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Digital Culture


  • Pierre Depaz


This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of digital media, of how they affect the formation of human groups, and how are themselves affected by human groups. Changes in means of communication imply changes in the nature of communication itself, and therefore in the nature of the societies which communicate through these means. The near-ubiquitous presence of computer-mediated communications thus affects the way that humans organize, relate and imagine. As computers are changing us, this class provides the tools to approach and understand the nature of these changes. To do so, this course will proceed along three axes: decoding, coding and exploring. Decoding will be a cross-disciplinary approach to the digital, spanning history, sociology, anthropology, media studies, science/technology studies and software studies. Coding will involve students the practicalities of working with, and creating, digital objects (websites, videos, podcasts, visualizations). Exploring will stand on the two previous and take the form of a digital exploration: a sociological investigation on the social, economic and/or political impact of digital technologies on human behaviors and practices. This investigation will be designed, developed and presented on a digital platform harnessing the specific affordances of digital media.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand how digital technologies are managed by various human groups
  • Assess how digital technologies impact interpersonal interactions
  • Develop proficiency in web technologies and multimedia knowledge transfer

Topic Outlines

  • History of the Internet and the Web
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
  • Platform Economy
  • Social Media
  • Software and cybernetics


  • A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, John Perry Barlow
  • Engineering the Public: Big data, Surveillance and computational politics, Zeynep Tufekci
  • The Ladies Vanish, Shawn Wen
  • The Truth About How Uber’s App Manages Drivers, Alex Rosenblat
  • Code/Space: Software and the Everyday Life, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge
  • Machine Bias: Risk Assessment in Criminal Sentencing, Julia Angwin et. al.
  • AI's Language Problem, Will Knight

Grading Rubric

No grading rubric.


  • Individual commentary (30%) - Due on 10/01 By session #4, each member of a group will have to submit a 500-1,000 words web commentary outlining the relationship between the topic of their digital exploration and an article of their choosing. This commentary will be evaluated both on content, with extra points for form, and should include: • A short presentation of the topic you will, as a group, be working on, including a clearly-defined central question, along with your working research hypotheses and proposed methodologies. • An analysis of the chosen article, including field, angle, methods and position. • A review of some of the current debates on the main topic of the article. • A commentary on what kind of light this article sheds on your proposed exploration. • Multimedia material (images, sounds, videos) to support and illustrate your point. This commentary will have to be presented as a web page, including proper HTML and CSS markup, and possibly JS interactivity. The submission of the commentary will be done by email, with the subject “Individual Commentary”, and including the URL of the webpage where the commentary lives. Any late submission (10/01, by the beginning of class time) will automatically result in a 0.
  • Digital exploration (70%) - Due on 11/26 By the end of the class, you will have produced, in groups from 2 to 4, a study about a practice, a service, a platform, etc. in the digital space. The submission of this exploration will have to be done as a digital-first format. ( website, video series, podcast, but also possibly Facebook, Instagram,, etc.). This work will include: • A significant bibliographical and webographical research. • A presentation of your core question(s) (problématique). An overview of your methodology (e.g. online interviews, online questionnaires, experimental protocols, online ethnographies). • Analyses and interpretations. • Summary of findings. Try to be creative and give a personal tone to your exploration, both by tying it to your personal experiences and interests, and by taking into account your potential audience and publishing platform. The written component of the website should not exceed 4000 words.
  • Participation (additional 10 %) • You are expected to participate during class, through (1) completing and reflecting upon any assigned weekly videos or readings, (2) initiating and contributing to discussions during each session and (3) paying attention to lectures and discussions if not actively participating in those discussions. • You will also be able to contribute outside of class, by posting relevant material on the Discord server for this course, be it articles, videos, websites, etc. Details about this will be shared in the first class.


You are expected to spend between 1 and 2 hours each week on coursework, including preparing any readings, making your website, and making progress on your exploration with your group. A typical weekly workload will include: one or two readings, and a short response to that reading, and some work on your individual commentary, or group exploration.

Course Resources

Class notes

Website with all lecture notes

Course website

With readings, schedule and technical resources.


Uploaded by Pierre Depaz on 2023-07-03