Digital Society

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
07 October 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LP33 Media and Digital Culture,
BA LP34 Media and Digital Culture (including Placement Year),
BA P300 Media and Digital Culture (Including Foundation Year),
BA PL33 Media 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)

Module description

In this module, we will undertake a sustained critical engagement with the era of personalised media consumption currently being shaped through digital technologies.

'Does technology determine history?'
'Can games teach us about power?'
'Does software shape society?'

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 and cyborg sociology, 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 hacker ethic and pirate politics.

Finally, all students will be expected to design and maintain a blog as part of their assessment. Though you can blog about anything you want, you will be encouraged to design a blog that concentrates on a particular subject and to produce content that is journalistic, for example: political blogs, health blogs, travel blogs, gardening blogs, fashion blogs, education blogs, music blogs, etc.

Module aims

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.

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:

• Post-industrialism
• Informatisation
• Virtual reality
• The network society

Module information

Lecture 1 week 2 {Introductions} Digital Britain
Lecture 2 week 3 {Continuity and Change} Digital Media and Social Theory
Lecture 3 week 4 {Digital Change} The Post-Industrial/Network Society
Lecture 4 week 5 {Digital Capitalism} The Digital Divide
Lecture 5 week 6 {Digital Surveillance} The Surveillance State
Lecture 6 week 7 {Digital Politics} CyberDemocracy
Lecture 7 week 8 {Digital Politics} Alternative and Activist Digital Media
Lecture 8 week 9 {Digital Bodies} Cyberculture and Posthumanism
Lecture 9 week 10 {Digital Literacy} E-learning and Online risks
Lecture 10 week 11 {Summary Week} Essay surgeries
Lecture 11 week 16 {Introductions} Technology and Society SCOT Meets ANT
Lecture 12 week 17 {Continuity and Change} Whats New about New Media?
Lecture 13 week 18 {Digital Change} Convergence
Lecture 14 week 19 {Digital Capitalism} Copyright / Creativity / Commons
Lecture 15 week 20 {Digital Politics} The Hacker Ethic and Pirate Politics
Lecture 16 week 22 {Digital Surveillance} Software Sorting of Everyday Life
Lecture 17 week 23 {Digital Bodies} Cybernetics and the Informational Human
Lecture 18 week 24 {Digital Literacy} Interactivity / Interfaces / Gaming
Lecture 19 week 25 {Summary Week} Essay surgeries

Learning and teaching methods

A range of teaching and learning methods will be used, including one-hour weekly lectures, seminars and personal tutorials (as required). Lectures are used to introduce an overview of the key theoretical issues and debates. Seminars provide an opportunity to review the lecture material through illustrative readings, group discussions and activities. Personal tutorials will provide students with guidance about and feedback on assessed work and any other academic problems you are encountering on the module.


  • 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 Coursework weighting
Coursework   Autumn Term Quiz 1    5% 
Coursework   Autumn term Quiz 2    5% 
Coursework   Spring Quiz 1    5% 
Coursework   Spring Quiz 2     5% 
Coursework   Presentation     20% 
Coursework   Essay 1   22/01/2021  30% 
Coursework   Essay 2   30/04/2021  30% 

Additional coursework information

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2018-19 and will be updated in August 2019

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

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 Michael Bailey, Dr James Allen-Robertson
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 2494 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
2494 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.