Humanizing Technology

A project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities


“Humanizing Technology,” is a new certificate program that provides humanities training targeted to early-career engineering undergraduate students at UC Santa Cruz. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities under their Humanities Initiatives at Hispanic-Serving Institutions program, the project brings humanistic methods and thinking to contemporary issues in technology and engineering. It is led by principal investigator Jasmine Alinder (Dean of Humanities) and co-principal investigators, Pranav Anand (Professor of Linguistics) and Laura Martin (Porter College Lecturer and Project Manager at The Humanities Institute).  

The Humanizing Technology Certificate Program (HTCP) encourages students to explore the impacts of new and existing technologies. At the same time, it helps students develop their critical thinking about social and cultural systems that inform these technologies, and provides them with tools for becoming socially responsible professionals. The HTCP offers engineering students a pathway to fulfill GE requirements with courses that have a direct relevance to their majors and career interests, and it gives students an opportunity to develop community and a sense of belonging in smaller learning environments. To earn the certificate, students are required to complete three out of five designated courses. These courses are all lower division classes with no prerequisites, and they do not need to be taken in a particular sequence.


The courses integrate humanities concerns and approaches with the biotechnological, computational, robotic, electronic, and data scientific technologies engineering students study and will develop in their careers after graduation. Overall, the certificate courses and program aim to give students a humanistic foundation for designing and implementing new technologies and to encourage a consistent awareness about the consequences of new and existing technologies as well as the historical, social, and political contexts of technological design and application, based on extensive case studies.

The courses were developed in an innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary framework, and were informed by stakeholder conversations with faculty, students, and staff in the Baskin School of Engineering. Partnering with The Humanities Institute and UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL), the Humanities Division convened an instructional community of faculty and graduate students to plan and devise the certificate courses. Kendra Dority, Associate Director of Graduate Programs at CITL, created and led the summer course design institute, and, along with CITL’s Founding Director, Jody Greene, facilitated the workshops. Together, they guided the instructional teams through an evidence-based design process to develop their course themes, syllabi, learning objectives, assignments, and assessments. 

The resulting courses are small and discussion-oriented, with assignments that encourage students to develop their own viewpoints on the sources and impacts of technological systems, and to convey those viewpoints clearly and confidently. Above all, the courses help students learn how to grapple with difficult questions that lack clear “right” answers.

The Humanizing Technology Certificate Program launches in Winter 2023, and the five proposed courses are as follows:

HUMN 15 Ethics and Technology
(Perspectives on Technology Gen Ed, offered Spring and Summer 2023)
This course explores ethical, social, and political issues raised by existing and emerging technologies.
Watch the video.

HUMN 25 Humans and Machines (Textual Analysis Gen Ed, offered Winter and Summer 2023)
This course explores the tension between humans and machines, between people and objects increasingly resembling them.
Watch the video.

HUMN 35 Language Technology (Cross-Cultural Analysis Gen Ed, offered Winter 2023)
This course provides a comparative, historical framing of the development of communication technologies and practices, considering a variety of cultures and societies across human history.
Watch the video.

HUMN 45 Race and Technology (Ethnicity and Race Gen Ed, offered Spring and Summer 2023)
This course examines how the construction of race connects with constructs in science and technology.
Watch the video.

HUMN 55 Technologies of Representation (Interpreting Arts and Media Gen Ed, offered Spring and Summer 2023)
Focusing on technologies of representation like photographs, selfies, and surveillance data, this course explores how viewers and makers derive meaning from images and how power operates in their creation and circulation.
Watch the video.

Affiliated Faculty
Pranav Anand, Linguistics
Ben Breen, History
Martin Devecka, Literature 
Kirsten Gruesz, Literature
Kate Jones, History
Matt O’Hara, History
Kyle Parry, History of Art and Visual Culture
Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, Feminist Studies/Critical Race & Ethnic Studies
Amanda Smith, Literature
Zac Zimmer, Literature

Affiliated Graduate Students
Debbie Duarte, Literature 
Caitlin-Anne Flaws, Literature
Dustin Gray, Philosophy
Mark Howard, Politics 
Marilia Kaisar, Film and Digital Media
Allison Nguyen, Psychology
LuLing Osofsky, History of Art and Visual Culture 
Mia Tempestt Boykin, Literature

Project Partners
Basking School of Engineering
Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning
The Humanities Institute
UCSC Online Education


 Thank you to our partners