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CSC8601 : Systems and Societies

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Clara Crivellaro
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module aims to introduce students to critical perspectives on technologies and socio-technical systems’ impacts on societies. It offers conceptual and practical tools to support ethical practices in the design and implementation of digital innovations that can benefits societies and planet. Students will learn about the importance and implications of politics and values in design; the challenges and opportunities of designing for diverse contexts, communities, and users; the role that economic and political landscapes play in the social shaping of technologies; and the role of technologies as “disrupters” of social systems and their impact on social relations. Design ethics and responsible innovation frameworks will be introduced as practical toolkits to engage with, and respond to, complex societal issues and challenges posed by new and emergent technologies in contexts. The module will examine the consequences of technologies in society and explore appropriate socio-technical interventions and responses through extensive discussion and in-depth analysis of a series of case studies. This includes both approaches and methods for present-in-person delivery, as well as blended PIP and online learning.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will be delivered through lectures and seminars examining critical cases of socio-technical systems. Students will reflect on and further engage in this debate by sharing new media communication.

Indicative topics to be addressed through lectures and seminars, include:
1. Critical perspectives on technologies & socio-technical systems in societies: value and politics in design,
information infrastructures and classification systems.
2. Digital innovations and societal impact and trends: digitalization and data-driven services and digital
exclusion, social media and democratic practices, smart cities and eco-sustainability; sharing economies and
equitable digital societies.
3. Critical perspectives on 'users' agency contexts and communities of actions, needs and practices.
4. Design ethics and frameworks for Responsible Research and Innovation.
5. Methods and approaches for Responsible Innovation in HCI: value-sensitive design, social-justice oriented
methodologies, speculative and participatory approaches.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Essay preparation and writing (includes draft formative prep) and feedback from Tutors.
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials160:308:00Synchronous PIP and asynchronous online delivery of core topics in systems and societies.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading201:0020:00Independent reading in prep for PiP group discussions on subject topics.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading161:0016:00Reflective blog preparations.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching42:008:00PiP group activities, guided discussions, and student-led seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery42:008:00PIP and online via Zoom live-supported synchronous peer-to-peer discussions and tutorials on essays and critical perspectives applied to a system in society.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module will provide the conceptual and practical tools required for a critical examination of socio-technical systems’ design and implementation in society. This is provided through delivery of lecture materials, which will also be available online; and synchronous present-in-person (PiP) group activities and seminar sessions with mixed teaching methods, which invite students to explore, learn, discuss, and reflect on critical challenges and opportunities underpinning socio-technical innovations. Seminars will be supported by case studies analysis, where critical perspectives can be applied. The module will draw on small group teaching such as activities and seminars and discussions to promote groups exploration of the topics, contemporary debates and to allow students’ personal perspectives to strengthen and enrich discussions and critical analysis. The teaching methods also include opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback on ideas and progress of essays as well as small group activities to develop these further in drop-in surgeries and tutorials.
The students will also be required to keep a reflective blog over the course of the module and submit this to Canvas.
Content for lectures materials has been broken down in smaller chunks to allow PIP and online content delivery and enable students to assimilate content.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M100Essay (2000 words) exploring a contemporary challenge for systems and societies
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MDraft outline of assessment essay (500 words max)
Portfolio1MStudents will be required to keep a reflective blog over the course of the module and submit it to Canvas.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module will require students to produce new media communication content (unexamined) that critically appraise and reflect upon contemporary challenges and opportunities for responsible socio-technical innovation in society. This will be built upon in an essay that will require the application of conceptual and practical tools to support responsible innovation in context at the service of specific particular user groups and communities.

Production of the essay will require background reading and the ability to critically apply such reading to a specific context/user case and related challenges and ethical issues. Students will be required to submit a draft outline of their essay for formative assessment to give them support and guidance as the essay develops.

Reading Lists