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Digital media, moralities and culture

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 7pm – 10pm

Lecture venue

Course description

The growth of digital media is fundamentally reshaping our culture, while also giving rise to new problems and issues of concern. But how can we start to analyse and understand these changes sociologically and anthropologically? This course, which is offered to both MSocSc Criminology and MSocSc Media, Culture and Creative Cities students, will attempt to find ways to address these issues that can be of value to both sub-disciplines, through an examination of the moral and ethical issues underpinning a wide array of digital communications technologies.

Morality provides a powerful tool for understanding technology that can encompass both the mundane (i.e., whether a selfie is judged to be tasteful or crude) and the extraordinary (i.e., the laws and regulations governing internet use). We examine how morality, social norms and behaviours are shaping technology use, and how technology is in turn redefining the moral frameworks that exist in society.

A broad range of existing theoretical standpoints for understanding the ethics of digital media will be introduced. These perspectives will be critiqued and challenged through reference to existing case studies and on-going innovative research projects from different academics and practitioners. This course adopting a truly global outlook, examining case studies from around the world. We also ask how Asian perspectives and methodologies might help to contribute to academic debates.

You will be helped to ground the theories of digital media in everyday life by taking part in digital media research workshop tasks throughout the course, to examine the uses and moral dimensions of a specific new media form. Guest talks from a number of academics and practitioners will also help to complement the project.

Course learning outcomes

  1. Describe key concepts and theories for examining new media and digital culture.
  2. Explain varying utopian and dystopian prognosis regarding the potentials of new media and discuss their implications.
  3. Apply different theoretical perspectives to analyse the impact of new media in different spheres of everyday life and society.
  4. Plan, execute, analyse and disseminate the findings of research activities.
  5. Critically assess the utility of theoretical concepts for understanding the impact of new media in areas such as government, law enforcement, industry and civil society.


Digital research workshop tasks40%
Digital research presentation10%
End-of-term essay50%

Required reading

Castells, M. (2000). The rise of the network society. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Coleman, G. (2014). Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. London: Verso.

Livingstone, S. & Sefton-Green, J. (2016) The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age. New York: New York University Press

Maurer, B. (2015) How Would You Like to Pay?: How Technology Is Changing the Future of Money. Durham: Duke University Press.

Miller et al., (2016) How the world changed social media. London: UCL Press.

Recommended reading

Boellstorff, T. (2008). Coming of age in Second Life: an anthropologist explores the virtually human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Botler, J. D., & Grusin, R. (Ed.). (1999). Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, wikipedia, second life, and beyond: From production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Ching, C. C. & Foley, B. J. (Ed.). (2012). Constructing the self in a digital world. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Fuery, K. (2008). New media: Culture and image. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gere, C. (2002). Digital culture. London: Reaktion Books.

Green, L. (2010). The internet: An introduction to new media. London: A&C Black Publishers Ltd.

Harrison, D. H. (2012). Cyber warfare and the laws of war. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Horst, H. A. & Miller, D. (Eds.). (2012). Digital Anthropology. London: Berg.

Lievrouw, L. A., & Livingstone, S. (2002). Handbook of new media: Social shaping and consequences of ICTs. London: Routledge.

Lomborg, S. (Ed.) (2014). Social media, social genres: making sense of the ordinary. New York: Routledge.

Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Negroponte, N. (1996). Being digital. New York: Knopf.

Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Williams, R. (2003[1975]). Television: Technology and cultural form. London: Routledge.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Student view

This course beautifully combined theoretical concepts and real-life experiences, allowing me a whole new understanding of new media and digital culture. No matter whether you are a ‘real’ or ‘virtual’ soul, you will find your place here!

– Dor, year2 MSocSc Media Culture & Creative Cities student