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Subversive Technologies

Key Information

Course details
MSc Option course, Hilary Term
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Dr Joss Wright


The internet has created a new landscape for the communication and collaborative creation of information, and has caused a broad centralization of the global communications infrastructure. As a result, the technologies comprising the network have come to represent a significant means for control over the creation, access, and dissemination of large volumes of information.

Information and the means by which it is communicated and controlled, are now key concerns. Computer networks and the technologies on which they are built have evolved beyond their original scope and purpose. Issues such as privacy and information security have arisen that were often not considered in the original design of core protocols, resulting in an ongoing struggle to ensure that the fundamentally flawed infrastructure can meet the requirements placed on it in its role as a global information network.

Through both its flaws and its intended functionality the internet has produced an ecosystem of cultures, institutions, and technologies that aim to exert, resist, and circumvent control over information. This course aims to provide students with an understanding of technologies that provide control over information flows and action on the internet, and those that resist or subvert that control. To fully understand these technologies the course considers the cultures that created and surround them, how various new technologies interact with traditional institutions and structures, and how these are exploited by both states and individuals.


On completion of this course students will have an understanding of the technologies that underpin secured communications on the internet, and the development, aims, applications, and limitations of these technologies. Students will learn the advantages of new forms of communication technologies and the ongoing threats that they raise with respect to existing structures and institutions. Crucially, students will gain insight into the feasibility of technologies for controlling information and online action, and the effectiveness and consequences of social, technical, legal, and political means to influence their use.