MC427      Half Unit
Digital Media Futures

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alison Powell STC. S119b


This course is available on the MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society), MSc in Media and Communications (Media and Communications Governance) and MSc in Media and Communications (Research). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

In order to accommodate academic staff research leave and sabbaticals, and in order to maintain smaller seminar group sizes, this course is capped, meaning that there is a limit to the number of students who can be accepted. Whist we do our best to accommodate all requests, we cannot guarantee you a place on this course.

Course content

This course provides an historical, theoretical and methodological basis through which to assess the social and cultural transformations related to digital media infrastructures and related social practices. It focuses on the materiality and affordances of new media, as well as on the social transformations that have co-evolved, including open source media production practices and peer to peer organizing practices. It critiques and questions the assumptions about the transformation of social and cultural life but also attempts to help students develop conceptual strategies beyond critique. A central focus of the course will be the claims made about the implication for collaborative work and culture of the qualities of digital data, considered through topics including but not limited to: peer to peer and open source cultural movements, the political economy and ecology of digital media, the politics of algorithms, remembering and forgetting, as well as the shift towards 'data as media' and its implications for media publics and media power. Students will be invited to consider the broader contexts of all of these media futures, including those related to policy and governance.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will complete a 1,500 word formative essay based on a case study. They will also receive formative feedback on class participation and on participation in creating a shared, online 'Encyclopedia of Media Futures' modelled on Wikipedia.

Indicative reading

Marvin, Carolyn (1989) When Old Technologies Were New. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong and Thomas Keenan (2006) New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. London: Routledge.

Gauntlett, David (2010) Making is Connecting. London: Polity Books.

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kitchin Rob and Dodge, Martin (2011) Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life.

Lukers, Kristin (2007) Salsa Dancing into the Social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Turner, Fred (2005) "Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy: The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community." Technology and Culture 46: 485-512.

Turkle, Sherry (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva (2008) The Googlization of Everything (And why we should worry). Berkeley: University of California Press.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 20.5
Merit 55.4
Pass 24.1
Fail 0

Teachers' comment

We look at the connections between expectations about media technologies and ideas about the future - and we look at the particular features of today's media and their imagined futures.

Students’ comments

"Did a great job of breaking down abstract concepts and relating them in the seminar. Readings were very informative, interesting."

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2014/15: 21

Average class size 2014/15: 11

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication