Digital Society

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 01 July 2022
07 October 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LP33 Communications and Digital Culture,
BA LP34 Communications and Digital Culture (Including Placement Year),
BA P300 Communications and Digital Culture (Including Foundation Year),
BA PL33 Communications and Digital Culture (Including Year Abroad),
BA P550 Journalism and Criminology,
BA P551 Journalism and Criminology (Including Placement Year),
BA P552 Journalism and Criminology (Including Year Abroad),
BA P540 Journalism and Sociology,
BA P541 Journalism and Sociology (Including Placement Year),
BA P542 Journalism and Sociology (Including Year Abroad),
BA QP10 English Language with Media Communication,
BA QP11 English Language with Media Communication (Including Year Abroad),
BA QP12 English Language with Media Communication (Including Placement Year),
BA QP13 English Language with Media Communication (Including Foundation Year),
BA W350 Art History, Visual Culture and Media Studies,
BA W351 Art History, Visual Culture and Media Studies (including Year Abroad),
BA W352 Art History, Visual Culture and Media Studies (including Placement Year),
BA W353 Art History, Visual Culture and Media Studies (including Foundation Year)

Module description

The aim of this module is to situate digital media within the context of dynamic social interactions in a complex and rapidly changing world. Students will therefore be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of the role being played by human-machine relationships in processes of contemporary cultural change. In order to do so, we will undertake a sustained critical engagement with the era of personalised media consumption currently being shaped through the use of personal computers, social networking, digital telephony, electronic music and digital television.

Students will be encouraged to evaluate the most recent developments in media technologies and to interrogate the various uses and practices that surround them from a wide-ranging sociological perspective. As such, the module introduces students to a broad range of social phenomena arising across the globe through the application and conceptualisation of digital technologies – from the sociology of the virtual body to the rise of cybercrime and identity theft, from the utopian ideals of virtual democracy to the Orwellian nightmare of the surveillance society, from the free software movement to the pleasures of online shopping.

Module aims

Aims and Objectives
The course explores such questions as:

• What is the relationship between computer mediated communication and the social?
• How have radical tech cultures shaped contemporary society?
• What are the implications of ‘digital lifestyles’ for the worlds of work and leisure in the 21st century?
• What are the key disjunctures/continuities between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ media and wider social systems?
• What is at stake for all of us in the debates surrounding electronic media?
• What is the ‘information society’?

Students will also be introduced to a broad range of related theories and concepts:

• Convergence
• Interactivity
• Technological Determinism
• Virtual Reality
• Cybernetics
• The Network Society
• Big Data
• Internet of Things
• Digital Capitalism
• The Public Sphere
• Post-Truth
• Surveillance

Module learning outcomes

The course explores such questions as:

What is the relationship between computer mediated communication and the social world?

What are the implications of ‘digital lifestyles’ for the worlds of work and leisure in the 21st century?

What are the key disjunctures/continuities between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ media and wider social systems?

What is at stake for all of us in the debates surrounding electronic media?

What is the ‘information society’?

Students will also be introduced to a broad range of related theories and concepts:

Virtual reality
The network society

Module information

Autumn Term
Topic 1 – week 2 Module introduction: Digital Society
Topic 2 - week 3 From Post-Industrialism to the Network Society
Topic 3 - week 4 Digital Capitalism and the Information Divide
Topic 4 - week 5 Data Surveillance and Governmentality
Topic 5 - week 6 From E-Democracy to Democracy Hacked
Topic 6 - week 7 Open Source Intelligence in A Post-truth World
Topic 7 - week 8 Alternative Politics and Digital Activism
Topic 8 -week 9 Cyberculture, Posthumanism and the Virtual Body
Topic 9 - week 10 Children, Online Risks and Digital Literacy
Topic 10 - week 11 Essay Surgeries

Spring Term
Topic 11 - week 16 Technology and Society: SCOT Meets ANT
Topic 12 - week 17 What’s New about New Media?
Topic 13 - week 18 Software Sorting of Everyday Life
Topic 14 - week 19 Abuse Online: Trolling, Bullying and Revenge Porn

Reading Week – week 20

Topic 15 – week 21 New Frontiers in Digital Policing
Topic 16 - week 22 Hacker Politics
Topic 17 - week 23 Cyberlibertarianism and the Radical Right
Topic 18 - week 24 Interactivity / Interfaces / Gaming
Topic 19 - week 25 Essay Surgeries

