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Digital @nthropology: a Critical Take on Information Society


Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

  • Students who have been admitted to this course as part of their pre-master programme for the MA in CA-DS

Please see the registration procedure below.


Digital anthropology chooses to study new information technologies as well as the practices it enables such as chatting, micro blogging or file sharing not as mere technology but rather for the social behaviour they are. The sociality of these new technologies, the new affordances they provide and older traditions they seemingly continue, can and need to be studied ethnographically. Domestication, subversion and often outright refusal to adapt (to) new technologies in different sections of our society and in various places in and away from the digital centres of our world are here our starting point for asking what social scientists have to contribute to these debates.

In this course we primarily investigate the encroaching notion that today ‘we’ live in an ‘information society.’ Some of the questions that we will concern ourselves with: What are the social, material and ideological foundations that support the notion that ‘we’ live in the information society? What is this obsession with ‘information’ and who owns it? How does the ideal of an informational society that is cheap, efficient and clean, ignores their hidden costs elsewhere? What does it mean to be politically active in the information society? And what does it mean to conduct anthropological research in and of ‘the information society’?

We will look at a wide variety of information-society related phenomena, varying from ‘open source’ and advocates of a more green and fair technology to ICT4D projects; from privacy-activist groups to technophobes and the fear of surveillance culture, from high-tech spirituality to cam girls, hackers and information society’s underbelly, where 2nd hand, cannibalised phones are given a second lease to enable the digital have not’s to partake in what can be seen as the most enduring myth of our times: the digital revolution. But we will especially interrogate our very own personal use of the digital and the challenges it poses in the study of humankind.

Course objectives

  • students will be able to partake in critical discussions regarding the political, cultural and economic factors that govern the global dispersion of information technologies;

  • they familiarize themselves with the practice of doing ‘online ethnography’, and will become aware of the kinds of political choices we implicitly make by using particular types of information technologies in our own lives;

  • they will familiarize themselves with recent critical debates regarding the ‘information society’ and learn to identify the various ideological and political purposes to which ICT is put to use by differently-positioned groups around the world.

Time table

  • Lectures
    Thursdays from 11th of September until 27th of November 2015, 10.00 – 13.00 h in room 5A23.

Mode of instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures 10×3 h = 30 sbu

  • Student presentations (werkgroepen) 12 hrs = 24 sbu

  • Study of literature (+/- 1000 pp) and weekly assignments about it (AQCI’s) = 170 sbu

  • Final paper 6 pp (3600 words) = 48 sbu

Assessment method

  • Nine AQCI assignments (1 per week) – 75 % of the final grade

  • Final paper (6 pages = 3600 words) – 25 % of the final grade

  • Participation in discussions

  • One in-class presentation per student

  • Presence in class (at least 8 out of 10 sessions should be attended)

Re-do is only possible if the final grade is below 6, if student has actively participated in the course and submitted most of the assignments / papers / presentations.


  • Registration in Usis is obligatory for the lectures (H) for all participants.
    Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • Registration on Blackboard is obligarory for all participants.

  • NB: Exchange students: You can only register for this course if you had officially been admitted during the Admission Procedure.


Blackboard module will be active two weeks before the start of the first class and will be used for posting assignments and other course related information.

Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Horst, H. A., & Miller, D. (2012). Digital anthropology. London: Berg.

  • A compilation of electronically available readings mostly available through Blackboard.

Contact information

Coordinator dr. Bart Barendregt: