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Internet and Society

Key Information

Course details
Compulsory course for MSc Social Science of the Internet; Michaelmas Term
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Dr Gemma Newlands



Internet and Society is a comprehensive course designed to provide an overview of major themes, theories, and concepts related to the social implications of the Internet. Taking a multidisciplinary approach which combines several social science disciplines, this course will explore the social impact of the Internet’s evolution, addressing both its opportunities and challenges. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to delve into the impact of the Internet (and other emerging technologies) on various aspects of human society from economics and politics to the development of cultural artifacts. Students will discuss the role of smartphones, social media, and online platforms in shaping modern communication paradigms, while learning to critically evaluate the impact of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, on society at large. This course takes a global perspective, embracing the localised and context-specific development of the Internet as well as its transformation into a worldwide communication and information network. This course emphasizes the inclusion of current academic research, highlighting commonalities and differences in various research approaches within the broader field of Internet studies. Ultimately, the course aims to provide students from diverse academic backgrounds with a shared foundation in Internet research and the skills to engage in critical thinking and constructive discussions about complex Internet-related issues.


Course Objectives

Across eight weeks, the Internet and Society course will cover key themes, topics, and debates in the broad field of Internet Studies. The course will equip students with an understanding of social theories from across the social sciences and an indication of how to apply them to their own research on Internet-related topics. Since the topics and technologies are developing rapidly, the course aims to provide an up-to-date overview of current academic debates and concerns. The course will range from questions of digital inequality, identity, and infrastructures to questions around the use of AI, fintech and social media. This course will provide a solid and comprehensive theoretical and conceptual foundation upon which students can build in the remainder of the SSI programme.


Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Identify major theoretical ideas and debates about new information and communication technologies and social change
  • Identify where insights from across the social sciences overlap or diverge
  • Relate a number of substantive topics that will be relevant for research on many aspects of Internet studies
  • Relate social scientific and philosophical approaches concerning the Internet to students’ own developing research questions about an internet-related topic.


Weekly Topics

Week 1: Introduction to Internet and Society

Week 2: Digital Inequalities

Week 3: The Individual as Subject and Object Online

Week 4: Communication and Culture

Week 5: Politics and Activism

Week 6: Economics of the Internet

Week 7: AI and Society

Week 8: Time and Space