84705 - Information Society

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Laura Sartori

  • Credits 8

  • SSD SPS/07

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Course Timetable from Sep 24, 2019 to Dec 17, 2019


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

Changes in social relations, political participation and social innovation are key features in understanding contemporary societies. The course focuses on these topics with specific reference to the most recent and salient events. At the end of the course the student a) has acquired the tools for reading and interpreting the ‘Information society’ , its own dynamics and current transformations; b) is capable of evaluating the social, political and economic implications of Information and Communication technologies.

Course contents

This course foresees a very active involvement on the participants.

There are mandatory readings for each weeks that will set the base for debate and discussion in class. A brief written essay (4000 spaces maximum) should be sent to the professor each week.

There is a constantly updated syllabus that should be considered finalized during the 2nd week of class, depending on the number of students participating regularly.

All articles are available as electronic resource in the Unibo online repository (ACNP).

1st week: History of the information society

Mansell, Robin. 2010. “The Life and Times of the Information Society.” Prometheus, 28(2): 165-186.

Webster, Frank. 2006. “What is an Information Society?” in Theories of the Information Society, 8-31. Routledge.

Additional readings:

Mattelart, Armand 2002, Storia della società dell’informazione, Einaudi.

Marvin, Caroline, 1999, When old technologies were new, http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1203&context=asc_papers

2nd week: Theories of the Information Society

Di Maggio, P. et al. (2001), Social implications of the Internet, Annual review of sociology, 27, pp. 307-336.

Webster, Frank. 2006. “Network society: Manuel Castells?” in Theories of the Information Society, 98-123. Routledge.

Webster, Frank. 2006. “Information, reflexivity and surveillance: Anthony Giddens” in Theories of the Information Society, 203-227. Routledge.

Sartori, L. (2012), La società dell'informazione, Bologna, Il Mulino. Chp. 3.


3rd and 4th week: Digital divides and digital inequalities

Sartori, L. (2006), Il divario digitale, Bologna, Il Mulino, (capp. 1, 3).

DiMaggio, Paul; Eszter Hargittai; Coral Celeste; and Steven Shafer. 2003. “From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use: A Literature Review and Agenda for Research on Digital Inequality”. Working Paper 29. Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Witte, C James and Mannon E. Susan 2010, The Internet and social inequalities, Routledge.

Yu, R. 2016 Mapping the two levels of digital divide: Internet access and social network site adoption among older adults in the USA, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1109695

Lupton, Deborah, The diversity of digital technology use, in Digital sociology, chp. 6, pp. 117-140.

Privacy: the privacy divide

Harigittai, E and Marwick A. 2016, “What Can I Really Do?” Explaining the Privacy Paradox with Online Apathy”, in International Journal of Communication 10, 3737–3757.



Assignment due on 6th week: Using ISTAT data, write a 3-4 pages essay (2000 characters per page, including spaces) where you critically describe and analyse the Italian situation compared to the main analytical dimensions touched upon this week.

5th week: A competence divide?

Hargittai, E. & Shaw A. (2015). "Mind the Skills Gap: The Role of Internet Know-How and Gender in Differentiated Contributions to Wikipedia." [http://webuse.org/p/a49] . Information, Communication and Society.

Hargittai, E. & Dobransky, K. (2017). Old Dogs, New Clicks: Digital Inequality in Internet Skills and Uses among Older Adults. Canadian Journal of Communication. 42(2):195-222.


6th week: Digital Sociology

Lupton, Deborah, Theorizing digital society, in Digital sociology, chp. 2, pp. 20-41.

Lupton, Deborah, The digitized body/self, in Digital sociology, chp. 8, pp. 164-187.


Lupton, Deborah, Digital politics and public engagement, in Digital sociology, chp. 7, pp. 141-163.

Farrell H. (2012) The Consequences of the Internet for Politics, Annual Review of Political Science , Vol. 15: 35-52.

Boulianne, E. 2015, Online news, civic awareness, and engagement in civic and political life http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/11/24/1461444815616222

7th week: Algorithms 

O’Neil, C. 2017, How algorithms rule our life https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/01/how-algorithms-rule-our-working-lives

Lazer, D. 2015, The rise of social algorithm, Perspective, June, http://education.biu.ac.il/files/education/shared/science-2015-lazer-1090-1.pdf

Beer, David. 2017. “The Social Power of Algorithms.” Information, Communication & Society, 20(1).

Kitchin, Rob. 2017. “Thinking Critically about and Researching Algorithms.” Information, Communication and Society, 20(1).

Airoldi, M et al (2016) Follow the algorithm: An exploratory investigation of music on YouTube, in Poetics, vol 57, 1-13.

Hallinan, B and Striphas, T (2016) recommended for you, The Netflix Prize and the production of algorithmic culture, New media & society 2016, Vol. 18(1) 117–137

Ziewitz, M 2016, Governing algorithm, Information, communication and society , Special issue on Algorithm 1/2017

Science, Technology, & Human Values, Special issue on Special Issue: Governing Algorithms 1/16  

8th and 9th week:

Artificial intelligence and Big data

Hoffman, D and Novak, T (2018), Consumer and Object Experience in the Internet of Things: An Assemblage Theory Approach, Journal of Consumer culture, Vol. 18.

boyd, D. e Crawford, K. (2014), CRITICAL QUESTIONS FOR BIG DATA, Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 662-679.

Kitchin, R. (2014), Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts, Big Data & Society, 1, 1.

Gender and AI

Unesco report (2019), I'd blush if I could. Closing gender divides in digital skills, available online.

Heather Suzanne Woods (2018) Asking more of Siri and Alexa: feminine persona in service of surveillance capitalism, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 35:4, 334-349,

Morozov, E: (2013), Your social networking credit score [http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/01/wonga_lenddo_lendup_big_data_and_social_networking_banking.html], The Slate, online.

Rupert, Ev (2013), How to do sociology with big data, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6O8wI7pt40 

10th week: Paper presentation and collective discussion



See content 

Teaching methods

In person classes plus collective discussion.

Assessment methods


25%: Attendance and participation (Leading class: depending on the number of students, but highly probable)

25% Assignments and in-class presentation

50% Final paper

Office hours

See the website of Laura Sartori