The study programme in a nutshell
Rapid digital transformations, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms, change the organisation of work. This raises questions on the individual, organisational, and societal level. For example:
- How does AI reshape collaboration and communication among employees?
- Are hierarchical relationships at work restructured by robotisation?
- Does platformisation influence our understanding of self-employed workers?
The programme provides you with multiple perspectives and tools to study digital technologies in the changing world of work (building on insights from Psychology, Sociology, and Public Administration).
This master programme offers both a theoretical and real world understanding of the changing organisation of work. We will provide many opportunities to apply classroom concepts to the real world, for example by going on fieldtrips to organisations, formulating policy advice, and developing coaching and consultancy skills.
The specialisation seminars will be taught by at least two professors, coming from different fields (e.g., a sociologist and a psychologist) to shed light on phenomena using different academic lenses, illustrating how this will yield different insights, all necessary to get a comprehensive understanding of digitalisation in work and society. The classes will be taught in small groups with lots of room for discussion.
For your thesis you will have the opportunity to join a thesis group that will be supervised by two professors from different fields, again, to secure the multidisciplinary focus of this master and to provide you with a broad perspective. If you prefer to complete your thesis without a group, you will also be provided with two supervisors from different academic backgrounds.
The curriculum is subject to change. No rights can be derived from this information (including the information via the hyperlinks).
During the academic year, you will go on several field trips. Last year for example, we went to the Port of Rotterdam. During a one-hour boot tour, we learned all about the increasing technology in the harbour. Apart from seeing what this master is all about in real life, these trips are a good way to get to know your fellow students and lecturers.
Mode of education
The programme consists of 60 EC. It is comprised of one introductory course, two specialisation seminars, one elective and a thesis. Next to studying social scientific approaches from different fields (Psychology, Sociology, and Public Administration), you will be able to participate in field trips and seminars.
The programme features some electives in block 2, but electives can also be selected from courses offered in other master specializations in Psychology, Sociology, and Public Administration.
Course given by prof. dr. C.L. ter Hoeven
Rapid advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms, change the organisation of work. For example, algorithms can reorganise work practices and work design, robotization can change relationships and knowledge sharing among employees, and platformisation can influence our perceptions of organising and organisations. This raises questions on the individual, organisational, and societal level. In this course we will focus on these different levels of analysis, and develop analytical skills and insights to understand the implications of taking one of these perspectives.
In class, we will first evaluate relevant theories to study work, organisations, and technology (e.g., technological framing and sociomateriality). Second, we will discuss scholarly work specifically dealing with technologies which have been at the forefront of the popular and academic imagination, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms. Finally, we will discuss how taking one perspective (e.g., psychological, sociological and/or public administration) will shed light on particular issues and consequences, while possibly disregarding others. In doing so, we will move from subjects such as work design and automation (e.g., Parker & Grote, 2020) to power relationships (e.g., Kellogg, Valentine, & Christin, 2020) and algorithmic control in the context of the ‘gig economy’ (e.g., Wood, Graham, Lehdonvirta, & Hjorth, 2019).
Students are encouraged to engage with the literature provided and also exchange their perspectives on the literature bringing in their BA backgrounds and possible previous work experiences. Finally, through a multi-disciplinary group assignment students will be invited to apply what they learned in practice, while an individual paper will provide room to develop personal ideas and critically reflect on a topic of choice.
Course given by dr. F. Grommé and prof. dr. F. Koster
Digitalisation is often accompanied by claims about a ‘new industrial revolution’. Yet, we also know that technologies often perpetuate existing patterns of organisation and associated inequalities. In this course we will have closer look at how digitalisation affects work, organisation and governance.
Each week, we will discuss the dynamics of digitalisation on a different level of analysis, including surveillance on the workfloor, online activism, the changing nature of corporations and the historical continuities behind labour casualisation. You will be invited to compare and contrast theories and empirical insights from organisational sociology, public administration, digital sociology and science and technology studies. Running through the course are the questions of how we shape technologies and their effects, and how we can imagine and accomplish change.
We will start from the idea that technologies such as data analytics, sensors and algorithms can shape organisations and organisational processes. But how digital technologies are applied also is an outcome of institutional arrangements, politics, cultures and identities. Our focus will be on developing analytical and methodological skills needed to understand and assess the different dynamics associated with digitalisation.
Such analytical skills are increasingly relevant for policy, corporate and activist practitioners confronted with developments such as automated decision making or the disruptive effects of platforms. But digitalisation also means we need to develop and adjust our own practices and methods. How to do research on organisations and events that (partly) take place online? What are the possibilities and ethics of doing this type of research? We will find this out by conducting a method experiment.
- Compare theories about technology and society from (digital) sociology, public administration and science and technology studies.
- Develop theoretically informed standpoints on the social and political implications of previous and future technological transformations of work and organisation, based on the course literature and independent literature research.
- Evaluate propositions for policy or organisational change using theories about technology and society from the course literature.
- Develop basic digital methods attuned to researching the digitalisation of organisations and organisational processes.
Course information may be subject to change.
Course given by prof. dr. L. den Dulk and dr. P. Petrou
New technologies, artificial intelligence, platform workers, digitalization, flexibilization: The digital age has seen unprecedented changes and has led to a virtually new world of work. Such revolutionary changes, though, do not signify changes only for organizations, employers and the market. They also signify a new workplace for individual workers. For instance, the flexibilization of work and the implementation of new technologies seem to fundamentally change people’s working conditions and their quality of working life. Self-employed micro entrepreneurs rely on smartphone APPs with smart algorithms to receive work tasks and income. Similarly, employees increasingly work in virtual teams and use remote networking technology to connect and interact with others.
