Program Requirements

The Digital Art History/Computational Media MA Program in Art, Art History & Visual Studies (AAHVS) is three or four semesters plus a summer, and starts in the Fall term. Students begin the program by taking the theory/practice Proseminar, and at least one other designated media production or computational practice course, along with additional seminars and electives that fit their thesis project themes. Students must be enrolled in a minium of 9 graduate units (usually 3 courses) per semester, except in their final semesters on campus. Four courses/12 units are often a reasonable load.  The Graduate School has special permission forms for auditing courses, enrolling in a course below the 500 level, taking a course overload, etc. Check their website for the latest info on rules and regulations. 

Updated for Fall 2018: Students may also petition to take advanced undergraduate course credits of Level 200-499, typically from the Sciences or Social Sciences curriculum to acquire the necessary competencies in areas such as Computer Science and Statistics. As of Fall 2018, these undergraduate courses do not count towards the GPA or the course credits required for Graduation. Students must fill out a permission form and get approval of both the DGS and the Graduate School's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. More info here.

Requirements: 10 Graduate Courses

  • Digital Art History/Computational Media Proseminars 1 and 2
  • One Practice-Based Course
  • Two Graduate Seminars
  • Two Lab Practicum Experiences (or additional Practice-focused courses at the grad level)
  • One Additional Elective
  • Two Thesis Credit Courses

Typical Program of Study

Year 1 Fall Year 1 Spring Year 1 Summer Year 2 Fall*+
  • MA Proseminar (580S)
  • Grad Seminar 1**
  • Grad Level Practice Course 1
  • Practicum Experience 1 (VMS/CMAC 796L) or elective
  • MA Proseminar 2 (581S)
  • Grad Seminar 2**
  • Practice Course 2
  • Practicum Experience 2 (VMS/CMAC 797L) or elective
  • Summer Research and Training
  • Additional Courses relevant to the program (rare)
  • Thesis Credit 1 (HCVIS 791 w/ advisor)
  • Thesis Credit 2 (HCVIS 792 w/ secondary advisor) 
  • Optional Additional course(s) or IS
  • Final Thesis Exhibition/Presentation
  • Year 2 Spring Continuation Only (Optional)


*Students who elect to take four semesters to complete the program should take at least 9 graduate credits (3 courses) in the Fall of the second year to remain in good academic standing. The final semester can then just be registered as Continuation.

**Grad Seminars may also include courses that are at the 700+ level and above w/o the S. Substitutions of topical 500-600 level courses are upon approval of the DGS.

MA Proseminar

The first semester MA Proseminar is a course required for both tracks of the the MA in Historical and Cultural Visualization. The course focuses on theories and practices of digital humanities and computational media studies as they relate to historical and cultural analysis and research. The course typically also includes interested graduate students from around campus as well.

Practice Course

Students in this MA track may take existing AAHVS and Information Science + Studies (ISS) courses in Digital Humanities Practice, Historical and Cultural Visualization, Interface Design, and/or Computational Media, along with subject-area and technical electives relevant to their research topics, to fulfill this requirement. In courses that have both an undergraduate and graduate number, take the graduate version if you want to receive credit.

Core Seminars

Core seminars are relevant seminars taught by faculty in AAHVS. Students are expected to participate in at least two graduate seminars with AAHVS faculty as part of their graduate experience. Often but not always these will be seminars taught by faculty Lab directors. See also Sample Courses and the current Art, Art History and Visual Studies course listings.

Subject Area Electives

Subject area electives will vary based on the the thesis interests of thesis interests of the students involved.  These may include a wide variety of topics inside and outside AAHVS. Often courses listed or cross-listed in Information Science + Studies will be relevant.  Students will selected these courses in consultation with their Faculty Advisor(s).

Lab Practicum Courses

The Lab Practicum experience is typically undertaken in a single Lab both semesters, though some students may benefit from contact with multiple labs. The Lab Director is either the thesis director or a core committee member, depending on the final research topic.

Students will also be expected to participate in relevant workshops offered by the various Labs and in the Libraries as recommended by their advisors, such as:

Labs Technical Areas Explored
Duke Art, Law and Markets (DALMI) Lab Database Design, Visual and Quantitative Data Analysis
Digital Archeology (Dig@Lab) 3D Modeling, Virtual Reality, Interactive Exhibitions
Emergence Lab Generative Art and Music, Interface Design, Haptics, Installation Art; Digital Architecture
ISS Lab and XR Lab Web Design, Mobile Applications, Augmented Reality, Virtual Worlds; 3D Printing
S-1 Lab Biosensors, Physical Computing, Speculative Interaction Design
Visualization and Interactive Systems Lab Data Mining, Network Analysis, Game Development
Wired! Lab for Digital Art History and Visual Culture 3D modeling, Photogrammetry, Digital Mapping, Museum Exhibitions
Digital Humanities (FHI and Libraries) Digital Publishing, Digital Archives, Text Analysis, Historical GIS, Social Media, Data Visualization
Affiliated Labs Individual faculty in other Campus Labs (FHI etc.) may be available to serve as mentors on projects


Summer Research

Students are expected to participate in independent summer research on their projects in pursuit of their degrees. In addition, summers can be an excellent time to develop technical skills further, as well as to participate in project-based internships and training on campus or in the community. Students may apply for summer research support with the Department.


The hybrid thesis is completed in the third semester (optionally continuing through a fourth), with research taking place over the summer preceding graduation. The thesis work will take place via two special independent studies with appropriate faculty members— one theory-oriented class where a written thesis will be developed; and one practice-based class where a digital humanities and or media art oriented project component will be developed with the Lab leader. While each student's project will differ in emphasis, with some more oriented towards historical and critical questions, and others oriented more towards exploration of computational media theories and practices, we do expect written and computational components from everyone's project. The thesis committee should also include one additional member selected from inside or outside our home department, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, on approval.

The program typically culminates in a Thesis Exhibition/Presentation at the end of the third or fourth semester. In special cases, students may petition to complete their degrees after a Fourth Semester, for which they will be required to pay continuation fees (but not full tuition). Students are expected to complete the program within two years.

For more information on Graduate School policies, check our their comprehensive website.