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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP3242 The Social Life of Data

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Rosemary Hill

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Pre-requisite qualifications

At least 20 credits at Level 1and 2 (40 in total) from a social science related discipline or the appropriate discovery theme.

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

What happens to your data when you log off? Is it even your data? How is data made? What do companies, governments and institutions do with your data? Who has access to it? How is it protected and regulated? Why should we care?Big data has become increasingly valued in contemporary society. It is continually being digitally collected and it is used to inform decision-making in businesses, governments and other institutions. It is being created via our digital interactions and social media activities for free by 'prosumers', and sold for great profit by companies. Digital data is vaunted as the key to smarter cities, better health care and better sociological research. But Big Data has also given rise to fears about privacy, surveillance and profiling. There are concerns about ethics and trust, but also optimism about how data makes our lives better. This module critically investigates some of the key issues at stake in society's increasing reliance on data. It examines epistemological, methodological and ethical questions in relation to objectivity and the creation of data; the politics of data production; emotions and data visualisation; states, privacy, surveillance, trust and capitalism; social media and the digital self; and the implications of datafication for society. Please note that this is not a methods module and it will not teach you business data analytics.


This module aims to:

- Explore the impact of society's increased reliance on and value of digital data;

- Equip students with the methodological and conceptual tools to critically evaluate of the discourse and use of data across a range of domains.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate their understanding of the main theoretical, epistemological, ethical and policy perspectives relating to data;

- Relate those perspectives to contemporary issues around data augmented society, privacy, surveillance, digital selves and data and capitalism;

- Critically evaluate the discourse and use of data in society.


History of data and society
Epistemology & methodology
Benefits of big data
Making data / digital divide
Communicating data
Privacy / Surveillance/Trust
Data economy
Data and culture
Data subjects
Ethics of data

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

In addition to the taught elements of the module, students will be expected to prepare key readings each week, plus seminar tasks 108 hours, which may include short group presentations and debates, discussion questions or the sharing of materials and resources (images, advertisements, blogposts etc) as the basis for discussion and analysis. Students will also be expected to carry out additional reading in preparation for their assessment (70 hours).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Case Study5,000 word case study essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 21/12/2018


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