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2020/2021  BA-BSOCV2011U  Digital Society A. The digitization of economic life

English Title
Digital Society A. The digitization of economic life

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Business Administration and Sociology
Course coordinator
  • Eleni Tsingou - Department of Organization (IOA)
  • Oddný Helgadóttir - Department of Organization (IOA)
Main academic disciplines
  • International political economy
  • Organisation
  • Sociology
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 07-02-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
On successful completion of the course, the student should be able to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the course’s theories and concepts and their relevance to digitization and economic life;
  • Reflexively interrogate ongoing trends in digitization and contextualize them as part of broader sociological trajectories;
  • Critically reflect on the implications of the theories used for the management or governance of an issue area;
  • Use cases to illustrate how to empirically study the digital organization of economic life with appropriate methods and data.
Digital Society A. The Digitalization of Economic Life:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance.
Individual or group exam Oral group exam based on written group product
Number of people in the group 3-4
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
The length of the paper should reflect the size of the group, with larger groups handing in longer written assignments.

As a rule of thumb groups of 3 should aim for 10-13 pages and groups of 4 for 12-15 pages.

Note that the exam is a group exam. If you are not able to find a group yourself, you can ask the course coordinator to place you in a group.
Assignment type Written assignment
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
10 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Winter and Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
If a student is absent from the oral exam due to documented illness but has handed in the written group product, the student does not have to submit a new product for the re-take. However, the group product must be uploaded once again on Digital Exam before the deadline.

If a student has not participated in the written group product due to documented illness, the student can attend the oral retake by handing in an individual project before deadline.

If a student does not pass the regular exam, the student can hand in a new, revised or the same project by the submission date for the re-exam.

In cases of undocumented exam absence or undocumented non-participation in the writing of the written product, a new written product must be submitted before the re-exam.
Description of the exam procedure

Students will receive a final grade on a seven point scale. It is a group exam but grades may vary between individuals within a group, depending on individual exam performance.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

In sector after sector, ranging from production to communication, seismic technological shifts driven by digitization are underway; the pervasive economic and social impact of these shifts is already evident in many aspects of daily life. ‘The digitization of economic life’ hones in on the ways in which these macrolevel trends are shaping and redefining individuals’ daily lives and practices, with a particular focus on four key areas: (1) work, (2) wealth, (3) welfare, and (4) wellness.


The course departs from a 'thick' understanding of digitization as not just a technological phenomenon, but also a deeply sociological one. Fruitful analysis therefore requires more than just applying sociological methods to the digital elements of social life or, conversely, using new computational and digital tools to do social research. Rather, in studying our four key areas we will emphasize the ways in which digitization and digitalization and the ‘devices’ that they yield are reconstituting social relationships and concepts of the self in ways that call for serious scrutiny.

Taking this approach to our four key areas directs our attention towards recent
developments such as (1) the rise of platform technology and the gig economy in labour markets and the concomitant requirement for workers to both self-manage and self-promote; (2) the algorithmic diagnosis of financial worth and the growing use of banking apps and mobile payment technologies, as well as the role of such technologies in the changing sociality of wealth and money; (3) the use of digital tools for individual identification and a closed ‘digital welfare state’ determining access to services, benefits and entitlements; and (4) the use of new technologies to both define and police everyday metrics of ‘health’, diagnose illness and blur the lines between personal responsibility and social provision.

We situate these developments in a broader context of digitization but also, long-established trends of quantification and classification, considering debates on skills and the place of robotics and artificial intelligence in the workforce; the deep-rooted socio-economic, gender and racial biases affecting life chances in terms of access to schooling, housing, credit and employment; data privacy and the commercialization of personal data; and which actors have the resources, capacity and legitimacy to best tackle big and less big societal challenges, from the climate crisis, to persistent inequality, to ageing populations across the globe.


