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Concepts of Textual Transformations


Admission requirements

This course is a core module for students on the MA Book and Digital Media Studies (or exchange students admitted to this programme). Students from other programmes are welcome to approach the course coordinator for admission, but this will be determined on a case-by-case basis.


Communication is an essential and basic characteristic of the human species. Developments in communication technologies, from writing, via print, to digital media, have influenced the inscription and transmission of human culture through the ages. Medial change is a sociotechnical process characterised by a mixture of continuities and discontinuities, driven by the inherent properties of the technologies and the sociocultural reactions to them. The current rise of digital text disrupts the traditional production, distribution and consumption of information. Among other effects, existing categorisations of media blur, new content genres come available on-line and the media industries are restructured by the process. This course provides a comprehensive conceptual introduction to medial change in general, and to the significance of the digital medium for present-day textual culture in particular. In the analysis of the role of the media particular emphasis will be on the current wholesale adoption in contemporary Western society of digital technology for inscribing and and communicating information and knowledge and its social consequences.

Course objectives


  • gain insight in the role of media as ‘transformative technologies’ in social and cultural history;

  • familiarise themselves with key concepts, definitions and models in the study of textual transmission and communication;

  • are introduced to scholarly debates on the nature of socio-technical change and its practical implications;

  • 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;

  • build skills to express themselves both in oral form during in-class discussions, in short written comments on Brightspace, and in long-form sustained argument through the course essay.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


For each class, a thematic discussion is initiated on Brightspace by the lecturer. Each student should submit three brief responses to such discussions, one of which should be written in the first half of the semester. The course is examined further with a final course essay, for which students develop a topic within one of three thematic options provided by the lecturer.


Average of three discussion posts: 25%
Course essay: 75%


The resit consists of the same components as the first attempt.

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

  • Adriaan van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds: Towards a Digital Order of Knowledge (Manchester UP, 2011). It is recommended students buy this book beforehand.

  • Asa Briggs, Peter Burke & Espen Ytreberg, A Social History of the Media, from Gutenberg to Facebook (London: Polity Press; 4th ed. 2020). Online available via the University Library, but students may choose to obtain their own copy.
    For each class, selected articles should be studied; a full bibliography will be provided with materials freely accessible via the University Library.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange
For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office. À la carte education and Contract teaching not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal.


Not applicable