Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies

Explore the expansion of surveillance technologies

Programme in short

Across cultures, professionals are facing questions about surveillance, privacy, and digital security. These are also related to more daunting inquiries about ethics and norms through digital media.

Key Facts & Figures

Type
Master
Degree
MA
Mode of study
Full-time
Instruction language
English
Duration
1 year
Study points (EC)
60
Start date
September
Application Deadline (EEA)
15 May
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Why study this programme?

Are you interested in the social, cultural and ethical consequences of new and established technologies, the way that our use of terms like ‘privacy’ and ‘security’ actually shape people’s lives, the interplay between technology shaping our lives, and social actors shaping technology? Then this is the master for you.

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Career prospects

You will be up for careers in the tech sector, as well as journalism, regulation and policy work.

Word from our students

Max van der Breggen

Student Master Digitalisation, Surveillance and Societies

The academic community around this topic is very small. There’s a sort of intimacy to the reading we do and the authors we discuss which I really enjoy.
The academic community around this topic is very small. There’s a sort of intimacy to the reading we do and the authors we discuss which I really enjoy.

For my bachelors I did the interdisciplinary program Politics, Psychology, Law, and Economics at the University of Amsterdam, where I majored in economics. Afterwards, I decided to take an entirely different route than economics and go for the MSc. Cybersecurity Governance at Leiden University.

In completing the Master programme at Leiden, I realized that while it thoroughly discussed the security angle to cybersecurity and digitalisation, it lacked focus on the sociological aspects of technological development, the implications for identity, politics, and society. Also, I wanted to do more research and find a focus in this relatively new and wide academic field. I found the master specialisation Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies and realized it might bring me those things.  So, I decided to apply!

Passion for digital sociology

What makes this master specialisation interesting is the fact that everyone there shares a very specific passion for the topic of study. No one passively decides to move into the direction of digital sociology, everyone sitting with us in the classroom came specifically for the content we cover. This makes for very interesting and productive discussions. Also, given the fact that the academic community around this topic is very small the readings we do and authors we discuss - there’s a sort of intimacy to it, which I really enjoy. 

Unboxing the Algorithms

My favorite course, though I haven’t even started it, is absolutely going to be Unboxing the Algorithms. That is the type of course you don’t find unless you end up doing something like a computer science degree. Still, if you’re interested in societal aspects of digitalisation, such insight is extremely important and relevant. I’m very happy to be part of a master specialisation that provides it. 

Struggles

I personally did not expect there to be such a strong focus on qualitative research methods, especially in the methods courses. I did not have any qualitative research experience before starting Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies, which initially was something I struggled with quite a lot. Luckily, peers and teachers were very helpful in working through that and coming out the other end. Now I am way more confident doing qualitative research.

Plans for the future

The more I read about digitalisation and the way it interacts with our societies, sometimes in ways that can be considered destructive or non-progressive, the more I am motivated to write or think about digital policies that are future proof. Then again, I also feel intensely motivated to continue researching this topic, pulling me towards pursuing a PhD. I guess at this point, time will have to tell which direction I head in. 

Jasper Vermeulen

Student Master Digitalisation, Surveillance and Societies

What I find most interesting are the ways in which we explore the possible societal and human implications of interacting with new and unprecedented technologies.
What I find most interesting are the ways in which we explore the possible societal and human implications of interacting with new and unprecedented technologies.

Technology and the self

What I find most interesting about the master specialisation Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies are the ways in which we explore the possible societal and human implications of interacting with new and unprecedented technologies, such as artificial intelligence. These new technologies pave the way for manipulation of data which can enable new forms of surveillance that threaten our privacy.

In class, we always have very fruitful discussions which can be rooted back in the fact that the students come from different disciplines and therefore adopt a vastly different perspective. Simply by doing the readings before class, every student, regardless of their affinity with digitalisation, surveillance or privacy, can make meaningful contributions to the class discussions.

Our class society

I always like to be situated in an international classroom and Digitalisation, Surveillance & Societies adheres to this. The classroom also feels very inclusive which can be explained by the teaching staff being largely international. Our class consists of around 22 students, which could be considered quite small. Nevertheless, it has allowed us to get to know each other through personal class discussions. But we also try to organize meetings outside of class from time to time. While doing this master you will not feel like a student moving anonymously through the crowd. In addition, everyone is very passionate about the topic and this works in contagious ways.

Although topics such as surveillance and privacy appear to be quite a niche, during the master you will discover that everyone adopts his or her angle and has a particular interest. For instance, I am particularly interested in smart home research while another student is greatly involved in policing. Both topics are ultimately related to privacy and surveillance.

Words and numbers

In our program, we must take methods classes, which teach us how to do both qualitative and quantitative research. Currently, most of the teaching staff specializes in qualitative research and therefore this is often the go-to approach. Students that are more familiar with quantitative research might struggle with this, but you will find that there are many other students, as well as the teaching staff of course, that are willing to teach you the qualitative ways of life.

As this master is more about understandings and implications, it is not necessary to have lots of prior knowledge on coding or other technical aspects. In my view, this master is for students who are concerned about the direction our world is moving towards in regard to how data is gathered, stored and manipulated, often without the consent of users.

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