Narrative Futures: Art, Data, Society MSc, PgDip, PgCert (Online Learning) The University of Edinburgh
We see and shape the world through narrative. The stories that mould our hopes and dreams, that direct our responses to climate change and our economic and political behaviour, are found everywhere: on the page, on the stage and on the screen, in offices, museums and classrooms, in computer labs and in the great outdoors, told by human beings and by algorithms.
If you want to investigate how narratives influence our lived realities and how they can create alternative ways of envisioning the future, then the Edinburgh Futures Institute Masters programme in Narrative Futures is for you. Whichever career you are based in or aspire to (creative, technical, governmental, academic), you will be able to apply the insights gained during your studies.
The programme will offer all the benefits of interdisciplinarity while maintaining a strong emphasis on integration by bringing together three broad areas of inquiry: art, data and society.
You will learn how narratives are being transformed:
- in a variety of artistic domains, from creative writing to game design
- in different spheres of social life, from digital markets to religious or environmental discourses
- at the frontier of computational developments in artificial intelligence
For your final project, you will apply your conceptual understanding of storytelling dynamics to produce a new narrative artefact of your own or to critically analyse an existing narrative medium or practice.
This bold new programme in Narrative Futures will combine hands-on creative and data skills development with research-led theoretical inquiry to help you master the narratives through which human beings perceive and (re)create the world.
Postgraduate Study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute
This programme is part of an interconnected portfolio of postgraduate study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). EFI supports interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research that is focused on complex global and social challenges.
Our programmes are all taught by academic experts from many different subject areas. As an EFI student, you will develop creative, critical and data-informed thinking that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. You will have the space to think deeply about questions linked to your own passions and professional goals, and will develop a project based on an issue that you care about.
As well as knowledge specific to your area of study, studying at EFI will give you the skills and understanding you need to become a creative, confident and critical citizen in a fast-changing world. These will include:
- core data skills
- data ethics
- the ability to interrogate issues of global scope
- the creative and analytic approaches to knowledge that are vital for building better futures
You can join us regardless of whether you already have skills in the use and application of digital data.
The EFI model (which we call ‘fusion’ teaching) allows students to study on a fully online basis, or to combine online with on-campus study. Since online and on-campus students are studying together, and we want to provide flexibility to move from on-campus to online study, we are charging the same tuition fee levels for online study as for on-campus study.
The University of Edinburgh is currently ranked 15th in the World in the QS World University Rankings 2023.
The programme aims to develop:
- understanding of the principles of story generation and interpretation across a range of traditional and digital creative media
- knowledge of the uses and abuses of narrative in various spheres of social life
- creative practice and data skills relevant to the analysis of existing and development of new narratives
- research and critical capacity to put different academic disciplines into dialogue and to generate syncretic insights into the present functions and future possibilities of storytelling
Narrative skills are in greater demand than ever before, and not just in the traditional ‘cultural industries such as creative writing, the performance arts and visual entertainment.
- Advertisers and fundraisers rely on storytelling to reach their target markets.
- Those working in the tourism and heritage sectors need to know how to tell the story of local places to global audiences.
- Communications, branding and design consultancies must build narratives for new products and companies.
- Community groups, social enterprises, charities and arts organisations wishing to influence policy or raise funds must tell convincing stories in different ways to different demographics.
- Political activists, journalists, public advocates and science popularisers, medical clinicians, video game designers and computer scientists exploring new frontiers in artificial intelligence: all require insights into the processes and structures of narrative, its politics and ethics.
This programme will provide recent graduates or mid-career professionals with a good intellectual basis for professional development in a wide range of sectors, as well as for further academic study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
The core elements of the programme address the data and higher-order skills we know are important for the future of work, confident and critical citizenship, and a thriving, just society.
Students on the programme study the following:
- A portfolio of EFI ‘shared core’ courses (40 credits) which teach the essential critical and hands-on data skills, enquiry methods, and ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies.
- Core courses (20 credits) specific to your programme.
- A project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project).
- A wide choice of short 10-credit optional courses (60 credits), at least two of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire EFI portfolio.
You will take two 10-credit core courses for your programme:
- The World of Story: Narrative, Creativity and the Arts will consider the prospective evolution of storytelling as an art form.
- The World as Story: Narrative, Self and Society will explore the social power of narrative.
You will also take the following 10 credit shared core courses, which are compulsory for EFI students on all programmes:
- Interdisciplinary Futures
- Insights Through Data or Text Remix (choose one)
- Ethical Data Futures
- Representing Data or Building Near Futures (choose one)
These shared core courses place you in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other programme areas. They will teach you to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and designing the future. They will also teach the fundamentals of data ethics while supporting you to use your creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.
EFI will offer a wide portfolio of about 40-50 optional courses taught by academic staff from across many discipline areas including approximately six to eight courses on topics associated with your programme. The exact courses will vary from year to year.
In 2023-24, the courses associated with your programme may include:
- Writing Speculative Fiction
- Artificial Intelligence and Storytelling
- Creating Visual Narratives
- Gamifying Historical Narratives
- Narrative and Computational Text Analysis
- Narratives of Digital Capitalism
- Story Roots for Sustainable Futures
- Religious Identity through Story
- Pitching Your Stories, Services and Products
Optional courses from across the wider portfolio will cover a range of themes and topics, such as:
- critical perspectives on how new technologies are changing society
- the causes and consequences of inequalities around the world
- how new and rapidly changing technologies and data sources are transforming the future of democracy
- what the future of education might look like
- current challenges and futures for the creative industries
In your final project, you will be able to apply your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern which drives you. It could be:
- based on your own personal or professional interests
- defined by your employer
- aligned to one of the EFI research programmes
You can submit your final project report as a written piece of work, or combine text with other forms as appropriate – video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, or code.
You will provisionally identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect projects to take an interdisciplinary approach which connects with the creative, data and future-oriented nature of the EFI core.
Part-time and full-time options
Full-time students on the programme take these courses in one year.
Part-time students take the same courses as full-time students, over either two or three years:
- For the two-year version, students take 80 credits of courses in year one and 100 credits (including the project) in year two.
- For the three-year versions, students take 120 credits of courses over years one and two (with up to 80 credits per year in each year) and then take the project (60 credits) in year three.
Students can also study towards a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma:
- Students have two years to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma, taking the same taught courses as students on the MSc, but not the project. They will take a total of 120 credits of courses - between 40 and 80 each year.
- Students have one year to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate, taking 60 credits of courses, including between 10 and 40 credits of the EFI ‘shared core’ courses, between 20 and 50 credits of programme-specific courses (either the programme core courses or optional courses), and up to 30 credits from the broader suite of EFI optional courses.