuses on the intersection of media arts and humanities, sciences, and technology, both in theory and in practice. At the core of the proposal is the computational revolution, and its implications for how we live, think, work, create, and communicate within and across various disciplines. Rather than being the purview of any one discipline, the study and creation of computational media is part of many. Critical engagement with the global, social and cultural impact of computational media is a central feature and value of the program, alongside media affordances and effects within existing and emerging fields.

The CMAC PhD is housed in the Smith Warehouse alongside the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies and the Information Science + Studies Program. Students are affiliated with the interdisciplinary arts and humanities media labs led by the CMAC program faculty. Current research lab emphases include digital archeology; emergent media arts; information science + studies; digital art history & visual culture; art, law and markets; digital humanities; media theory; and physical computing. The Franklin Humanities Institute Labs, as well as Bass Connections projects, also offer potential research and mentoring opportunities for students.

The collaborating units, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Literature, ISS, and FHI, will work jointly to organize admissions and advising. Core faculty will serve as thesis advisors and lab mentors, alternate teaching the proseminar, and offer seminars relevant to the program. Affiliated faculty come from a wide range of locations around campus, including the sciences, social science and engineering, and will work with students as committee members and potential co-advisors when appropriate. Additional faculty are welcome to sign on with the program as core or affiliated faculty.

The small cohort of dedicated PhD students this proposal creates are joined by seven existing PhD students in the Visual and Media Studies track of the Art History PhD, which was created as a bridge while this proposal was under development. The existing Information Science + Studies Graduate Certificate will be replaced by a CMAC Graduate Certificate, consolidating related efforts and resources. CMAC PhD students will find an extended cohort in the MA in Digital Art History/Computational Media, the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, and in PhD’s in Literature, Art History and other humanities disciplines who already participate in CMAC seminars and labs. They will also find a cohort amongst graduate students involved in the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Digital Humanities Initiative, its labs (including the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, and partner efforts with Bass Connections and the Information Initiative at Duke.

The full proposal document for the PhD is available here.


   NOTE:  The CMAC PhD program is not accepting applications for Fall 2023