Second year students of the Honours College FSW programme, Science & Society track.
In this introductory module we explore current processes of the digitalization of society, both at home and elsewhere, and in its aftermath, the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence within all domains of everyday life. When all becomes binary code we are confronted by new everyday challenges, from care robots to the ‘internet of things’. Increasingly so we are facing the possible downside of digital society, including the ancient fear of machine and technology taking over or at best deeming us to a new post-corporal stage in which machine and human are destined to blend. We will start our course by briefly investigating the hopes and fears surrounding robots and artificial intelligence in the popular imagination, myth and Sci-Fi, to more specifically focus on its latest incarnation, the algorithm. The consequences of algorithmic culture are yet difficult to foresee but its current use in surveillance, credit systems and all sorts of predictive analytics leads us already to speculate about a new digital divide that is ahead, waiting for us. A divide in which algorithmic power is to those with access to and knowledge of big data sets, with others doomed to be ruled by the machine.
At successful completion of this introductory course, you will:
be familiar with the latest scientific insights on digitalization, robotization and algorithmic culture in various disciplines;
be familiar with current scientific debates on the use of digital technology in our everyday lives and the challenges and constraints that come with it:
be able to take and defend your position in current scientific debates on digitalisation and robotization
be able to describe the position of a specific group in society in relation to digitalisation and robotisation
Mode of instruction
The course consists of three interactive meetings and one meeting for final presentations.
Before the first meeting, you will read relevant literature and listen to inspiring perspectives on digitalisation and robotisation. In the first meeting, you will be challenged to critically examine these perspectives. You will form a group of 3 to 5 students to conduct your research. In the second meeting, the instructor will present a case study from his own research and a number of controversial statements as a source of inspiration for you to tackle your own case study. In the third meeting, you will discuss issues of representation: how can you secure a both academically and ethically sound representation of your research findings?
In between the meetings, you will conduct a very short field research of a controversial topic within the field of digitalisation and robotisation among a societal group of your own choosing. You will present your findings in an academic blog series or an academic mini movie.
In the final meeting, you will present your blog series or your movie to your instructor and the second-year students of the Science & Society track.
Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t these just young, rich women doing vain things online?”: Influencer selfies as subversive frivolity. Social Media+ Society, 2(2), 2056305116641342.
Carney, M. (2018) Leave no dark corner, ABC News website. Retrievable at:
Carruth, A., (2014). The digital cloud and the micropolitics of energy. Public Culture, 26(2 73), pp.339-364.
Hine, C. (2017). Ethnography and the Internet: Taking Account of Emerging Technological Landscapes. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 10(3), 315-329.
Fortunati, L. (2017). Robotization and the domestic sphere. New Media & Society, 1461444817729366.
Kshetri, N., (2014). The emerging role of Big Data in key development issues: Opportunities, challenges, and concerns. Big Data & Society, 1(2),1-20.
Lazer, D., & Radford, J. (2017). Data ex machina: Introduction to big data. Annual Review of Sociology, 43, 19-39.
Lupton, D., & Williamson, B. (2017). The datafied child: The dataveillance of children and implications for their rights. New Media & Society, 19(5), 780-794.
Madianou, M., & Miller, D. (2013). Polymedia: Towards a new theory of digital media in interpersonal communication. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(2), 169-187.
Miller, D. (2018). Digital anthropology. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology. http://www.anthroencyclopedia.com/entry/digital-anthropology
Philips, W., J. Beyer & G. Coleman, (2017). Trolling Scholars Debunk the Idea That the Alt-Right’s Shitposters Have Magic Powers. Vice.com. Retrievable from: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/contributor/whitney-phillips-jessica-beyer-and-gabriella-coleman
Ramati, I. and Pinchevski, A., (2017). Uniform multilingualism: A media genealogy of Google Translate. New Media & Society, p.1461444817726951.
Seaver, N. (2018). What should an anthropology of algorithms do?. Cultural Anthropology, 33(3), 375-385.
Turing, A. M. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind 49: 433-460.
This literature must be read before the first meeting. Take a document to the first meeting in which you answer the following questions:
1) What three new insights did you gain from the literature?
2) Which three topics do you wish to explore further after reading the literature?
3) Please formulate a provocative academic and/or societal statement inspired by/based on the literature.
Number of Participants
Maximum: 50 participants
You will receive qualitative feedback on your blog series or movie. Assessment of your participation in the categories insufficient, good or excellent will be based on commitment, courage and academic rigour.
|29-11-2019||15:15-17:00||P. de la Court Building||5A47|
Registration via uSis, activity code 12348.
If you have any questions, please contact Bart Barendregt.