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Unit information: Digital Economy and Society in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Digital Economy and Society
Unit code SOCIM0031
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sveta Milyaeva
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The rise of digital technologies inevitably shapes the economy. This unit will examine a range of aspects of digital economic life and some of the issues they raise for social theory. The digitalisation of the economy and markets prompts the question of the extent to which social processes, groups, institutional structures and culture remain significant in an apparently virtual domain. The unit will demonstrate that social economic relations and market transactions do not lose their social-ness with moving to the digital domain. Rather, the technologies manifest and communicate the social in markets in distinctive ways. The unit will reflect on this through considering the notions of economic action and value, digital labour, presumption, platform capitalism, market devices, the processes of digital market innovation, the automation of finance and the role of algorithms, collaborative and hybrid forms of economic exchanges, ownership and possession of virtual goods.


  • To outline key theoretical and methodological debates around digital economy
  • To facilitate a critical engagement with the range of the digital economic phenomena
  • To enable an analytical approach to various aspects of digital economic life to stimulate a critical awareness of their repercussions for the society.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate via the unit assessments:

  • Understanding of the role of technology and how it shapes the economy;
  • An ability to identify a set of key analytic concerns with regard to the digital mode of the economy
  • An ability to critically engage with the current debates and issues related to digital economy and society

A capacity to take theoretical ideas outlined in the unit and apply them in student-led explorations, especially empirical explorations of various digital markets

Teaching details

10 x 2 hour seminars

In addition to the 20 hours of classroom time, students are expected to devote approximately 180 hours to independent reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Assessment Details

Two pieces of assessment:

Summative assessment 1 (20%) – Group presentations: student-led case studies: empirical material (e.g. examples of markets) that have not yet been ‘packaged’ by academics to produce a set of theoretical questions about (assesses ILO 4)

Summative assessment 2 (80%) - 3,500 word essay (assesses ILOs 1-3) The summative essay will allow for assessment of students’ ability to meet the Intended Learning Outcomes 1-4 by requiring students to develop an in-depth essay argument over a length of 3,500 words that draws upon relevant readings, materials and debates covered in the unit.

Reading and References

Amoore, L. and V. Piotukh. 2015. ‘Life beyond big data: Governing with little analytics’, Economy and Society, 44(3): 341-366.
Coombs, N. 2016. ‘What is an algorithm? Financial regulation in the era of high-frequency trading’, Economy and Society, 45(2): 1-25.
Elder-Vass, D. Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
MacKenzie, D. 2009. Material Markets: How Economic Agents are Constructed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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.
Milyaeva, S. and Neyland D. 2016. ‘Market Innovation as Framing, Productive Friction and Bricolage: An Exploration of the Personal Data Market’, Journal of Cultural Economy, 9(3): 229-244
Pinch, T. and Swedberg, R. 2008. Living in a Material World: Economic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Scholz, T. (ed.) Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory. London: Routledge
Srnicek, N. 2017. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press