Education and digital culture

Course Details

Course code: EDUA11322

Course leader: Dr Jeremy Knox

Course delivery: Jan 2020, Jan 2021


This course will consider online learning within the context of the emergence of a specifically digital culture. Recent years have seen a growing dependence – particularly in the ‘West’ - on the technologies of cyberspace and digital, networked media for conducting working and social lives. Given that we cannot easily separate education from the changing world around us, this course asks: how does our immersion in this new digital world affect us socially and culturally, and how does it change us as both teachers and learners?

The course will draw on theory from cultural and media studies, including the study of cyberculture, as well as specific educational research influenced by these concepts and ideas. It will explore the emergence of digital culture, looking at how it interfaces with learning cultures online, popular culture, and ideas of virtual community. Taking this course will be an opportunity to consider how the digital domain changes the way we understand community, literacy, and what it means to be human, in the context of increasingly sophisticated technologies permeating everyday education.

The ethos of this course is one which embraces the wider internet as both the site and subject of study. As such, most of the course processes and content will be open to the web, and the final assignment will be presented in a digital, non-conventional format.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will:

  • have a critical awareness of the key concepts emerging from the study of digital culture, via cyberculture theory, cultural and media studies;
  • be able to assess the implications of this thought for the history, development and deployment of e-learning technologies;
  • be able to synthesise these ideas in order to develop critically-aware, media-specific pedagogies for online learning;
  • have developed practical skills in the use of social media and the presentation of academic discourse online.


The course will be organised in three blocks. Learning activities throughout will focus on the creation of your lifestream (see assessment), on blogging, synchronous and asynchronous discussion. You will be produce: a film review and visual artefact (block 1); an ethnographic artefact (block 2); an account of ‘algorithmic play’ and a final blog post (block 3), each in any digital medium, and all of which will contribute to your assessed lifestream-blog. In addition, you will contribute to a music playlist in each block. You will also produce a final assignment: the ‘digital essay’.

Block 1: Cybercultures (week 1-3) This first block will consider some of the over-arching narratives within popular culture which have driven our understanding of digital culture and its relation to education. It will begin with a course 'cyberculture film festival' and accompanying tutorials in Togethertube, connecting these with readings which familiarise you with some orienting theories of cyberculture. It will then link these to the notion of ‘technology enhanced learning’, considering how such representation continues to inform our understanding of the nature of education online.

Block 2: Community cultures (week 4-7) This second block will consider the concept of online community and will look at digital ethnography as a research method. Readings will be provided on both. The main work of this block will involve you in working alone to conduct a micro virtual ethnography of a massive open online course (MOOC).

Block 3: Algorithmic cultures (week 8-10) This block will look at the ways in which large quantities of digital data, and the algorithms that operate across it, are informing contemporary culture within and beyond educational contexts. Ted Striphas defines ‘algorithmic culture’ as: ‘the ways in which computers, running complex mathematical formulae, engage in what’s often considered to be the traditional work of culture: the sorting, classifying, and hierarchizing of people, places, objects, and ideas.’  In this block, we will consider this idea and its implications for digital education.

Final 2 weeks: the ‘digital essay’ assignment The final 2 weeks of the course will be devoted to developing and submitting your final assignment: the digital essay (see below for further details). You will work independently on this task, with the opportunity for an individual tutorial with your tutor.


Assessment tab:

There are two elements to the assessment for this course – the lifestream blog and the digital essay.

The lifestream-blog: The main part of the assessment is the lifestream-blog, which you will set up and create over the first 10 weeks of the course. A ‘lifestream’ ( is a means whereby an individual’s tweets, blog postings, image postings, YouTube favourites, and other ‘feeds’ can be pulled together into a single blog stream. For this course, you will be supported in setting up and maintaining a lifestream-blog in WordPress, which will bring together all the digital fragments of knowledge generated by your studies. A film review and visual artefact (block 1), a micro-ethnography (block 2), as well as an account of ‘algorithmic play’ and a final blog task (block 3) will feed into this, as will your music playlist suggestions, other content you choose to include in the stream, and peer comments.

The digital essay: You are required to submit an essay on an aspect of the course content defined by yourself. You must present this digitally. This might be a web essay, a video, an animation, and so on. In other words, we are using the term ‘essay’ very broadly. The idea is that you explore the possibilities presented by digital, networked media for representing formal academic knowledge. You will agree the topic and medium for your digital essay with your course tutor before embarking on it. Technical prowess is not formally assessed – we are rather looking for imaginative and rigorous ways of presenting your academic work online, and a critical engagement with the course themes.

Teaching Methods

The course will be delivered using WordPress: much of the course content and process will be open to the wider internet. Teaching methods include a combination of asynchronous discussion, synchronous text chat, twitter tutorials, peer review and the creation of a lifestream blog.


Indicative readings are:

Knox, J. 2015. Digital Cultures and Education. Springer Encyclopaedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy.

Bell, D. J., Loader, B., Pleace, N., Schuler, D. (2004) Cyberculture: the key concepts. London: Routledge.

Hand, M. (2008) Making Digital Cultures. Aldershot: Ashgate

Bayne, S. (2010) Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies. London Review of Education, Vol 8, No.1. pp. 5-13.

Striphas, T. (2014). Algorithmic culture. “Culture now has two audiences: people and machines” A medium corporation.


As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer with a good broadband connection, and will be responsible for providing your own computing equipment and consumables. All core and some additional readings will be provided online.

You will be provided a WordPress blog for your lifestream. For video chats you will need headphones, microphone and camera.