Understanding digital societies
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 relate 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.
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 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.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
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.