Blog Post

Updated Master's in Knowledge and Networks: We're Evolving

We've used this site to post the evolving versions of our DRAFT and proposed Master's Degree in Knowledge and Networks, a hybrid of the traditional research and professional MA's, with a large footprint in communities and linking the knowledge of the university with the knowledge within community institutions, linking the networks within communities with the networks in universities (students, faculty, staff, alums, and on and on).  Duke University asked Cathy Davidson and HASTAC to come up with the most inventive, experimental, relevant, and urgent way to redefine deep and practical (not contradictory but necessary) forms of education for a digital age.  We've kept the process public and are constantly receiving excellent feedback that helps us shape the program.  We're practicing what we're preaching and, thanks to a fantastic network, we're evolving. 


In the new year, we will continue to take this program through the official approval process at Duke--we'd love your ideas as we negotiate all the relevant committees.  We expect the program will change as it goes forward but also know that over fifty faculty members have signed on as supporters, advisors, teachers, and mentors, in fields from public policy and journalism to genomics and media arts.   It's inspiring and exhilirating.  Almost daily, we find ourselves in conversation with others around the world who are inspired by these ideas, who inspire us with their ideas, and who want to collaborate.


(As always, apologies for the wonky punctuation and formatting that happens when interfacing a Word document with our Drupal site . . .)


DRAFT  December 22, 2010


Masters Degree in Knowledge Networks


Duke University



 Less than two decades into the digital age, we are at the dawn of vast new distributed ways of interacting, communicating, and working together worldwide. The Masters Degree in Knowledge and Networks (MKN) is the first program of its kind at any research university to radically reconceive the fundamentals of how and what we need to know to take advantage of the potential new ways of living, working, and learning together offered by our era.  This is a transformed re-professional education--a hybrid of the traditional research and professional masters degrees--designed for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.


Graduates of the Masters in Knowledge and Networks will be leaders in a world were just beginning to understand.  They will be known for their profound research-based knowledge, their excellent and dependable network, their hands on knowledge of new technologies, and their experience at using these to recognize and solve problems before they become crises.   If I am a local business and see twenty percent of my sales go to, what can I do and to whom do I turn? If I am a local after school program or a library or a museum, what do I need to change to reach the kids of today? If I am a multinational pharmaceutical corporation and my teams are distributed between RTP, London, and Bangalore, should I hire the best financial analyst available--or the best financial analyst with cross-cultural awareness, some language skills, and an ability to translate key practices across different cultural norms? MKN students wont have all the answers to these questions but they will know what and how to ask and which of their networks to mobilize to begin to answer them. 


We envision the Masters in Knowledge and Networks will bring together a cohort of fifteen to twenty radically diverse students for two years of intensive, collaborative study.  We anticipate that some students will be new graduates, some experienced professionals returning to school to understand the changing ecologies of work and community.  Some will be humanists, artists, or social scientists who already have some technology abilities but who have not integrated their range of knowledge and talents into a future career path.  Others will be programmers, web designers, engineers, computer scientists, or natural scientists who seek a deeper knowledge of the meaning and nature of historical change while also seeking guidance in applying specialized expertise in real world situations. Others will be executives or managers in any fieldhealth care, law, financial planning, teaching, cultural agencies, government, community relations, environmental policy, etc.wishing better tools to help with challenges they are confronting.  The Masters Degree in Knowledge and Networks combines theory and practice, depth and breadth, expertise and peer learning-by-doing.  It is designed for anyone interested in forging new ways of working, living, and learning the future together.



Key Features of the Masters in Knowledge and Networks


  • New Media Immersion Workshop

A preliminary intensive technology skill-building and assessment workshop where students and advisors co-create an individualized plan for developing students programming, data mining, and/or social networking skills over the course of the MKN.