Taken together these developments are likely to fundamentally alter a number of taken for granted institutions and challenge established norms and social relationships. More concretely, digital developments in our four key areas stand to impact future patterns of inclusion and exclusion; definitions of relevance and insignificance; and projections into the future on the basis of how resources are allocated. As digital data and analysis shapes and constrains daily life we are also likely to see its incorporation and internalization into social practice and contestation by the public.

Theoretically, the course draws on Science and Technology Studies and Actor Network Theory and students will learn to apply the analytical lenses of devices and instruments. The course also tackles theories of market society, including discussions on the morality of markets, and deals with the implications of digitalization for the governance of the markets developing out of these processes. These theoretical insights will be complemented by more applied work centred on empirical cases that will ground the theoretical frame in concrete realities. At the end of the course we expect students to be able to reflexively interrogate ongoing digitzation trends and contextualize them as part of broader sociological trajectories.


As part of the course, students will engage in the following assignment activities, which are linked to the group exam.


Oral group presentation of research topic:

The presentation should introduce the digitization initiative that the group plans to research and shed light on methods and theoretical approaches that the group aims to use in the written assignment.


Written outline of final group project:

The outline should include a clear delineation of the issue area to be analyzed, empirical sources and the theoretical approach to be used.

Description of the teaching methods
The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, group exercises and presentations, structured peer feedback and guest lectures.

Instructors' lectures will provide students with theoretical context and analytical tools in addition to introducing them to case studies in the digitisation of daily life.

Group exercises and peer feedback will center on the students´ own projects and digitisation topics of choice. Students' projects should hone in on a particular digitisation initiative that falls within the four themes of the course (work; wealth; welfare; wellness), using the concepts and theories introduced in the course.

In order to sharpen the real-world implications of the course materials, two guest lectures will be delivered by practitioners that have experience in working with digitisation initiatives and the digitalisation implications within the four themes of the course.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will get two rounds of feedback over the course of the semester.

The first round of feedback will take place following the first assignment, an oral group presentation of a research topic. For this round, students will both give and receive structured peer feedback and receive feedback and a pass/fail grade from an instructor. The peer feedback will require each student group to evaluate the presentations of two other students groups, using structured parameters provided by the instructors.

The second round of feedback will take place following the second assignment, a written outline of final group project. In addition to oral feedback, students will receive a pass/fail grade from an instructor.

Students are also encouraged to use the office hours to discuss both the assignments and questions arising from the course.

In addition to the above, feedback will be provided following the oral exam, when examiners will reflect on the group project as well as students' mastery of the course materials more broadly.
Student workload
Lectures 36 hours
Preparation for classes and exam 182 hours
Expected literature

The course document will be based primarily on journal articles available through the CBS library. In addition, the course will make use of some readings in recent relevant volumes for concepts and empirics. This is a rapidly evolving empirical field and the following is an Indicative reading list:


Bernards, N. & Campbell-Verduyn, M. (Eds.) (2019). Special Issue on Fintech, Review of International Political Economy, 26(5).

Callon, M., Millo, Y. & Muniesa, F. (Eds.). (2007). Market Devices (1 edition). Wiley-Blackwell.

Day, M. S. (2018). Bits to Bitcoin: How Our Digital Stuff Works (1 edition). The MIT Press.

Healy, K. (2017). Public Sociology in the Age of Social Media. Perspectives on Politics, 15(3), 771–780. 

Lupton, D. (2013). Quantifying the body: Monitoring and measuring health in the age of mHealth technologies. Critical Public Health, 23(4), 393-403.

MacKenzie, D. (2018). Material Signals: A Historical Sociology of High-Frequency Trading. American Journal of Sociology, 123(6), 1635–1683. 

Marres, N. & Gerlitz, C. (2016). Interface Methods: Renegotiating Relations between Digital Social Research, STS and Sociology: The Sociological Review, 64(1), 24-46.

Plesner, U. & Husted, E. (2019). Digital Organizing: Revisiting Themes in Organization Studies (1st ed. 2020 edition). Red Globe Press.

Sundararajan, A. (2016). The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. The MIT Press.


Last updated on 07-02-2020