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Politics of Identity and Difference: Agency and Citizenship in the Network Politics




Admission Requirements

Only accessible to second and third-year students. It is recommend that students have taken at least one 200-level course on media studies, political studies (WP), and diversity studies. Alternatively, students can contact the course instructor for permission to enroll.


The advent of the internet in the last century gave rise to many profoundly utopian expectations of the transformative possibilities of the then-new medium. The internet would allow users to reinvent their identities in cyberspace, free from their material and bodily circumstances, and produce the conditions for a new and more democratic public sphere, free from the constraints imposed by state intervention and the dynamics of the commercialized mass media. We will engage with the many new questions raised and old questions reframed by the historical, technological, social and cultural condition of what sociologists, political scientists and media theorists have come to refer to as the Network Society.

We will depart from an investigation of the politics of identity and difference in order to cast a critical perspective on digital utopianism, in order to analyze the ideological investments that underlie such narratives of the new. We will then turn to network theories so that we can begin to untangle the complex dynamics of power that shape technological, social and political networks.

The course will engage with the significant challenge of trying to come to grasp with the political aspects of new technologies as they are happening, and of trying to understand the very technosocial conditions that shape us as subjects, citizens, and potential agents of change.

Course Objectives

During this course students will:

  • familiarize themselves with the most important theoretical debates on the network society

  • study and analyze concepts and claims formulated within influential network theories, and develop an understanding of the methodological challenges of studying and understanding networks as phenomena, metaphors, and models of thought

  • critically assess political transformations present in or ascribed to the network society

  • reflect on the effects of new technologies on subjectivity, citizenship, and agency

  • work on the following skills: critical reading and the comparative analysis of texts; assessment of own work and the work of others; preparing and moderating group discussions; conducting and presenting (verbally and in writing) original research.

Mode of Instruction

The course will be structured around two weekly seminars (2 hours each). The first two seminars will be dedicated to introducing the main debates surrounding the politics of difference and identity, and establishing an understanding of the central concepts of the course. From week 2 onwards, seminars will be student-led (with support of the instructor). All students will be expected to post at least one grounded question (see “Assessment”) on each text per week in order to facilitate the students leading the seminar. For further details on how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


Assessment: Seminar leadership (one entire session)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 2 – 7 (Once)

Assessment: Weekly web-postings (one grounded question per text) and in-class participation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7 (Sundays and Wednesdays at 2 PM)

Assessment: Two mini-essays (700-800 words)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 4 and 7 (Fridays at 5 PM)

Assessment: Final research essay (3000-3500 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8 (Friday at 5 PM)

Seminar leadership (20%): You will be expected to present the main ideas and concepts present in the week’s readings in an organized manner; to moderate a group discussion on the main similarities and differences presented by the week’s authors and the way the readings may be connected to current developments in society; to engage your peers in these discussions; and to moderate the co-production of a metaperspectival grid of concepts and arguments at the end of the session.

Class participation and grounded questions (20%): Discussion is key to intellectual and social progress. In order to ensure that the course enables such progress, your critical, imaginative, and insightful contributions to the class discussions is key.

Mini-essays (10% each – 20% total): At two points during the course you are expected to write a mini-essay of 700-800 words each. Each mini-essay should engage at least two texts (in total) from the course material. Your first mini-essay should be handed in no later than Week 4, the second no later than Week 7 on Friday at 5 PM.

Final Research essay (40%): Your final essay should be double-spaced, 3000 – 3500 words in length and submitted on Friday of Week 8. Final essays turned in without a pre-approved proposal will not be accepted, and late submissions will not be entertained unless accompanied by reasons I find compelling.

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated under any circumstances. All articles of the LUC Honour Code and Academic Rules and Regulations as specified in LUC Student Handbook 2013-2014 apply.


A reader will be compiled and made available digitally.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1, Session 1: The politics of difference and identity – new media, the subject and subject formation (philosophical primer)
Week 1, Session 2: The politics of difference and identity – new media and the technologies of discipline and control (philosophical primer)
Week 2, Session 1: Network theory & politics – what is a network, anyway?
Week 2, Session 2: Network theory & politics – the network society
Week 3, Session 1: Identity in the network society – the networked self
Week 3, Session 2: Identity in the network society – virtual communities and social networks
Week 4, Session 1: Citizenship in the network society – the networked public sphere
Week 4, Session 2: Citizenship in the network society – issue networks and civil society organizing
Week 5, Session 1: Participatory culture and its critique – Power Laws and the politics of ranking
Week 5, Session 2: Participatory culture and its critique – Web 2.0
Week 6, Session 1: Institutionalizing the network society – digital democracy
Week 6, Session 2: Institutionalizing the network society – digital culture/digital memory
Week 7, Session 1: Networks politics enacted – from activism to hacktivism
Week 7, Session 2: Network politics enacted – the performativity of SNAs and ANTs

Preparation for first session

Student without any previous knowledge on new media might want to read Lister et. al.‘s New Media: An Introduction, but this recommended, not required.