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IM902 Approaches to the Digital


20/30 CATS - (10/15 ECTS)

Term 1

Computer networks, devices, and infrastructures structure and facilitate much of our social, political and cultural life.

This module introduces students to a range of approaches to digital media and culture. Each week, we will take up a different interdisciplinary orientation (i.e. platforms, algorithms, subjects, ecologies), and explore how these can contribute to a critical understanding of the digital. Each approach contains a number of key concepts (i.e. formats, datafication, digital precarity, the deep vernacular web); concepts are related to problems or issues for the study of digital culture. Approaches, concepts and their problems are then explored critically and creatively through independent research.

Today, many key institutions (media, policing, health care, education, government, museums) rely on computational infrastructures for their basic operations. Whether used for tracking, predicting, visualising, mapping, sensing, creating, informing or socialising, these technologies and methods are transforming the fabric of everyday life, and shaping our visions of the future.

Students on this module will learn to think critically, reflexively and creatively about the digital by exploring transformations in politics, sociality, economics, aesthetics, knowledge, subjectivity and experience.

Module Convenor

Dr Michael Dieter


  • App Review (30 CATS only)
  • App Store Analysis (All Students)
  • Research Essay (All Students)

Indicative Syllabus

Week One - What is the Digital?

Week Two - Rethinking Media

Week Three - Platforms

Week Four - Data

Week Five - Algorithms


Week Seven - Subjects

Week Eight - Vernaculars

Week Nine - Labour

Week Ten - Ecologies

Illustrative Bibliography

  • Amoore, Louise. Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.
  • Bratton, Benjamin. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2015.
  • Bucher, Tania. If...Then Algorithmic Power and Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • Cheney-Lippold, John. We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves. New York: New York University Press, 2017.
  • Crawford, Kate and Vladan Joler. ‘Anatomy of an AI System’ (2018),
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Lauren Klein. Data Feminism: From Data Ethics to Data Justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020.
  • Davis, Jenny L. and James B. Chouinard. ‘Theorizing Affordances: From Request to Refuse’, Bulletin of Science 36.4 (2017): 241-248.
  • de Zeeuw, Daniël and Marc Tuters. ‘Teh Internet is Serious Business: On the Deep Vernacular Web and its Discontents,’ Cultural Politics 16.2 (2020): 214-32.
  • Doorn, Niels van. ‘Platform Labor: On the Gendered and Racialized Exploitation of Low-Income Service Work in the “on-Demand” Economy’. Information, Communication & Society 20.6 (2017): 898–914.
  • Duffy, Brooke Erin. (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2017.
  • Hogan, Mél. 'Big Data Ecologies', ephemera: theory & politics in organisation 18.3 (2018): 631-57.
  • Lindtner, Silvia. Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.
  • Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, New York: New York University Press, 2018.
  • Parikka, Jussi. A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
  • Peters, John Durham. The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.
  • Poell, Thomas, David Nieborg, and José van Dijck. ‘Platformisation,’ Internet Policy Review 8.4 (2019):
  • Sack, Warren. The Software Arts, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019.
  • Starosielski, Nicole. 'The Elements of Media Studies.' Media+Environment 1.1 (2019),
  • Steinberg, Marc. The Platform Economy: How Japan Transformed the Consumer Internet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.
  • Volmer, Axel. ‘Reformatting Media Studies: Toward a Theoretical Framework for Format Studies’, in Marek Jancovic, Axel Volmar and Alexandra Schneider (eds) Format Matters: Standards, Practices, and Politics in Media Cultures, Leuphana: Meson Press, 2020, pp. 27-45.
  • Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, ‎ Profile Books, 2019.

Learning Outcomes

The module aims to encourage students to:

  • Gain a theoretical and practical understanding of systematic challenges brought in relation to digital infrastructures across disciplines;
  • Acquire an advanced and interdisciplinary grounded conceptual vocabulary and a creative methodological approach towards the multiform phenomena of the digital era and their interpretations;
  • Innovatively and independently evaluate digital phenomena and apply conceptual and methodological frameworks that yield original and sound interpretative analyses;
  • Develop and demonstrate independent interpretative analysis through experimental practice, discussion, and forms of academic writing.

Important Registration Information:

CIM Students

  • You will need to make your optional module choices using the degree specific CIM module webform available in the CIM welcome page. All further instructions will be available to you on the webform.

  • The CIM PG Coordinator will register you for your chosen modules.

  • If there are any queries, please get in touch via 

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department - 

  • Psychology - Your PG Administrator will be in touch before Term 1 about registering interest for CIM modules

  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator via email (, to request your optional module choice.


  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.

  • Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability and inter-departmental arrangements.

  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.

  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.

  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.

  • For external students - Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ or their home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of it commencing.