“If you master more technology, you have more imaginary space”

© 2021 Zijun Cui

© 2021 Zijun Cui

Zijun Cui is a first-year student in the Master of Science in Digital Humanities (DH Master) program, offered by the Digital Humanities Institute (DHI) in EPFL’s College of Humanities (CDH). As part of the DHI’s 'Student stories' series, Zijun describes her experience in the program, and what inspired her to enter this emerging and interdisciplinary field.

Originally from China, Zijun Cui studied information management and information system at the Wuhan University of Technology, before coming to EPFL to join the Digital Humanities (DH) Master program. She is now in her second semester of the program and is considering several different avenues of specialization for her future career. 

CDH DHI: Why did you choose the DH Master program at EPFL?

ZC: The main reason is because I am interested in the interdisciplinary combination of art and science. When I searched for graduate programs, I found that there were not many universities offering degrees in digital humanities, and many of the available programs focus on the humanities part. By comparison, I found that EPFL’s DH program has stricter technical requirements. The science and engineering atmosphere here ensures that the research is technically rigorous. And Switzerland is also a beautiful country!

CDH DHI: What first inspired you to study digital humanities?

ZC: My undergraduate major was not digital humanities, but I came into contact with the field through sentiment analysis in novels. I learned this method in one of my undergraduate courses on data analysis and modelling, where I applied it to The Great Gatsby (which is one of my favorite novels). The main analysis included giving the characters’ appearance timeline, marking the time nodes of key plots, and classifying sentiments in sentences. And in the end, my final results completely corresponded to my understanding of the novel. It made me realize that the application of computer technology is also of great significance to the study of literature and got me interested in the DH field. 

CDH DHI: What has your favorite course in the DH Master program been so far, and why?

ZC: I would say Computational Social Media, because the contents of this course are quite relevant to our daily lives. When doing the projects for this course, I found that the analysis of social platform data can provide many interesting insights. I like the process of extracting order or useful information from a larger amount of maybe seemingly disordered information, like texts and social media data, and I think the pace of the teaching was also well regulated.

CDH DHI: What would you like to do for the thesis and internship components of the DH Master?

ZC: Currently I am interested in the work of cultural institutions because the Cultural Data Sculpting course showed me that the work related to museum exhibitions can be very interesting. At the same time, I also think that data analysis is a promising career, and internet companies may be a good place for career development along those lines. 

CDH DHI: What are your future career plans at the moment?

ZC: My initial career path will be related to my internship. I am interested in working in the field. I hope I can enter internet companies, museums or libraries. I don’t know. Between working in a business setting and or a cultural institution, both options are interesting to me right now. 

CDH DHI: How do you describe digital humanities to your friends and family?

ZC: In a word I would say that it means applying computer technologies to the fields of humanities and social science. But to give more detail, I also list the specific directions it can take such as digital musicology, computational text research, user experience, etc.

CDH DHI: If you wanted future students to know one thing about digital humanities as a research field, what would it be?

ZC: There are many objectives and many projects. While doing these projects, it is important to consider the requirements of the inspirational technologies. To a large extent, these technical requirements determine the success of projects and whether they can proceed. I would recommend learning and understanding the technological side as much as possible. Because in that case you will be freer when designing your project. If you master more technology, you have more imaginary space.


Author: Madeleine Dungy