Surveillance Platform Capitalism (SPC) is the use of highly sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence to "mine" or extract commercial value from personal data and information about the behaviour of consumers online. The aim of the module is to examine SPC through a socio-legal lens and to provide students with key concepts and interdisciplinary insights to understand and reflect critically on the on the nature and effects of SPC on individuals and society.
The module is divided into three parts. The first section will define and place SPC in historical and socioeconomic context. It will place SPC within the context of the emergence of the surveillant society, drawing on scholarship from Surveillance and Critical Surveillance Studies. It will then define and explore its ideological logic and algorithmic techniques (e.g., online behavioural tracking and targeting, personalisation and recommendation systems, choice-engineering, nudging) informed by scholarship from Algorithmic Governance Studies.
The second part of the module will look at the effects of SPC on individuals and society, using social media as a case study and drawing on New Media & Society Studies. It will examine the effects of SPC on mental health and self-representation and explore its intersection with questions of identity, particularly gender and race. It will then examine the effects of SPC on the production and consumption of journalistic and political communication (e.g. the challenges of echo-chambers, fake news, political advertising).
The final part of the module will look at the regulatory and governance challenges SPC poses, focusing on social media as a case study. It will examine the potential and limitations of different governance models (e.g., state vs self-regulation) to regulate the algorithmic techniques, operators, and digital content of SPC.
Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150
Method of assessment
Main assessment methods
Coursework -Personal Reflective Journal (1,500 words) – 20% AND:
Coursework -Essay (2,500 words) – 80% OR:
coursework - creative submission (e.g. poster / film) plus written commentary (1,500 words) – 80%
Kalpokas, I., 2019. Algorithmic Governance: Politics and Law in the Post-Human Era. London: Palgrave.
Lyon, D. & Ball, . K., 2014. Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. Abingdon: Routledge.
O'Reilly, M. et al. (2018) 'Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents', Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1(13)
Ortiz, S. M. (2020) 'Trolling as a Collective Form of Harassment: An Inductive Study of How Online Users Understand Trolling', Social Media and Society.
Mbioh, W. R. & Zokaityte, A., Forthcoming. Inclusive social media? Exploring the role of the law in facilitating user inclusion and participation in social media. In: T. Williams, ed. Inclusive Regulatory Practices. London: Palgrave, pp. 30-59.
Srnicek, N., 2017. Platform Capitalism. 1 ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Zuboff, S., 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. 1st ed. London: Profile Books.
The intended subject specific learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:
1.Demonstrate detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the ideological logic and algorithmic techniques of Surveillance Platform capitalism (SPC).
2.Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of key scholarship and theories on the individual and social effects of SPC from the fields of Surveillance Studies, Algorithmic Governance Studies, and New Media and Society Studies.
3.Demonstrate critical knowledge of SPC as a global, socio-legal process.
4.Demonstrate critical knowledge of different modes of governance concerning the techniques, operators, and effects of SPC.
5.Demonstrate the ability to use key scholarship and theories on SPC to reflect critically on their personal and social encounters with social-media and sharing platforms.
The intended generic learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:
1.Critically evaluate an area of law both doctrinally and in terms of its socio-economic consequences.
2.Undertake a detailed examination of the merits of competing issues and interests and make a reasoned choice between them.
3.Demonstrate an independence of mind and an ability to critically challenge received understandings and conclusions.
4.Present research-substantiated analysis and arguments in written work.
5.Demonstrate self-critical learning skills, including reflection upon learning progress.
6.Organise their work, engage in independent research, study and use of resources.
7.Produce written work in an appropriate format, with correct use of spelling, punctuation, grammar, citation and references.
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Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
- ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
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