American University of Central Asia - AUCA - Courses Descriptions

Courses Descriptions



Digital Cultures (LAS/ART 205). A digitally literate person is one who is capable of learning, living and working in a digital society (JISC, 2014). Broad as this definition might seem, it encompasses a wide range of skills which you need to succeed as a student, and later as a professional. This course will teach you how to effectively search and critically evaluate information available on the world wide web; you will learn where and how to find academic resources and how to use them properly for your studies; you will learn what is plagiarism and how to avoid it (and why it is important to do so); you will learn how to effectively use and create visuals; you will look into your digital persona and explore the ways you can maintain an image of yourself that can positively impact your future professional career; you will explore various digital tools to enhance your learning, your communication and presentation skills, and learn how to communicate in different digital environments; you will also look into how to protect your online privacy, and understand the economic model behind the functioning of many websites and platforms.

Art and Technology (DIG 200). Offered in the second year of the Digital Culture concentration, Art and Technology is meant to provide students with an introduction to seminal concerns and issues in the artistic imagination of technology. The course will draw on examples from paintings, short stories, films, and novels like Brave New World, with its evocations of a future in which human beings are genetically altered and mass-produced, to provide focused case studies for in-class discussion and analysis, allowing students to learn and practice skills in literary interpretation and simultaneously exposing them to selections from a rich history of artistic reflection. Modeled on FYS and SYS, Art and Technology will involve intensive reading, critical thinking, and writing, with at least four staged writing assignments over the course of the semester to ground students in the practice of literary criticism and analysis.

Digital Histories (DIG 300). Offered in the third year of the concentration, the aim of Digital Histories is to provide students a broad overview of the issues associated with the proliferation of digital technologies, with sessions treating matters of surveillance and power in modern “smart cities” or the “quantified self,” an idea, in its positive iterations, which refers to efforts to perfect or cultivate the body through digital tracking devices, and in its more unsettling variants, to the array of applications, search engines, and devices that record every minute aspect of our lives for purposes of manipulation or control. Focusing on close readings and in-depth class discussions, the seminar will also examine critical moments in the history of technology from the invention of assembly lines and “Taylorism” to the introduction of the Panopticon – a blueprint for an eighteenth-century prison in which open cells encircle a central guard tower from which it is possible to monitor every movement – to provide historical perspective, or in the case of the Panopticon, to give students a  sense of the far more intrusive scope of contemporary technologies. Modeled on FYS and SYS, Digital Histories will involve intensive reading, critical thinking, and writing, with at least four staged writing assignments over the course of the semester to ground students in the practice of research and contextual analysis.

Central Asian Social Medias (DIG 301). Offered in the third year of the concentration, Central Asian Social Medias will trace the impact of digital and social medias in the Central Asian context, outlining their history in the region and introducing students to key figures and organizations like the “Kazakh Horde,” a Facebook group strident in championing open expression and committed to what it terms the “decolonization” of Kazakhstan. Examining the distinct accents of the region’s digital environments and its memes, Facebook posts, and podcasts, it will survey social media in Central Asia and the unruly debates on sexuality, historical memory, the environment, and ethnic identity that have defined it. Modeled on FYS and SYS, Central Asian Social Medias will involve intensive reading, critical thinking, and writing, with at least four staged writing assignments over the course of the semester to ground students in social media analysis and to familiarize them with working in the Central Asian digital environment.




Black Mirror: Navigating the Digital World (HUM/SS-360). Inspired by the popular TV show “Black Mirror,” this course will explore the present and near future of social media and other digital platforms. Many of our social interactions, from ordering a cab to saying goodnight to loved ones, have acquired digital form. In this course we will try to better understand social media and its role in contemporary life as well as critically explore its social, political and cultural implications. The course will be structured around themes that are raised in Black Mirror such as surveillance, privacy, social ratings and others. We will look at these issues through the lens of classical media theory and via prisms provided by more recent anthropological and politico-economic research on digital platforms. The course will also include auto-ethnographic practice. Students will be asked to keep diaries and reflect on their own usage of social media and digital platforms in their midterm and final papers.

