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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2022-2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Visual)

VISU2001: Digital Skills for Visual Culture Research

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop students' appreciation of the relationship between technology and different modes of aesthetic experience
  • To develop students' understanding of the specificities of digital technology and the digital revolution, and to bring them to reflect critically on both the 'therapeutic' and 'toxic' dimensions of this technology
  • To develop students' understanding of digital methods for visual culture research, and enable them to situate these methodologies within broader debates about the impact of the digital
  • To develop their technical skills in deploying digital methods alongside their appreciation of need for responsibility in the uses of technology
  • To develop their ability to design research projects that can be addressed by digital methods, and which might provide alternatives to currently dominant modes of recourse to the digital


  • The module will begin with a contextualised theoretical overview of what exactly is meant by 'the digital', and how digital technologies breaks with early forms of technical system
  • Early classes will focus on core concepts in digital technology (for instance, digital objects, metadata, algorithms) and their broader social import, including how they are involved in the creation of digital experience
  • Subsequent sessions will be more practical in orientation, focusing on training students in the use of digital techniques. Depending on the year and staff availability, these may include, but need not be limited to: digital filmmaking on a shoestring (the use of smartphones and free-to-access editing software to produce high-quality film); 3-D scanning and printing (eg., Structure from Motion (SFM) Photogrammetry, and creation, manipulation, and printing of 3D photorealistic digital scans of objects);eye-tracking software, employed to answer questions relating to viewers' interactions with art-work; web-based picture research and user experience
  • Throughout, development of technical and practical skills in these areas will go hand in hand with theoretical reflection on the uses of the digital, and awareness of the potential of digital methods to address research questions that cannot be answered without them.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module students should:
  • Have theoretical knowledge of both digital technology and its transformations of culture
  • Have practical skills in the use of digital tools for knowledge-creation, in areas that may include, by way of illustration, filmmaking; UI, games and website design; scanning, printing, eye-tracking applications; web-based picture research.
  • Understand the ways in which these applications can be used to address questions or problems in visual culture research.
  • Understand the potential for digital methods both to close down and open up new avenues of research and dissemination opportunities for visual culture researchers.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On completion of this module students will develop:
  • Theoretical skills in analysing the relationship between technology and experience;
  • Practical skills in various aspects of digital knowledge-creation.
  • The ability to formulate visual culture-related research projects that require effective use of digital methods.
  • The ability to apply digital methods to address specific problems or questions in visual culture research.
  • The ability to articulate the benefits and limitations of digital methods for visual culture research.
Key Skills:
  • Research project design
  • independent research
  • organisation
  • time management
  • team work

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The blended learning will develop both theoretical and practical knowledge of the relevant hardware and software, and allow discussion and development of research projects.
  • Assessment will be by means of three research projects, designed to immerse students in debates concerning the relationship between digital technology and society, before moving on to reflections on the relationship between theory and practice. The culminating submission will combine digital skills with a more theoretical reflection on digital culture. This will also ensure that the research focus of the programme as a whole is fully addressed: technical skills are deployed in the service of answering specific research questions, while also inviting students to reflect on the processes of digital experience and knowledge-creation.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture / Seminar / Practical 20 Weekly 1.5 hours 30
Preparation and Reasing 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Theoretically informed conceptualisation of a digital platform Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Project (individual) 1,000 words 100% Y
Component: Tools for digital heritage Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Project (individual) EITHER 1,250 words and wire frame website OR functional website and 750 words 100% Y
Component: Tools for digital ethnography Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Project (individual) 1,000 word design proposal plus annoted UI mock-up and moodboard 100% Y

Formative Assessment:

The skills-based and interactive nature of the module means that there will be a constant process of feedback, both at the level of skills development and at the level of research project design.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

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