“This course is designed to create a common core to discuss the Internet on the whole rest of the degree — to create a shared understanding of the social implications of the Internet.”

The Internet has fundamentally transformed aspects of society in recent decades. This course will examine some of the main areas of change, including political communication, big data and AI, audience attention and the reach of the digital media across the globe. The course will examine several digital technologies including smartphones, search engines and social media. In each case, a key question is: do digital media reinforce, reconfigure, or challenge existing cultural, economic and political dynamics? The course takes a global perspective, going beyond the United States to the rising giants of India and China. One aim of the course is to understand new media in the context of some of the major current debates in the social sciences; globalisation, democratisation, and divides in access to information.

This course will provide an overview of the major findings from the research on the social implications of the internet within several social science disciplines, including communication studies, sociology, anthropology, political science and ethics. A further aim of the course is to identify the overlaps and divergences among different research approaches. Finally, the course aims to give students who come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds a common grounding in research on the Internet, its social shaping and impact. It will also introduce some of the main theoretical traditions in the social sciences, and assess their strengths and limitations in relation to analysing the Internet.

Key themes

  • How useful are social theories for explaining or predicting the role of digital media in social change?
  • How do different scholarly disciplines contribute to our understanding and knowledge of the social implications of the internet?
  • How can we measure, observe, or assess the implications of digital technology?

Learning outcomes

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

  • Identify major theories 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 science theories on the Internet to policy questions and students’ own developing research questions about an internet-related topic.
This page was last modified on 21 September 2020