digital technologies and society - central european university 2011

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MA course offered in the framework of the MA in Political Sciences, Department of Political Sciences, Central European University, 2011. Full syllabus here.

Digital communication technologies are “meta-technologies” (Braman 2004). They are inherently social, but “permit solo activity once one is operating within the socially produced network. Their use vastly expands the degrees of freedom with which humans can act in the social and material worlds, and characterizes the postmodern world” (Braman 2004: 5).

This course analyses digital communication technologies in relation to the social world in which they are embedded. Situated at the crossroads of critical technology and communication studies, sociology of media and culture, information policy analysis, political economy, and the sociology of contentious politics, the course explores the relationship between culture, broadly defined, and communication technologies. In particular, the course

  • looks at the creation of digital communication technologies, focusing on media digitalization and software development: Do digital communication technologies determine how our society is organized and how it works? Or does society shape technologies? How do political and cultural values of developers shape digital communication infrastructure?
  • looks at how professional routines and the political economy of digital technologies and media digitalization impact on our social world: How do digital technologies develop and what is the impact of technological change? Who are the innovators, producers, and inventors of digital communication technologies and new media, and how do they work?
  • addresses the governance of digital technologies, content, and infrastructure, looking at standard-setting and the impact of intellectual property rights, internet regulation, and the challenges posed by user-generated content: What is information policy? How do national governments regulate digital content, platforms and infrastructures?
  • investigates the interaction between digital technologies and audiences/users: What impact do digital communication technologies have on our society and our world? How do they contribute to shape our notions of self, culture and group membership? Do digital technologies help reducing social inequality?
  • analyses the potential of digital media and communication technologies for democracy and political participation: How do people interpret and use digital technologies in daily life? What are the dynamics of virtual worlds? What is the potential of e-democracy tools? How do individuals and social groups appropriate digital technologies for political participation, and to promote social change?

The course provides students with a postgraduate-level understanding of:

  • the creation and production of digital communication technologies and new media
  • the social, economic, and cultural forces that shape digital communication technologies
  • information policy, and the governance of digital content and infrastructure
  • the impact of digital communication technologies on the economic organization of societies, and on social inequality
  • the notions and tools of e-government and e-democracy
  • the relation between users and digital communication technologies/new media content
  • how social movements and the organized civil society use technologies for social change