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Card-index course

Introduction to computational thinking

Introduction à la pensée computationnelle

Responsible Faculty: Faculty of Arts

Teacher(s): Michael Piotrowski

Validity: 2017 ->

Course Timetable (Weekly)

Date Location Notice Topics Lecturer(s)
2017/2018 : Monday 13:15-15:00 (Weekly) Anthropole/5183     Michael Piotrowski

Course+Practical work

Spring semester
2 hours per week
28 hours per semester
Teaching language(s): English, French
Public: Yes
Credits: 3.00


By the end of this course, students should be able to

- understand and explain what computational thinking means,
- identify important elements (abstraction, formal modeling, evaluation),
- apply computational thinking to general problems and to problems in their field of humanities or social sciences in particular,
- design, implement, and evaluate formal models themselves, and
- assess and critique computational approaches.

Students should also be able to

- critically read and reflect on scholarly publications and
- jointly develop an understanding of scholarly work in plenary and small group sessions and to present the results.


Seymour Papert noted in his 1987 paper "Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking":

One might imagine that "technologists" would be most likely to fall into the technocentric trap and that "humanists" would have a better understanding of the role of culture in the so called "effects of the computer." But things are not so simple. People from the humanities are often the most vulnerable to the technocentric trap. Insecurity sometimes makes a technical object loom too large in their thinking. Particularly in the case of computers, their intimidation and limited technical understanding often blind them to the fact that what they see as a property of "the computer" is often a cultural construct. (http://www.papert.org/articles/ComputerCriticismVsTechnocentric.html)

This course aims to give an introduction to computational thinking in order to allow students to gain a basic understanding of the methodological foundations of computing; this is motivated by two complementary goals:

1. to enable students to describe, interpret, and discuss the workings of computer-based systems and services-and thus be able to critically evaluate them with respect to the aspects studied by humanities and social sciences. The course aims to give students the basics necessary to engage, for example, in critical algorithm studies.
2. to enable students to apply computational thinking to their own fields of studies in humanities or social sciences, so that they can make use of computational approaches in their studies and their research.

Consequently, we will read and discuss scholarly texts (research papers, book chapters) as well as representations of computing in general media, but also engage in the practical construction of computational models in small groups using the Inform 7 system (http://inform7.com).


Project work in small groups and presentation of the results.

Students are expected to thoroughly read the course literature, to actively participate in the course, and to present their own analyses and views. Project work will include the creation of Inform 7 stories.


Une liste de lecture sera annoncée dans le cours. Il est à noter qu'en raison du caractère international de la recherche dans ce domaine, de nombreux articles ainsi que la documentation Inform 7 sont rédigés en anglais.

A reading list will be announced in the course. Note that, due to the international nature of the research in this field, many articles, as well as the Inform 7 documentation, will be in English.

Additional information


Use contextFaculty codeStatusCredits
Master of Arts (MA) in Digital Humanities (2016 ->) ›› Renforcement de l'étude des cultures, sociétés et humanités numériques - MA-INTERFAC-CSHN-30Compulsory3.00
Master of arts, Reinforcement programme (2015 ->) ›› Humanités numériques - MA-RENF-HNOptional3.00
Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
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