In the current course, building and extending on prior knowledge about the macro-level, we will particularly focus on the micro-level of organizational behaviour in the digital age. In other words, we will examine how individual work behaviours manifest within and are influenced by the context of the digital age.
What consequences does the new way of working of the digital age has for work behaviours, motivation, well-being and performance? How can workers regulate their behaviours so as to deal with this context successfully? And, to go one step further, how can workers make the best of this new context and maximize their performance and their personal wellbeing?
Students are invited to use frameworks and theories from organizational psychology, management studies and sociology in order to understand, analyse and critically evaluate the implications of the digital age for individual work behaviours. The course will consist of lectures, working groups and seminars with international experts. Furthermore, through the practical group assignment of this course, students will be invited to apply what they have learnt in practice, either by diagnosing a real-life problem (e.g., via data collection) or by proposing an intervention that workers/organizations may apply in practice.
In this course we will consider what happens if artificial intelligence (AI) is used in the workplace to (attempt to) 'augment' or even 'replace' people. These questions are becoming increasingly urgent as employers increasingly experiment or implement data-driven technologies and machine learning. In practice, we see a variety of developments around work. In some sectors, for instance in financial services, tasks can be increasingly automated. Yet, new types of work are also emerging with AI, such as cloudwork.
In this course you will learn how you can contribute to debates and practical dilemmas about AI and work from different social science perspectives. Starting from the idea that technologies never act alone, but depend on social institutions and relations, we will discuss the consequences for different aspects of the work context. Examples of topics are: the practical and ethical dilemmas facing professionals such as surgeons or judges, the effects of national policies, the reproduction of existing inequalities, and underlying notions of ‘intelligence’ that shape technologies. We also turn the debate around: what do developments around AI tell us about the role of work in our lives?
You will learn to:
- Analyse AI-enabled technologies as situated, socio-technical systems
- Interpret AI-enabled automation in the context of labour relations and policies
- Assess the ethical consequences of AI for professionals
- Assess the consequences of AI-enabled automation for work organisations and professional fields
- Develop recommendations for addressing practical issues regarding the application of AI in organisations
This course sensitizes you to the social and material groundedness of public issues in intersectional systems of power related to gender, class, ancestry and (post)colonialism, economic class, technology. It familiarizes you with cutting edge work in social theory, as told through cases that reveal the varied power of the socio-technical infrastructures that provide the context for public contestation (by authors such as Haraway, Hall, Roy, Star, Bowker, Edwards, Kitchin, Starosielski, and Mattern). Infrastructure here includes both the material settings of—to give two possible examples—water or internet infrastructure, and the social organization and work practices that go into the making of publics and issues, such as standards for ‘clean’ water or debates over corporate control of internet bandwith.
You will learn a selection of major approaches in contemporary social theory, and will yourself form strategies for thinking with/against these approaches and applying them to relevant public issues. The aim is to come up with new ways to address the varied infrastructures of power that infuse struggles over contemporary issuess in particular places and times. The course also highlights the ways that the legacies of past power imbalances continue to shape current debates, and how the uneven form and contexts of social issues, such as legacies of sexism and colonialism, can change through an awareness of the lives and theorizing of actors who were traditionally omitted from public debates. It puts socio-material power imbalances at the core of social theory, and uses these to better address which publics and issues become visible and how more heterogeneous solutions can become viable.
One way to think about infrastructures is as the concrete manifestation of power across time and space. So the role of space and the uneven effects of power in infrastructures are also central to this course. It also pays attention to the significance of relatively recent technological infrastructures, in particular to ‘digital infrastructures’ and to the ways these transform, and are transformed by, public debates. For example, you may learn to empirically study how online algorithms sort out what can become visible and what counts as public knowledge, and the ways that technology can alternately alleviate or deepen social injustice.
The interplay between families and macro-level contexts is crucial for understanding the challenges which modern societies face. Families are a key link between macro-level processes (political, cultural, and economic shifts) and individual outcomes such as socioeconomic and health status in later life. In other words, many of the decisions that you might perceive as fundamentally personal and individual (the kind of job taken or whether to work at all, whether to become a parent or not, which country to live in) are shaped by the interaction between our families and broader social, cultural, and institutional conditions. Furthermore, the significant changes observed in the family arena in the past decades (e.g., decreasing fertility rates, shifts in the division of paid and unpaid labour between partners) have crucial repercussions for the challenges which societies already are and will continue to face in the future, such as increases in inequality.
In this course, students will learn about the links between families (at the micro-level of individual lives and the meso-level of social networks) and social inequalities. Students will gain insights into key theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of families and social inequalities. Attention will also be paid to interactions between micro- and macro-levels of analysis; e.g. how markets (e.g. the precariousness of jobs), states (e.g. social policies and national laws) and political, cultural and economic shifts structure family members’ life courses and well-being outcomes, thereby reducing, maintaining or strengthening social inequalities at large.
After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Explain the key theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of families and how they relate to issues of social inequalities;
- Indicate the implications of changes at the macro level (e.g. policies, cultural climate, economic circumstances) for family relations over the course of life;
- Illustrate how the major changes in family life in developed societies have implications for the maintenance, reduction and strengthening of social inequalities;
- Assess how policies and legal arrangements shape inequalities within and between families.
After successful completion of this course, students will also have developed the following skills:
- Read and evaluate research published in academic journals, books and popular / policy publications;
- Deliver oral presentations that build arguments and assess evidence in a clear and effective manner;
- Comment in a constructive way on other students’ presentations.