Digital Dystopias: Dystopian and Apocalyptic Literature, Television, and Film (SYS/ HUM/ ART-261). This course will introduce students to dystopian art, a genre devoted to imagining worlds in which everything has gone wrong, or in its more apocalyptic variants, to envisioning humanity after the collapse of the existing order. The course will survey a series of iconic novels and films in the genre – Farenheit 451, We, and others – together with short stories and classic films like the Matrix with its distorted, exaggerated reflections on virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Focusing on close readings and in-depth class discussions, the seminar will devote particular attention to contemporary works of art that depict digital dystopias as well as to earlier works such as 1984, a novel disconcertingly resonant in its depiction of a state that maps, defines, and monitors every aspect of an individual’s life through digital and media surveiilance. The seminar will also present distinct optics on human nature and the social compact – formulations from classic texts like the Leviathan and Aristotle’s Politics – and invite students to apply these prisms to dystopian works like the Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman’s sprawling evocation of the zombie apocalypse. Students will be allowed to explore these issues from a diversity of perspectives in their writing for the class – they can examine how a particular sub-genre has developed over time, situate texts in specific historical and cultural contexts, or explore contrasting visions of human nature, political order, and civilization in dystopian or apocalyptic works.

Media, Memory, and History (SYS/HUM/ART/SS-249). This course analyses how the past is experienced, explained and recalled as a meaningful story in the present, and what role media – especially photography, film, television and forms of new media – has played in the production of historical narratives and cultural memory. It explores the complicated relationship between history and memory, and how these two practices appear to be at odds and differ from each other. This course also explores the way in which media interact with, broaden, and shape history and memory and why historical narratives are told and memories are preserved in certain ways as they are represented through media. It aims at developing the use of critical thinking skills in the assessment of popular media representations of history and memory. Throughout this course, we will discover how media systems which capture, store and transmit memories have an impact on our self-awareness as individuals, as members of communities, and as participants in history. The primary theoretical framework will be interdisciplinary, drawing on various perspectives.

The Culture Industry: Coming to Terms with Popular Culture (SYS/ HUM/ ART-261). This course will introduce students to the study of popular culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and to the tools used to interpret artifacts such as advertisements, consumer goods, fashion, memes, and Facebook posts. Focusing on close readings and in-depth class discussions, each seminar will present a distinct optic for reading popular culture and then invite students to apply these prisms to iconic works like Fight Club, with its complex commentary on consumerism and consumer society, and the Matrix, a distorted, exaggerated reflection on virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Students will encounter a range of theories, from the notion of popular culture as a “culture industry” – a series of repetitive, mass produced forms meant to control sprawling populations – to more sympathetic treatments that view popular culture as a means to mock, subvert, or undermine official or “dominant” cultures. Students will read excerpts from seminal studies of popular culture like Subculture: the Meaning of Style and the Practice of Everyday Life while also analyzing the significance of commercials in short assignments or dystopian reflections on our contemporary digital culture. Students will be allowed to explore popular culture from a diversity of perspectives in their final writing assignment for the course – they can examine a particular artifact of mass culture, for example, or engage contrasting visions of the broader meaning and significance of popular culture.

Media, Society, Culture (JOUR/ SOC/ ART-336). This course provides a broad overview of the interactions between society and culture and varied forms of media, a subject of both hopes and anxieties, historically, in the present day and in projections of the future. The course will cover three main areas: media understood as technological ‘mediums’ of communication; media as ‘the media’, or the complex interactions of media producers, audiences and regulation; and media as embodying ‘the new’, where you will explore recent debates around the implications and definition of so-called 'new media.


Intro to Mass Communication (JMC-182). The media, like sports and politics, are what we talk about, argue over, dissect and analyze. The focus of this particular class is on media literacy and culture. The goal of the class is to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of the mass communication process and the mass media industries. Increasing students’ awareness of how they interact with those industries and their content to create meaning. Helping students become more skilled and knowledgeable consumers of media content. The fulfillment of these goals is called media literacy.

