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IM901 Cultures of the Digital Economy


20/30 CATS - (10/15 ECTS)

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

This core module introduces students to an array of approaches to studying digital media and culture. The module follows a trajectory through the different layers of digital culture (from infrastructure to search engines, memes and more). Weekly discussed is focused through an ongoing engagement with the Web, as a key bundle of digital technologies. As we pass through each layer, we place careful attention on specific technical artifacts (e.g. protocols, cookies and image formats) and explore how culture is made and unmade through different forms of technical mediation. By the end of this module, you will have a good overview of key debates in digital media, past and present. Through lab sessions, you will explore and reflect upon some of the key digital artifacts that shape contemporary culture from and think about how these can be used to inform critical and creative practice.

Module Convenor

Dr Nathaniel Tkacz

Indicative Syllabus

Week Two: Introduction

Week Three: Infrastructure

Week Four: Protocol

Week Five: Hypertext

Week Six: Search

Week Seven: Profile

Week Eight: Participation

Week Nine: Culture Wars

Week Ten: Platform Economies

Illustrative Bibliography

Bunz, Mercedes. ‘As You Like It: Critique in the Era of Affirmative Discourse.’ Unlike Us: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2013. 137-145.

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge.” Grey Room 18 (2004): 26-51.

Coleman, Gabriella. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy. London: Verso, 2014.

DiSalvo, Carl. “Design and the Construction of Publics”, Design Issues 25.1 (2009): 48-63.

Helmond, Anne and Carolin Gerlitz. “The Like Economy: Social Buttons and the Data Intensive Web.” New Media & Society (2013): 1-18.

Kelty, Christopher. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Kittler, Friedrich. “Theoretical Presuppositions.” Optical Media: Berlin Lectures 1999. Trans. Anthony Enns. London: Polity, 2010. 29-46.

Latour, Bruno. “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (With Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk).” Proceedings of the 2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society. Eds. Fiona Hackne, Jonathn Glynne and Viv Minto. Falmouth: Universal Publishers, 2009. 2-10.

Lovink, Geert. Networks without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Mitchell, W. J. T.; and Mark B. N Hansen. Eds. Critical Terms for Media Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Gillespie, Tarleton; Pablo J. Boczkowski, and Kirsten A. Foot. Eds. Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.

Parikka, Jussi. What is Media Archaeology? Cambridge: Polity, 2013.

Pasquinelli, Matteo. “Google’s PageRank Algorithm: A Diagram of the Cognitive Capitalism and the Rentier of the Common Intellect.” Deep Search: The Politics of Search Beyond Google, Felix Stalder and Konrad Becker (eds) Innsbruck: Studienverlag, 2009, pp. 152-162.

Rogers, Richard. Digital Methods. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

Scholz, Trebor. “Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy.” Medium, 2014.

Siegert, Bernhard. “Cultural Techniques: Or the End of the Intellectual Postwar Era in German Media Theory.” Theory, Culture and Society 30.6 (2013): 48-65.

Terranova, Tiziana. “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy.” Social Text 63.18-2 (2000): 33-58.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Monfort Eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.

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 Information

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.

Gaining the permission of a member of CIM teaching staff to take a module does not guarantee a place on that module. Nor does gaining the permission of a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module. You must contact the Centre Administrator (cim at warwick dot ac dot uk) to request a module place.

Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers. Places are not allocated on a first-come first-served basis, but instead all external students requesting a CIM module as optional, who submit their request by the relevant deadline are given equal consideration.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join the module after the third week of it commencing. If you have any queries please contact the Centre Administrator.