Summer Term
Presentation support sessions Weeks 31 and 32

Learning and teaching methods

As there are still restrictions related to COVID-19 in place, some of the teaching on most modules will take place online. Most modules in Sociology are divided into lectures of around 50 minutes and a class of around 50 minutes. Some are taught as a 2hr seminar, and others via a 50-minute lecture and 2-hr lab. For the majority of modules the lecture-type content will be delivered online – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your class each week. Most classes labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing allows this). This module [SC224-5-FY] will include a range of activities to help you and your teachers to check your understanding and progress. These are: online discussion sessions, essays and presentations. The lectures provide an overview of the substantive debates around the topic of the week, while the classes will give you the opportunity to reflect on your learning and actively engage with your peers to develop your understanding further. The weekly classes will take place face-to-face (unless there is a change in the current COVID safety measures). You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes as they provide an opportunity to talk with your class teacher and other students. The classes will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of classes is at the discretion of the teacher. Please note that you should be spending up to eight hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 32 hours in total for four 30-credit modules).


  • Bucher, Taina. Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, (2012) 'Want to be on the top? Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook.', in New Media & Society,. vol. 14 (7) , pp.1164-1180
  • Donna Haraway. (2001) 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs', in Reading digital culture, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. vol. Keyworks in cultural studies
  • Phillips, Whitney. (©2015) This is why we can't have nice things: mapping the relationship between online trolling and mainstream culture, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Steve Matthewman. (2011) Technology and social theory, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. vol. Traditions in social theory
  • (no date) The Secrets of Silicon Valley: The Disruptors.
  • (no date) The Seasteaders (2018).
  • Tim Jordan. (2009) 'Hacking and power: Social and technological determinism in the digital age', in First Monday. vol. 14 (7)
  • Papacharissi, Z. (2002) 'The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere', in New Media & Society. vol. 4 (1) , pp.9-27
  • Breaking the Dark Net: Why the police share abuse pics to save children,
  • Sarah L. Holloway; Gill Valentine. (2003) Cyberkids: children in the information age, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series, No. 21, Jardine, E. (2015. (no date) The Dark Web Dilemma: Tor, Anonymity and Online Policing.
  • Gane, Nicholas; Beer, David. (2008) New media: the key concepts, Oxford: Berg. vol. The key concepts, 1747-6550
  • Jenkins, Henry. (2004-03) 'The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence', in International Journal of Cultural Studies. vol. 7 (1) , pp.33-43
  • (no date) For Your Eyes Only – Darknet Diaries.
  • Peters, B. (2009) 'And lead us not into thinking the new is new: a bibliographic case for new media history', in New Media & Society. vol. 11 (1-2) , pp.13-30
  • Foucault, Michel. (1977) Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison, London: Allen Lane.
  • (Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 2:54 PM EST) MIT Media Lab Knotty Objects: Phone on Vimeo.
  • Dan Schiller. (2000) Digital capitalism: networking the global market system, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Winner, Langdon. (1997-09-01) 'Cyberlibertarian myths and the prospects for community', in ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society. vol. 27 (3) , pp.14-19
  • Castells, Manuel. (1997) 'An introduction to the information age', in City. vol. 2 (7) , pp.6-16
  • Jonathan Hardy. (2008) Western media systems, London: Routledge. vol. Communication and society
  • Bell, Daniel. (c1976) The coming of post-industrial society: a venture in social forecasting, New York: Basic Books. vol. Harper colophon books
  • Atton, Chris. (c2004) An alternative Internet, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • (no date) The Virtual Reality Virgin (2016) BBC3.
  • (no date) Victorian Sensations: Seeing and Believing.
  • (no date) The Trust Engineers | Radiolab | WNYC Studios.
  • Athique, Adrian; EBSCOhost ebook collection. (2013) Digital media and society: an introduction: Polity Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay 1   16/12/2021  40% 
Coursework   Essay 2   22/03/2022  40% 
Coursework   Presentation   13/05/2022  20% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James Allen-Robertson, email:
Dr Michael Bailey, email:
Dr Katerina Hadjimatheou, email:
Dr Michael Bailey, Dr James Allen-Robertson & Dr Katerina Hadjimatheou
Jane Harper, Student Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052



External examiner

Dr Monika Krause
London School of Economics
Dr Aneira Edmunds
School of Law, Politics & Sociology
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 38 hours, 38 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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