Spring 2019 - SA 315 D100

New Information Technology and Society (SA) (4)

Class Number: 3147

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Tue, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Thu, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Gary Teeple
    1 778 782-4734
    Office: AQ 5064



Explores the new social spaces and social practices fostered by new information technology. Special attention will be paid to who is making decisions about what technologies to adopt and how, what social changes are resulting, and who benefits and who loses. A significant portion of activity in this course will involve direct engagement with new information technology.


This course will explore the nature of ‘information technology’ (IT), and the implications for the present order of society. The course will attempt to spell out the wide scope of these technologies through systematic description and analysis. We will begin with an analysis of the ‘rise of the network society,’ and then trace its components and their interrelations: the ‘digital economy’ and its impact and meaning for work and workers, ‘digital democracy’ and its implications for the political status quo and resistance, ‘big data’ and it significance for social control, the ‘internet of things’ and the meaning of a completely connected and ‘programmable’ world, the transformative nature of ‘blockchains’ and ‘decentralized autonomous organizations,’ the meaning and potential of ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘technological singularity,’ and the advance of ‘robotics,’ ‘nanotechnology,’ genetic manipulation, and ‘virtual’ institutions and activities.

Central to this survey of IT and its implications, we will examine the impact on human life as we have known it, and on who now controls its use and development. Among other questions, we will ask if IT can be seen as benign or neutral? Are there inherent biases and negative implications? What do the present trends augur for the future?


The course is intended to provide the student with:

  1. a broad grasp of the scope of IT,
  2. a critical analysis of who develops, owns and uses this technology,
  3. an understanding of the implications and the underlying biases in IT,
  4. an appreciation of the power and potential of the current real and possible uses, as well as its theoretically potential uses in a society not divided by class.


  • Weekly study notes 10%
  • Critical book review 40%
  • Term essay 50%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.


Both the book review and the term essay must be written-up in formal essay style, complete with footnotes (any format, consistently used); and both must be typed and double-spaced.

The weekly study notes must be typed, but can be submitted as point-form notes and comments on two or more articles, books, or book chapters – one to two pages each - for any ten weeks (10%).

It is expected that students will attend and participate in the seminars.



There is no single text, but there are a set of readings (articles and/or book chapters) available online or scanned. Students are encouraged to read some of the suggested readings and use them for their assignments.

It is expected that students will read the assigned articles from each section. It is also expected that the reflections on these readings will be brought to the class and form the basis for student participation.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html