  • Four Required Courses

o   Twenty-first Century Literacies (3 units)

An interactive, case-study based survey of fundamental skills and practices necessary for success in the interactive twenty-first century (from attention to ethics, from design to collaboration, from creativity to community--and all the ways those are combined in the iterative, collaborative new world of information).


o   History and Future of (Multimedia) Reading, Writing and Communication: Methods (3 units)

This course uses a traditional History of the Book interdisciplinary methodology for understanding how changing media and communications technologies rearrange social institutions (from schools to the industrial workplace), whether in the eighteenth century or the twenty-first.


o   Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age (3 units)

Five eminent experts lecture on a key concept changed by the Internet: a genomic scientist might discuss the gene as information or an intellectual property lawyer open source. Students work in project teams to research the concept thoroughly and then build an interactive online course unit on that topic, to be evaluated by the expert and judged by and available to the public.


o   Assessment and Data-Mining for a Digital Age (3 units)
This course teaches students new modes of data mining and new assessment methods and metrics derived from those practices.  Using examples of these datasets, such as Ngram, Google's searchable text dataset from over 5 million published books or new multimedia sources, students will discuss, develop and practice strategies to access, measure, interpret and assess the vast information available on the web.


  • Elective Courses (12 units of elective courses; 4 courses)

Elective courses will be selected in consultation with the MKN advisor to develop a students portfolio. Courses may include traditional humanities offerings as well as courses in the social sciences, computational and engineering courses, arts, visual studies, documentary arts, ISIS, economics, law, business, environmental, and public policy courses. 


  •    Residency + Proseminar + Masters Thesis: (12 units) 


o   Residency (students choose from one of two tracks)

o   Option A: Community-Based Residency
A year-long Practicum with students working in small collaborative groups (two to four) spend a year in residency with a hosting local business, learning, civic, or community organization to identify a project area of high relevance or even urgency to the sponsoring agency. The MKN team will work to develop and implement sustainable technology, communications, and business plans relevant to the problem identified. In most cases students will work in the RTP area, but we will consider arrangements with residencies in other locations, including an international option, where students with demonstrated proficiency in the language and culture of an organization located abroad will work together (in that host country and then virtually) towards developing a sustainable technology and communications project. 


o   Option B: Masters Lab in the Humanities
Students will work in small collaborative groups (two to four) in a specific FHI Humanities Lab they have chosen (such as the Haiti Lab or the upcoming Greater Than Games interactive media lab) and will work with participants in the Lab to identify a collaborative multimedia project and a networking responsibility that they can take on for the year, transforming the activities and ideas of the Humanities Lab to a larger public network in a specific way that requires designing a project, mastering necessary skills, identifying collaborative partners and a target community, creating a budget and a plan for sustainability, and carrying the project through to completion. 


o   Proseminar

All students will attend a weekly Proseminar meeting where real-world problems are addressed across the MKN teams as well as with first-year MKN students. Peer-learning will be complemented by guest experts offering insights and guidance.


o   Collaborative Masters Thesis

Students will translate their coursework, residency, and proseminar work into a collaborative online public project that will be evaluated by core MKN faculty and residency mentors.


o   Resume-Building and Career Planning Workshop

A final intensive resume-building and career-planning workshop, with a professional consultant reviewing resumes that students have workshopped with their cohort. In addition, we will partner with the Career Center, and possibly the MBA Fuqua Career Management Center to hold recruitment events with potential employers and external recruiters.




Peer-to-peer pedagogy: Rather than standard research papers, much student learning and experience (both real world and classroom) in the MKN will be peer-guided, collaborative, and public, resulting in open, online resources and courseware.  Students will work in partnership with HASTAC, Mozilla Foundation, and Peer-to-Peer University to develop the best methods for delivering free and open course content to the public, and on new methods of assessing learning in those courses.  Students will also be encouraged to supplement their MKN coursework with P2PU courses in open web development and other subjects, becoming part of that worldwide network.


Timeframe: The MKN is going through Dukes formal approval process in 2010-2011. Once approved by the Board of Trustees, the MKN will begin recruiting a class of fifteen to twenty students per year. It is anticipated that the first MKN classes will be offered in the summer and fall of 2012. In the future, we may expand the Masters of Arts in Knowledge and Networks to MS and MBA versions and envision an online component with future national and international partnerships.




We invite comments and feedback on the full proposal, as well as partnership inquiries at



For more information or to be added to the MKN mailing list, send an email to 



Let me know when you start looking for faculty for this program....looks terrific!


There's a place at the end where you can sign up to be on the mailing list.   Or stay tuned on this website!


Looks exciting and interesting!


I'd love to be a student in this program, but I would be unable to move to Durham to do so. Any chance there will be an on-line version of this degree program offered as well? Sounds fantastic!