The University of Southampton
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SOCI3073 Cyber Lives? New Technologies and Social Change

Module Overview

Since the late 20th century the impacts of digital information and communication technologies have been felt across all areas of social life, from working lives and politics and the state to culture, leisure and personal relationships. At first glance, the scale of change seems huge. New information and communication technologies offer new possibilities for how to live our lives, new landscapes on which to conduct our selves and – at the same time – pose new risks and threats, undermining older certainties and existing ways of life. The significance of new technologies in contemporary social life raises some important sociological questions: What is the relationship between technology and society? Does technology determine social change? Is technology progressive or oppressive? What changes and what stays the same? How do we tell?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: - To develop your understanding of sociological perspectives on new information and communication technologies - To enable you to trace the impact and implications of information and communication technologies on contemporary social life across a range of fields, for example work, culture, health, and civil society. - To offer you the opportunity to integrate sociological perspectives on ICT with other substantive areas of sociological research and theory

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Knowledge and understanding of sociological theories about technology and social change
  • Evaluate wider sociological claims through the applied study of particular fields of practice
  • Integrate insights from sociologies of technology with those from other relevant sub-disciplines within Sociology.
  • Contemporary research on the impact of information and communication technologies across different social fields
  • Produce succinct summary overviews of complex material
  • Analyse and evaluate competing perspectives on a topic
  • Produce a sustained argument using diverse data
  • Take responsibility for representing particular arguments/evidence
  • Develop collaborative study and research abilities
  • Articulate views and arguments in sustained seminar discussions
  • Engage critically with competing sociological theories about the impact of new information and communication technologies

Syllabus

The syllabus begins with an overview of theoretical contributions to the sociology of technology. There a brief historical overview in order to place contemporary debate in the wider sociological canon, but the major focus in this introduction is on contemporary theories relating to new technologies in the present era. Key themes and literature will be drawn from Science and Technology Studies; the Social Construction of Technology; Actor Network Theory; and cyber-studies. There theoretical tools will be integrated with the study new technologies in particular contexts, for example: Work and economic life – globalization - virtual work and organization – the knowledge economy – new spaces of work. Culture - cyberspace – new spaces of social life and interaction – human-computer interaction – chat rooms – on-line gaming – internet consumerism. Health, Illness and the Body – cyborg selves - telemedicine – information systems – safety and risk. Empowerment and Inequality – the digital citizen - the digital divide - information ethics – new identities. The unit finishes with an overview of relations between technology, self and social change.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Teaching and learning is organized around weekly seminars. The first two weeks are led by the tutor and after this students take responsibility for the seminar discussions. In these subsequent weeks, we determine in advance which readings/sub-topics individual students will be responsible for and will undertake to ‘represent’ their readings effectively during the seminars. During seminars students are divided into small groups (either by reading or sub-topic as appropriate) and asked to address key questions or tasks. Following this group work, students are expected to make brief presentations to the wider group and to participate in student-led discussions. Learning activities include: • Short lectures • Small group work • Short student presentations • Constructive critical questioning and debate

TypeHours
Teaching24
Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Shields, R. (2003). The Virtual. 

Cavanagh, A. (2007). Sociology in the Age of the Internet. 

Bell, D. (2001). Cybercultures. 

Bell, D. and Kennedy, B. (2007). The Cybercultures Reader. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Feedback from tutor at the end of each session on strengths and weaknesses

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 75%
Essay  ( words) 25%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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