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New Media and Society


Admission requirements

Only available for BDMS students, students of Journalistiek en Nieuwe Media and BDMS exchange students. Others may contact the course organiser.


Communication is an essential and basic characteristic of the human species. Developments in communication technologies, from writing to digital media, have influenced the inscription and transmission of human culture through the ages. The nature of the technology used for communication has a major impact, both on society and on the content of cultural expressions. A change of medium is a sociotechnical process characterised by a mixture of continuities and discontinuities, much of which can be shown to follow directly from technological properties of the technologies involved. Today, digital media influence and disrupt existing patterns of storage, distribution and access to information. Digitisation is changing the role of all traditional media, including books. The position of authors, publishers, booksellers as well as that of readers is affected. Existing categorisations of media blur, new content genres come available on-line and the media industries are restructured by the process. Moreover, the audience is taking a new role in the age of interactive media, even as a producer of content. On-line media also provide new chances to access historical collections, including those containing books and manuscripts. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to medial change in general, and to the significance of the digital medium for society and culture in particular. In its reflection on the nature of the discipline of Book and Digital Media Studies and its objects this course is designed to provide a unifying framework for the Book and Digital Media Studies programme. The course is provided in collaboration with the MA Programme Journalism and New Media.

Course objectives

Students learn to understand the broad social and cultural implications of the introduction and advance of new mediums and the recurring patterns that characterise medial change as a sociotechnical process. To gain insight in the role of media as ‘transformative technologies’ in social and cultural history students will study the transmission ‘cycle’ of text and the other information modalities (sound, still and moving images), and familiarise themselves with key concepts, definitions and models in the study of textual transmission and communication. In the analysis of the role of the media in the transmission of information and knowledge particular emphasis will be on the current wholesale adoption of digital technology in information and communication.


The timetable will be avialable by June 1st on this page.

Mode of instruction

Two-hour lecture/seminar per week.

Assessment method

Essay (75%) and assignment (25%).


Limited Blackboard support.

Reading list

  • Adriaan van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds: Towards a Digital Order of Knowledge, Manchester UP, 2011

  • Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media, from Gutenberg to the Internet (London: Polity Press, 2005 [or later])

  • Selected articles to be provided.


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail.
Co-ordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.