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CSC8601 : Systems and Societies

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Clara Crivellaro
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This module will introduce students to critical perspectives on technologies and socio-technical systems and the processes at play in their design and implementation in society, in order to help them develop tools for more ethical practices. Students will learn about the importance and implications of values in design; the challenges and opportunities of designing for diverse contexts, communities and users; the role that markets 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. Social innovation, ethics and frameworks for responsible innovation will also be introduced as practical toolkits to engage and respond to complex social issues and the challenges posed by new and emergent technologies and complex socio-technical applied in context. The module will examine the consequences of technologies and 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 for remote/online learning.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will be delivered through 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 the seminars, include:
1. Critical & perspectives on technologies & socio-technical systems in societies: value and politics in design
2. Critical perspectives on contexts, communities and “users”
3. Ethics and frameworks for Responsible Research and Innovation: practical opportunities and challenges
4. Approaches and tools for Responsible Research and Innovation and for designing with society
5. Digital innovations in specific domain areas: digital services, democracy and local politics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials240:3012:00Asynchronous online delivery of core topics in systems and societies
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion129:0029:00Essay preparation and writing (includes draft formative prep) and feedback from Tutors.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading161:0016:00Reflective blog preparations.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading181:0018:00Independent reading in prep for PiP group discussions on subject topics.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching82:0016:00PiP group activities, guided discussions, and student-led seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery180:309:00Online Synchronous individual & peer to peer discussion individual essay work.(Tutorial)
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 lectures materials, which will be available online; and synchronous present-in-person (PiP) workshops and seminar sessions with mixed teaching methods, which invite students to explore, learn, discuss and reflect on critical challenges and opportunities underpinning socio-technical innovation. 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, debate and to allow students’ personal perspectives to strengthen and enrich the discussion. 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.

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
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MDraft outline of assessment essay (500 words max)
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 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 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 challenge, question, topic. Students will be required to submit a draft outline of their essay for formative assessment to give them support and guidance as the essay is developed.

Reading Lists