Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies
Explore the expansion of surveillance technologies

Study programme

While digitalisation brings many opportunities, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and social media platforms involve an unprecedented collection of personal information, raising global challenges about privacy and security. Social media monitoring can sway elections, spark civil strife and serve to predict expected social patterns and behaviour. Algorithms determine who gets to see which online information and advertisements, but also who is considered a public threat. Also in everyday life, useful apps or tools may induce surveillance. Easy access to messaging and surveillance cameras compel neighbours to report on anything suspicious in their neighbourhood. Location tracking of family and friends has become common practice in ways perceived as both caring and controlling. Health and lifestyle apps provide insights about one’s well-being, while provoking their own privacy and ethical concerns.

The integration of digital technologies into a range of everyday practices create and perpetuate a number of contemporary and cross-sector issues that require critical reflection about data collection, discrimination, privacy violations, and disruptions by and through digital media.

Programme features

The curriculum is small-scale, intensive and interactive. Seminars, workshops, field trips and guest lectures provide a varied and challenging programme. Much attention is given to academic skills: you learn to present, debate, write and analyse. You receive support from an enthusiastic team of international lecturers. Your own input is valued and counts as part of your assessment. In addition, you can expect intensive, individual guidance when writing your master thesis.

Overview courses

Please note that the content, themes and scheduling of seminars and workshops is subject to change and may vary in subsequent academic years.

  • Term 1

    • Digital technologies are implicated in emerging developments, but also reflecting longstanding practices and patterns in social organising. This course addresses theoretical and conceptual matters in relation to the uptake and social impact of digital media technologies. Students will learn and apply key concepts pertaining to study of digital media studies, with an eye to particular social and political contexts in which these are manifest. This accounts for key conceptual frameworks that provide occasionally divergent accounts of digital media in society.

    • Surveillance denotes large scale and centralised collection of information, as well as other practices, beliefs, imaginations and discourses. This course aims to situate surveillance practices in diverse institutions, in order to recognise its role as a key organising logic in late modernity/contemporary society. Students will consider surveillance practices across both institutional and cultural contexts. This will involve applying concepts and assumptions to ongoing developments.

    • Course Code: CM4203

    Term 2

    • Popular accounts of privacy assert that it is a kind of commodity that may be ‘traded’ in exchange for security, or even convenience. This often overlooks how popular and even scholarly understandings of privacy are shaped by technological affordances as well as ideology. Moreover, these accounts shape what is considered appropriate and even ethical for media users, including researchers. This course considers how privacy is made meaningful as a legal/policy requirement, a cultural reference, and an ethical guide. Students will apply multidisciplinary accounts of privacy to various professional contexts, including their own scholarship.

    • (CM4550)

      • Surveillance, Visibility and Reputation (CM4252)
      • Surveillance and the Media
      • Interpersonal Monitoring and Cultural Practice

    Term 3

    • Digital media continue to shape how individuals and communities perform specific activities, and fulflil social roles. Proponents claim that new platforms help us become informed, stay safe, and even get employed. Yet users also experience a range of frustrations, vulnerabilities and harms as a result of our dependence on mobile devices, social platforms and algorithms that manage our lives. This course focuses on user-led practices in a range of personal and professional contexts. Case studies will be attuned to the types of positions students may seek on the job market, as well as the kinds of political causes that may inform their advocacy.

      • Digital Research Methods (CM4104)
      • Unboxing the Algorithms
        Many of the implications of today’s personalization and surveillance technologies only become clear once one understands the way they work. Without requiring any previous knowledge in computer programming, this course will explore the basic workings of popular modern algorithms and show students how they can get these algorithms to work on any computer. Students will apply the theoretical knowledge from the core courses in engaging with the technical dimensions of emerging and seemingly disruptive technologies. They will produce a research paper that explores the societal and ethical implications of a specific algorithm. The first part of each session introduces the algorithm, while the second allows students to test and explore it.
      • Comparative Security Visions and Surveillance Regimes

    Term 1-4

    • (CM4500)

    • (CM5000)