Questioning data and its discontents


Utrecht Data School is moving from a one term track to a two term track, offering two consecutive courses in data-analysis and visualisation. As in previous editions, the newly designed two-term track cooperates intensively with external partners from public administration, corporations and NGO's. Students learn to use data-driven methods through conducting applied research projects with the Utrecht Data School partners.


Utrecht Data School offers a newly designed track on data analysis and visualisation. The Practicum Utrecht Data School is divided in two teaching terms. Practicum I will provide a basic training in data collection and analysis. “We encourage students from all disciplines to join the Data School”, says Thomas Boeschoten, the co-founder and course instructor. Interdisciplinarity is key as (big) data practices emerge all over the humanities and also affect the sciences. Practicum I is designed for beginners and Practicum II requires a solid experience in data analysis and visualisation or a successfully concluded Practicum I.
Students learn about novel tools for scraping, analysing and visualising data. As in earlier editions of the Utrecht Data School, Practicum I and Practicum II rely on the close cooperation with external partners from public administrations, corporations or NGO’s. Students develop a research plan for a project that will be carried out during Practicum II. In Practicum II students work in small teams and in close cooperation with the external partner on a specific case. They apply and expand their skills in working with data. Simultaneously, students develop a deep understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls of data-driven practices in a professional environment. This knowledge is currently needed on the job market. Utrecht Data School therefore does not only provide the basic training and experience that is required for prosperous carreers but bring students also in touch with potential future employers.
“Instead of pushing our ambitious workload into one single teaching term, we now have more time to focus on basic training first and in-depth data analysis later” explains Thomas Boeschoten the transition to the new model. The external partners seem to value the expanded model as it allows for a more thorough investigation of the specific cases. “As the collaborations proved to be very productive, many partners would sign up for a following project anyway. The new model provides more space to carry out a research project and if needed take extra time for it”, explains Mirko Tobias Schäfer, principal investigator at the Utrecht Data School.
The Utrecht Data School is placed as a teaching and research platform at the Department for Media and Culture. Right from the start in 2013 it cooperated with external partners, which provides the unique opportunity for students to experience the emerging of data practices and their impact of organisations and society. For the partners, the Utrecht Data School is an interesting place to scout for talent and to witness creative, out-of-the-box approaches to making sense of data. This model is quite unique, and essential to Utrecht University’s aim to prepare students for their professional career and to transmit academic knowledge to other areas in the knowledge economy.
To register for Practicum Utrecht Data School you need to sign-up through Osiris and fill in a form on the UDS website: http://www.dataschool.nl/aanmelden/.
Image credit: Annemarie Sint Jago