Module Details

SC224-5-FY-CO: Digital Society

Year: 2016/17
Department: Sociology
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Dr Michael Bailey, Dr James Allen-Robertson
Teaching Staff: Dr Michael Bailey, Dr James Allen-Robertson
Contact details:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

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

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 digital technologies.

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.

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.


100 per cent Coursework Mark

Other information

Compulsory for all second year BA Media, Culture and Society Studies and BA Criminology and Media students
Available to second year students


  • You will need to purchase the following textbook (available from the University book shop)
  • Frank Webster (2006) Theories of the Information Society (London: Routledge, 3rd edition)
  • Further readings are suggested (in the week by week programme and indicative reading list below) which will help you to extend your knowledge of particular topics and debates.
  • Nicholas Garnham (2005) The Information Society Debate Revisited, in James Curran and Michael Gurevitch (eds.), Mass Media and Society, London: Hodder Arnold, pp.287-302.
  • Daniel Bell (2008) 'Post-industrial society', in Frank Webster (ed.), The Information Society Reader, London: Routledge, pp.86-102.
  • Daniel Bell (1999 [1973]) The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, New York: Basic Books.
  • Malcolm Waters (1996) Daniel Bell, London: Routledge.
  • Michel Aglietta (1979) A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the US experience, London and New York: New Left Books.
  • Robert Boyer (1990) The Regulation School: A critical introduction (trans C.Charney) New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Robert Boyer & Yves Saillard (eds.) (2002) Regulation Theory: the state of the art, London: Routledge.
  • Manuel Castells (2000) The Information Age, Volume I: The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Manuel Castells (2001) The Internet Galaxy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Manuel Castells (ed.) (2005) The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Felix Stalder (2006) Manuel Castells: The Theory of the Network Society, Polity.
  • Jan Van Dijk (2006) The Network Society, London: Sage.
  • Herbert Schiller (1969) Mass Communications and American Empire, New York: Augustus M. Kelley.
  • Herbert Schiller (1984) Information and the Crisis Economy, Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  • Herbert Schiller (1989) Culture Inc.: the corporate takeover of public expression, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Cees J. Hamelink (1982) Finance and Information: A study of converging interests, Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  • Jürgen Habermas (2001) 'The Public Sphere', in M. G. Durham & D. M. Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.102-08.
  • Jürgen Habermas (1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Craig Calhoun (ed.) (1992) Habermas and the Public Sphere, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Willaim Outhwaite (1994) Habermas: a critical introduction Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Anthony Giddens (1987) Social Theory and modern Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Anthony Giddens (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Ian Craib (1992) Anthony Giddens, London: Routledge.
  • David Lyon (2007) Surveillance Studies , Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Jean Baudrillard (1983) Simulations, Semiotext(e).
  • Jean Baudrillard (1988) Selected Writings (ed. and introduced by Mark Poster), Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • David Harvey (1990) The Condition of Postmodernity, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Jean-Francois Lyotard (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • William Merrin (2005) Baudrillard and the Media, Cambridge: Polity.
  • Howard Rheingold (2000) The Virtual Community, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Nicholas Negroponte (1995) Being Digital, London: Hodder & Stoughton. James Curran & Jean Seaton (2010) Power Without Responsibility, London: Routledge, 7th edition, Chapters 16-18.

Further information