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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Digital Markets and Society (PGSP11465)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWe are currently experiencing the profound effects of the digitalization of the economy. This course addresses the societal implications of these new digital marketplaces and platforms. It covers a range of interconnected themes: from big data and digital labour, to illicit practices on the dark web, to financial automation and algorithmic governance. Delivered by a team of lecturers conducting research on these subjects, students will learn about technologies such as cryptocurrencies, computer trading and financial algorithms. They will also learn how sociologists are studying the social, economic and political implications of digital markets.
Course description What do Uber, The Pirate Bay, Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and high-frequency trading have in common? They are all examples of our era's digital economic transformation. This course explores the societal implications of these new digital marketplaces. From the emergence of the 'sharing economy' to the automation of finance, the digital economy is changing the way we work, consume, and secure our future. Delivered by a team of lecturers conducting research on these subjects, this course introduces students to the state of the art in sociological research on digital markets.

The first half of the course addresses the implications of the economic digital transformation. The lectures focus on digital labour and the darkweb. Digital labour is introduced and theorised from neo-Marxian and feminist perspectives in order to gain a critical perspective on its continuities and discontinuities with traditional forms of work. The lectures on the darkweb and illicit practices then interrogate online anonymity and the ethical questions it raises.

The second half of the course focuses on financial markets and their increasing automation over recent decades. The lectures begin by giving a historical account of the emergence of algorithmic and high-frequency trading. The controversies associated with financial automation are then tackled, including regulatory responses. The next lecture interrogates how 'algorithmic governance' is taking over many of the administrative functions of the state. The course concludes by examining the idea of a future cashless society.

Student learning experience:
The course is a mixture of theoretical and technical learning, taught through lectures and seminars. You will follow in-depth case studies of the technologies and platforms behind digital markets and make your own evaluations of their significance and social implications for the assessment. The course encourages you to make connections between sociological theory, politics and public policy. The course is cross-disciplinary and open to students with backgrounds in social sciences, business and management, art and design and the humanities.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed as follows:

- Tutorial participation involving leading a discussion on one of the week's topics and posing discussion questions for the class (10%).
- A short essay of 1,000 words chosen by the student from 4 option offered by the course organiser (20%).
- One final essay of 3,000 words from a choice of 3 options provided by the course organiser. Or the student will develop an original essay question in consultation with the course organiser (70%).
Feedback Assessment will be by tutorial participation and a presentation to the class (10%), a short mid-term essay (20%) and long final essay (70%). The final essay questions are set by the course convener, or you can design one yourself in consultation with the course convener. The aim of the assessment is to allow you to develop your own ideas and evaluations of the course's topics, demonstrate your ability to analyse relevant issues and draw on and synthesise relevant evidence.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand to an advanced level the digital economic transformation and distinguish the insights of sociologists from those of business economists.
  2. Reflect critically at a high-level of comprehension on popular narratives, including: the threat of mass technological unemployment; antisocial behaviour enabled by online anonymity; financial technology running 'out of control'; and omnipresent surveillance by corporations and the state.
  3. Understand and analyse in-depth the technologies underpinning digital markets: big data, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, electronic trading and financial algorithms.
  4. Bring the theoretical concepts introduced on the course to bear in advanced critical analysis of a wide range of economic and social issues associated with digital markets.
  5. Discuss and debate the state of the art methodological challenges for sociological research on digital markets.
Reading List
Gregory, K. (2016). "Digital labour." In: Wiley Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Sociology, 2nd ed. Ed. George Ritzer. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Bancroft, A. and P. Scott Reid (2016). "Challenging the techno-politics of anonymity: the case of cryptomarket users." Information, Communication & Society: 1-16.
MacKenzie, D and J.P. Pardo-Guerra (2014). "Insurgent capitalism: Island, bricolage and the re-making of finance." Economy and Society, 43(2): 153-182.
Coombs, N (2016). "What is an algorithm? Financial regulation in the era of high-frequency trading." Economy and Society, 45(2): 1-25.
Amoore, L. and V. Piotukh (2015). "Life beyond big data: Governing with little analytics." Economy and Society, 44(3): 341-366.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course equips students with knowledge of contemporary economic and societal developments that will serve them well in their careers. Students will not only acquire an appreciation for the technologies unpinning digital markets but will also be able to reflect on the methodological challenges posed by doing research in this area. These are transferable skills that would prove useful in many professional sectors.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nathan Coombs
Course secretaryMr Joe Burrell
Tel: (0131 6) 51 3892
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