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Minor

Communication in the Digital Society

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The minor Communication in the Digital Society helps you make sense of communication in this complex, data-rich digital world. It covers how digital technologies influence the way we learn, work, enjoy and connect with others. It focuses on communication in the broad sense - encompassing marketing, health, entertainment, politics and news.

Note: this is a preliminary version of the program. The minor will start in Semester 2 of 2021-2022, and this description is still subject to change.

In today's Digital Society, we are continuously exposed to automated recommendations for news articles to read, series to watch, how many steps to walk, or which products to buy. It is now hard to distinguish between being online or offline, as we spend most of our time using smartphones and other smart devices to create, share and consume content or communicate with each other through social media platforms shaped by algorithms.

A substantial share of our work and private lives now takes place on digital devices. We meet on Zoom, check out Instagram, chat via WhatsApp and organize our social life on online platforms such as Facebook. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, along with social robots, might soon become our new interaction partners. And data generated by what we do online – along with data from our friends, acquaintances or simply people with digital profiles similar to ours – are used to make predictions, recommendations and decisions that influence our lives in a wide variety of contexts.

Why choose this minor?

This minor will provide you with:

  1. Knowledge of the key theories and trends in (digital) communication
  2. The computational skills needed to understand and analyze these trends
  3. The ability to reflect on ethical, normative, and societal consequences of these trends
  4. The means to better reflect on your own role as a professional or researcher vis-a-vis these trends.

The minor explicitly combines theory, methods, and critical reflection. In other words, you will - for example - not only learn what a news recommender is and how it influences communication processes, but will also train such a system, and reflect upon its limitations, ethical, and normative challenges. You will therefore be able to apply existing knowledge to propose, execute, analyze, and critically reflect upon communication activities in digital environments. Throughout the minor, you will often learn by doing – and as such will get familiar with (or deepen your knowledge of) the programming language Python and its application in computational communication science  specifically.

Courses

You will follow a general introductory course on Communication in the Digital Society: Theories and Challenges and two methodological courses on Computational Communication Science. If you have sufficient computational skills, you can replace the first methods course by an elective. You will then select one elective (“topic”) for further specialization in an area that is interesting to you. Finally, you will complete the program with a research project, combining the theoretical and methodological knowledge as well as the critical reflection skills you gained. The minor can be followed in a compact program spanning one semester (see table below), or across multiple semesters.

It includes the following courses:

  • Communication in the Digital Society: Theories and Challenges (6 ECTS)
  • Computational Communication Science 1* (6 ECTS)
  • Communication Science Topic course (elective) (6 ECTS)
  • Computational Communication Science 2 (6 ECTS)
  • Digital Society Research Project (6 ECTS)

* Or one extra topic (elective) if exempt (see entrance criteria below).

In addition to these courses, if you are a Communication Science student, you will be able to write your thesis within the new specialized Graduation Project: Communication in Digital Society course. Moreover, you will receive the necessary supervision if you choose to pursue an internship that aligns with the minor.

Course overview

  • Communication in the Digital Society: Theories and Challenges

    6 ECTs

    The course provides an introduction to the topic of communication in the digital society. We first start with a brief overview of a selection of the most important communication theories. Second, we discuss the technological and societal characteristics of the digital society, emphasizing the key differences between the digital and the pre-digital age. Third, we then illustrate how these characteristics impact and alter communication processes in various communication domains (e.g., marketing, health, entertainment, politics, and news), and we discuss what the implications of these characteristics are for existing communication theories. Normative as well as practical challenges and opportunities that arise from the digital society are highlighted. Through the discussion of state-of-the-art research, we illustrate how communication science theory is used and continuously refined to understand emerging communication processes in the digital society. The course is taught as one weekly lecture focused on explaining the key concepts and one weekly tutorial session.

  • Computational Communication Science 1

    6 ECTs

    This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the computational methods and practices that allow researchers and professionals to study communication in the Digital Society. We start with the assumption that students have no previous computational knowledge. You will therefore receive a comprehensive introduction to Python for data science, including best practices for data wrangling, generating descriptive and inferential statistics, as well as data visualization in Python. You will learn how to collaborate on coding projects in a transparent and reusable way, and the basic principles of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). After completing this course, you will have gained an understanding of various key concepts and techniques for data science with Python and will have hands-on experience with applying these techniques to a wide range of tasks. The course is taught as one weekly lecture focused on explaining the key concepts and one weekly tutorial session with exercises in which students directly apply the acquired skills.

  • Computational Communication Science 2

    6 ECTs

    This course extends your computational methods skills focusing specifically on communication. Each week, you will learn how specific computational communication methods (e.g., developing conversational agents, automated content analysis, data visualization) can be applied. In the weekly lectures, we will discuss how computational methods can be used to (1) develop digital products, (2) test and extend your knowledge of the emergence and potential consequences of the Digital Society, and (3) communicate this knowledge to digital media users. These methods are discussed in light of exemplar cases derived from diverse subfields within communication science (i.e., politics and journalism, entertainment communication, marketing, health, and corporate communication). During the weekly tutorial sessions, the focus will be on developing your skills to apply these computational methods to various research questions central to communication and the digital society. Throughout the course, you will learn the best practices in terms of transparency and ethics when researching or implementing digital products using these computational methods.

  • Digital Society Research Project

    6 ECTs

    In this course, you will apply the theoretical knowledge, methodological skills and critical attitude developed during the minor into a group research project. The project will run through all the stages of the empirical cycle, proposing a research question and theory-driven hypotheses, making use of digital trace data, analysing the data using computational methods, and evaluating these results from a theoretical, practical, and normative perspective. You will write a research report with recommendations as the final deliverable in this course.

Entry requirements

Communication in the Digital Society is a complex phenomenon, and you will best learn it in a diverse, interdisciplinary environment. As such, the minor is open to students from different Bachelor programs. Communication Science students are explicitly encouraged to follow this minor, as it complements and extends what is taught in the regular courses with a sharp focus on the Digital Society while also covering computational communication science skills. This minor has a maximum capacity of 50 students; a selection will take place if more than 50 students apply that meet the entry requirements listed below.

Entry requirements:

  • You must have successfully completed your first year (60 EC) of a Bachelor’s programme at a research university (WO). 
  • You need to have an affinity with quantitative methods and basic knowledge of statistics (see below).

Required prior knowledge

Many assignments build on some basic statistical knowledge and there will be no time to acquire this knowledge during the minor. You need to have, therefore, a basic understanding of:

  • How a dataset looks like;
  • Ideas and concepts behind social-scientific methods such as experiments;
  • What a correlation is;
  • How to interpret basic plots such as scatter plots or histograms;
  • What a regression model is;
  • Which statistical analyses are appropriate to test your research questions.

Important: Programming skills are not required to enter the minor - they will be taught in the methods courses. If you do have programming skills, you are exempt from following the Computational Communication Science 1 course and will follow an additional topic (elective), thus increasing your theoretical and practical knowledge of Digital Society phenomena.

Application and Admission

The minor will start in Semester 2 of 2021-2022, and this description is still subject to change. Information about application and admission will follow.

Facts & Figures
Mode Full-time
Credits 30 ECTS, 6 months
Language of instruction English
Starts in February