Understanding digital societies
Technology has always been a part of society in some way and yet in recent decades it seems as though the impacts of technology in everyday life are coming to the fore. If you're curious about the societal impacts of technology, this module will be for you. Throughout the module you'll learn core sociological theory that will help you unpack and understand societal, political and environmental impacts of digital technology. You'll consider digital societies in relation to three broad themes: individuals and society, power and inequality and, people and things.
What you will study
This module examines technology and society in relation to three core themes: individual and society, power and inequality and, people and things. These themes broadly correspond to the sociological ideas and real-life examples presented to you across the four blocks to the module, where you'll consider digital technologies using ideas developed in sociology. In these blocks you'll explore:
Block 1: Everyday Life and the Digital
This block begins by considering the ‘sociological imagination’, using examples of technology through history, you'll start to understand how the problems individuals face relates to wider issues in society. You'll learn and apply sociological ideas such as ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Capital' to further explore how people relate to one another on social media.
Block 2: Society, Technology, Citizens, and Cities
You'll begin by thinking about what makes a city smart and go on to consider perspectives on technology, migration and transnational communities.
Block 3: Humans and Machines
This block looks at the issues to do with automation, artificial intelligence and agency. This will equip you with the ideas to consider the impacts of automation on individuals and society.
Block 4: Uses and Abuses of the Digital
In this final section, we introduce you to the idea of ‘social harm’ and present some issues related to environmental impacts of technology production, cybercrime and cyber security, misinformation, algorithms and inequality and, social media and mental health.
These topics will be illustrated using a range of audio, video, textbook and interactive materials.
Given the contemporary nature of this module, we want you to apply the ideas you learn to the situations you experience in everyday digital societies. This could include your experiences on social media platforms, interactions with online services and government institutions, or the interactions you might have with technology in your daily life.
This module gives you the opportunity to discuss these ideas and experiences through a range of VLE activities, workshops and assessments. You'll also be given skills and training to help you communicate your ideas and observations in both academic and professional settings.
As this is an OU level 2 module, it would be an advantage if you have completed an OU level 1 Social Sciences module as a solid foundation. However, this module serves as an introduction to sociology and would be suitable for anyone wishing to develop their critical understanding of technology and society.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
You’ll be provided with a textbook and have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- module materials
- audio and video recordings
- interactive content
- an assessment guide
- access to online tutorials and forums.
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.