Fall 2023


Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-370


Ruxandra Paul (Section 01)


This seminar examines how the digital age (the third industrial revolution) has transformed politics around the world, in democratic and non-democratic contexts. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) change how people, states, and non-state actors interact. Technology creates new access points and vulnerabilities, new windows of opportunity and new politically salient actors, new political behaviors and types of participation. The course includes four modules: e-democracy (online social capital, digital citizenship, hashtag movements, online electoral campaigns, election hacking and "fake news," participation, information/disinformation strategies - e.g. the use of troll farms and bot armies to undermine democratic processes and trust in open societies); cyber security (cyberwar, cyberattacks, defense, terrorism, surveillance, privacy); online revolutions and authoritarian resilience (regime change, democracy promotion, censorship, ); and beyond borders (social movements and hacktivism, crypto currencies, global markets and tech giants, etc.).

The course asks four big questions:

1.     How does digital technology transform democracy and democratic politics?

2.     How does the Digital Age influence national and international security?

3.     Do ICTs undermine or strengthen nondemocratic regimes?

4.     What political, economic and social changes occur at the subnational and supranational level as a result of new technologies?

We use current issues and cases (e.g. disinformation campaigns/fake news ops, #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo/#NiUnaMenos, the Arab Spring, online radicalization, the Snowden revelations, net neutrality, Internet centralization & decentralization, Anonymous ops, Internet censorship and surveillance in China, Stuxnet, ransomware cyberattacks, Amazon as a business model, AI, virtual reality etc.) to analyze how cyberspace reshapes politics, societies, markets, communities, as well as political science as a discipline. You will gain a rigorous and sophisticated understanding of the relationship between technology and politics, and its various facets. The course will teach you how to develop expertise and design a research project on a topic of your choice: you will learn how to turn a general interest into a research question; how to read, summarize, and engage with relevant scholarship on the subject; and how to move from reading what others have to say about your topic of interest towards producing new knowledge of the kind that forms the basis for an original research paper or honors thesis. For students potentially interested in working towards a senior thesis, this seminar provides a much-needed analytical and methodological foundation. 

Requisite: At least one POSC course

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Assistant Professor Paul.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority to Political Science majors, seniors, and juniors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on readings, communication skills (discussions, oral presentations, written work - both academic and public intellectual/commentary style, online participation and engagement), group work, independent research, staying informed (following, sharing, and commenting current events), developing analytical skills that are portable across a wide range of professional and academic settings (developing an informed opinion on the basis of critical engagement with a set of competing arguments, contributing to a debate, synthesizing existing knowledge/research, categorizing claims, assessing arguments on the basis of real-world/empirical evidence, offering constructive criticism, setting goals for oneself and one's team, developing and implementing action plans, identifying effective accountability mechanisms, developing self-assessment techniques and achieving intellectual independence as a learner, etc.).

POSC 370 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM MORG 110
Th 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM MORG 110

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
#HashtagActivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice MIT Press Sarah Jackson, Moya Baily and Brooke Foucault Welles Amherst Books TBD
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Seven Stories Press Shoshana Zuboff Amherst Books TBD
Introduction to Cyber Politics and Policy. CQ Press Mary Manjikian Amherst Books TBD
More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech MIT Press Meredith Broussard Amherst Books TBD
Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall. Princeton University Press Margaret Roberts Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2023