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Digital Technologies and Power: Surveillance Capitalism


Admission requirements



In her book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”(2019) social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff shares her conclusion that we find ourselves in the “crucible of an unprecedented form of power” distinguished by extreme concentrations of knowledge and without democratic insight. The Surveillance Capitalism: economic logic that accumulates wealth and power in new “behavioral futures markets” where predictions about human behavior are bought and sold. This imperative first advanced from Silicon Valley into all aspects of global economy continuously transforming society into a hive of total connection that promises maximum certainty for maximum profit. Zuboff’s comprehensive analysis leads to the conclusion that the price for this is human freedom.

In this course, we will critically read the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” and review it in the form of group debate sessions. This serves as an exercise to critically investigate what are the drives for innovation, where they might lead to; and how or when can we change its course.

Course objectives

At the end of this course the participants will:

  • Understand the concept of surveillance capitalism and what drives the innovations in digital technologies;

  • Get broad perspective on the effects of the “surveillance capitalism” on the individual and the society;

  • Be able to recognize the power relations between stakeholders and to analyze effectiveness of approaches for their governance.


The timetable can be found in the right menu

  • General minor Intro (Mon, Aug 31): 5 minutes outline of the course;

  • e-mail communication about group division & chapter assignment (Aug, 31)

  • Schedule (all sessions will be conducted remotely):

  • Selfstudy - 02-09-2020 (Wed)

  • Plenary introductory meeting 09-09-2020 (Wed):

  • Video Lectures uploaded 9:00AM;

  • 3 X Group Q&A Sessions 10:00 – 10:45;

  • 6 x Subgroup meeting I:

  • 3 x Subgroups A - 16-09-2020 (Wed): 10:00-11:00;

  • 3 x Subgroups B - 16-09-2020 (Wed): 11:30-12:30;

  • Self-study - 23-09-2020 (Wed)

  • 6 x subgroup meeting II:

  • 3 x Subgroups A - 30-09-2020 (Wed): 10:00-11:00;

  • 3 x Subgroups B - 30-09-2020 (Wed): 11:30-12:30;

  • Second plenary meeting 07-10-2020 (Wed):

  • Video Lecture uploaded 09:00AM;

  • 3 X Group Q&A Sessions 10:00-10:45;

  • 6 x Subgroup Meeting II:

  • 3 x Subgroups A - 14-10-2020 (Wed): 10:00-11:00;

  • 3 x Subgroups B – 14-10-2020 (Wed): 11:30-12:30;

  • Final Meeting:

  • Student 6.40 video/Pecha Kucha upload 19-10-2020 (Mon)

  • Q&A Session (all groups) 21-10-2020 (Wed): 10:00 – 12:00

All sessions are obligatory. For each absence, students have to do an assignment. The students who are absent more than twice will not pass the module.

Mode of instruction

  • Selfstudy;

  • Lectures;

  • Seminars;

  • Group work

Assessment method


  • Written assignment: blog/short essay (1000 words) on reflections on surveillance capitalism

  • Group presentations

  • Participation: contribution to subgroup meetings


  • Written assignment (50%)

  • Group presentations (40%)

  • Participation (10%)


The students are allowed one resit per examination. It is not allowed to resit an examination or assignment for which they have received a pass (6,0 or higher). It is allowed to resit an examination or an assignment which they haven't done during the first occasion. The resit format needs to be discussed with the teacher of the course in line with examination regulations.

In case the student is granted an extra resit by the Board of Examiners, this resit has to take place within study year 2020-2021. This means the students have to complete the minor within one study year.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required Reading:

  • Shoshana Zuboff, “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” (2019).
    Available a.o. via or

Further Reading (final list will be published on the Blackboard page of the course):

  • Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, “Re-engineering Humanity”. Cambridge University Press, (2018).

  • Evgeny Morozov, “Capitalism’s New Clothes”, Baffler, (2019) available:


  • Yuval Noah Harari, “Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow” Random House, (2016).


Students need to register for the minor at their home university and in uSis Leiden, and for each individual course in uSis Leiden.

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Lexo Zardiashvili Dr. F. Dechesne