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Understanding digital societies

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Technology has always been a part of society but the digital revolution of recent decades means that we are living through a period of particularly rapid change. This module is for anyone curious about the societal impacts of digital technology. Throughout the module you'll learn core sociological theory that will help you unpack and understand the societal, political and environmental impacts of digital technology. You'll consider digital societies in relation to three broad technological themes: individuals and society, power and inequality and, people and things.

What you will study

This module explores the digital revolution and its impact on society. Three core sociological themes will lead your investigation: 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.

The module gives you the opportunity to discuss its ideas and arguments in a range of online activities, workshops and assessment tasks. You'll also be given skills and training to help you communicate your ideas in both academic and professional settings.

Entry requirements

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.

What's included

You’ll be provided with a textbook Understanding Digital Societies and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video recordings
  • interactive activities
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout the module you will get help and support from your tutor. They will mark your assignments (TMAs) with detailed feedback to help you improve and provide individual guidance, whether for general study skills or specific module content.

Tutors also run online and face-to-face learning events throughout the module. Although these events are not compulsory, you are strongly encouraged to take part. They are a great way to meet other students and will enhance your understanding of the module content.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD218 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Understanding digital societies starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school