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Digital @nthropology: a Critical Take on Information Society


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2019-2020. A new version with marginal changes will be presented on this page shortly.

Admission requirements

There is a very limited number of available places for this course so only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students of the third year of CA-DS (c.q. those who started the bachelor in September 2017 or earlier). NB: Second year's CA-DS students follow a different version of this course, on level 200.
    If due to too many applicationsa selection of participants needs to be made, students who have already followed other "verdiepings"-courses on level 300 will be de-registered.

The following two categories will be registered by our administration after explicit admission procedure:

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students who have been admitted to this course,

  • Pre-master students who have completed their admission procedure for the master CA-DS and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the pre-master programme.

Please see the Usis-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

Dates and room numbers can be found on our website, under "3e jaar, Semester 1, Hoorcolleges".

Mode of instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures 12×3 h = 36 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

  • Five take home assignments (1 for every 2 weeks) – 40 % of the final grade

  • e-Portofolio (with reports on practical in class assignments) – 30%

  • Final project paper + presentation (6 pages = 3600 words) – 30 %

  • Participation in discussions

  • Presence in class (at least 10 out of 12 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 (6493DAIH) for third year's CA-DS students. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.

  • Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • Registration on Blackboard is obligatory for all participants.

  • Exchange students: If you had officially been admitted for this course during the Admission Procedure, you will be registered for the lectures by our faculty's student administration.


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

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

Contact information

Dr. Bart Barendregt Dr. John Boy