Intro to Data Journalism (JMC-250.1). This course is the first part of the Data Journalism concentration, and it will introduce students to data and how it is used to create public interest stories. Subsequently, students will learn several strategies for identifying story angles and then practice those skills through the analysis of case studies that will demonstrate how data from various sectors have been used to create data-driven narratives. Apart from readings, analyses and discussion, we will practice technical data journalism skills during the seminars. 

Digital Communication strategy (JMC-359). Digital communication technologies have transformed almost all aspects of the media and information landscape. The digital landscape is continuing to develop gradually at an ascending rate. From the age of the first computer to the launch of the internet in 1991, the first emails and the birth of social media, there is no doubt that digital nowadays is a fundamental part of everything we do. Many businesses today understand that mobile and digital media channels generate great possibilities for customer acquisition and retention but lack having a strategic digital communication plan in place to activate those digital channels effectively. This course will prepare you for the real strategic approach to digital communication for business, non-profit or governmental structures. The course consists of several topics: Digital Audit, Digital Strategy, Management of the website, Effective use of the digital and social media, Budgeting and Measurement of success.

Video Blogging (JMC-356). This course is designed to introduce students into the world of video blogging, otherwise known as vlogging. We aim to analyze the vast array of storytelling methods used within a myriad of vlogs found of the internet, most notable on YouTube. Through extensive vlog analysis, students will learn the key methods to creating this new form of communication. Students will learn have first have experience in camera work, editing styles and will, as an assignment, create their own vlog.


Film Analysis and Criticism (TCMA/JMC-208). This course will introduce the art of active film viewing and related analysis techniques. Students will learn range of film genres including contemporary popular film as well as art house cinema through learning the historical background of particular film and development of pertaining genre and style. Portrayal of gender roles will also be examined through tracking various concepts of femme fatale and noir films, evolution of masculinity from spaghetti westerns to sci-fi, LGBT community inclusion and other. The wide span of historical and geographical range of films will enable us to analyze the continuity of eternal themes and evolution of various cinematic styles and creative approaches. This course will be in English and have combined structure of theory/discussion and film screening held weekly.

Photography and Creativity (TCMA/JMC/ART-135). This course aims to help students to develop their artistic vision in the contemporary photography. We will discuss the aesthetic of the image through the works of famous photographers such as Robert Capa, Steve McCurry, Annie Leibovitz and many others. The class focuses on four main genres: documentary photography, street photography, portraitures and conceptual/art photography. By completing practical assignments, students are expected to build a professional portfolio throughout the semester.

Radio and Podcast production (TCMA/JMC-315). This course aims to introduce students to the world of radio production and podcasts through studying current and archival material and by having hands on experience of industry software to be able to confidently produce their own radio programs and podcasts. This introduction to the sound world will allow students to fully understand the possibilities of storytelling through radio and podcast

Gen Ed

Storytelling with statistics (MAT/HUM-200). What makes a data-driven story? How is data used to tell stories effectively? In this course you'll learn how to use data to strengthen the power of your writing, and learn the questions you can ask, and answer, using data. We'll look at how to avoid misrepresenting your own data, and help you spot when data has been misrepresented or manipulated. If you are thinking about using quantitative measures in your senior thesis, this is the course for you! We will learn the tools you need to be numerically and statistically literate, enabling you to mine and analyze data and write an effective narrative around your findings.

Digital Humanities (COM/ HUM-203). Digital Humanities is an emerging multidisciplinary field in the intersection between computer technology and traditional humanities.  Digital Humanities are crucial to current liberal arts education. Digital scholarship transforms humanities research in today’s highly networked environment.  The course will introduce students into the production, publication, distribution, preservation, and nature of digital works, situating these works within our interconnected, networked, and globalized social and cultural contexts. Topics will include theoretical frameworks and methods, tools and techniques, humanities informatics, text mining, corpus linguistics, visualization.  Case studies from humanities disciplines will be used to discuss and to showcase how digital humanities offer new paradigms of problem solving and new research perspectives, which may not be possible using traditional methods.  The course will be clustered around three digital methods: text mining and analysis; visualization; and geospatial analysis. Each unit will introduce students to use computational tools for the analysis and representation of data using in the humanities.



Language, Culture and Technology (ANTH-346). This course introduces students with one of the four traditional fields of Anthropology – Linguistic Anthropology. The aim of this course is to understand the role played by language in the constitution of the society and its cultural representations. Our course will be based on ethno linguistic approach, which means all linguistic structures will be analyzed as used by real people in real time and real place. And speakers first of all are social actors of particular communities, each organized in a variety of social institutions and with sets of expectations, beliefs, and moral values about the world. The course also introduces the students with mainstream theories on Language Policy and discusses its basic concepts and methods. Socio-historical and political consequences of Soviet Language Policy will be examined trough lectures and seminar discussions. The last section in the course will address the connection between Language and Technology. Course readings will discuss how technology influences on communication and interconnectedness of the world. Cyber language and its influence on the formation of online Identities will be discussed based on communicative practices of online groups.

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Age of Google Translate (ANTH-240). Working across cultures is both challenging and exciting.  For thousands of years, cultures have clashed, collaborated, exchanged traditions, and evolved. The field of Anthropology has helped us understand how to analyze cultures and how to relate and reflect objectively so we can be away from our ethnocentrism and avoid making. In this course, we will study approaches to cross-cultural communications and cultural intelligence. It is highly interactive and you will learn experience-based methods to develop your cultural awareness.  We will also look at the role of technology in cross-cultural communications. Google Translate now makes it possible for us to travel the world without learning any other languages.  Is this a good thing?  What may help improve your intercultural communication skills and competence? Does Google Translate understand culture?  What new way of approach and even technologies will help us cross cultures?  How might they affect how we see and experience the world?

Culture and Technology in Japan (ANTH- 241). Japan survived as a closed, feudal, empire for many centuries.  The start of the Meiji Era in 1867, with the coronation of 14-year-old Prince Mutsuhito, marked the beginning of a tremendous shift in the position, culture, and economy of Japan. This course will examine how Japan rapidly adopted Western culture and technologies, and transformed itself from a feudal, agricultural economy to an industrial powerhouse, ultimately creating a military force that challenged the United States.  Since the Pacific War, Japan has globalized, further transforming the country's culture and traditions.  What can we learn from Japan's cultural transformation?  What is next for Japan as it opens its borders to workers from other Asian countries, including Central Asia?

People and Things: Culture, Science, and Technology (ANTH-242). What does it mean to be human in the age of technology? In this course we will seek to understand the theoretical and practical aspects of anthropology and history of technology, with a focus on concrete technologies in different contexts. Relevant examples are recent technologies for representation and communication, technologies of production, health technologies and technologies of re-production. What does it mean technology in the context of everyday life? How does it affect Central Asia? We will use ethnographic methods in order to understand different perspectives. By participant observation you will be encouraged to reflect upon your thoughts and experiences with technology.


Gender and Technology (SOC/LAS-272). This course looks into so called gender technology gap. Students will critically engage in discussions of gender relations and technology. IT is considered to be a masculine sphere, we will look into the roots of such a phenomenon and how is it changing over the years. The course will include such topics as gendered stereotypes about technology; online games and gender; gender and Internet, gender and social media, etc. The course is designed to engage students in active learning through readings that cover various concepts and context; through exercises and assignments that will help the students to explore gender dynamics in the field of technology. The course will be based on the sociological readings and theoretical perspectives.

Social Identity and Politics (SOC/ANTH/ LAS/ICP 465). This course will explore complex processes of individual’s attachment to the group, group behavior, intergroup discrimination and in-group favoritism in politics. The student will learn about the influence in political groups, group performance and group effects in political decision making. Special attention will be paid on the power of situation and the problem of group conflicts. This course is built on the broad material of classic cases. The course will be useful to everyone who is interested in psychology of political behavior and its application to a wide range of social and political problems.

American University of Central Asia
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