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Card-index course

Internet : social and political issues

Enjeux sociaux et politiques d'Internet

Responsible Faculty: Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (SSP)

Teacher(s): Boris Beaude

Validity: 2020 -> 2023

Course Timetable (Weekly)

Date Location Notice Topics Lecturer(s)
2023/2024 : Monday 14:15-16:00 (Weekly) Géopolis/2121     Boris Beaude, Virginia Haussauer
2023/2024 : Monday 16:15-18:00 (Weekly) Géopolis/2121     Boris Beaude, Virginia Haussauer


Autumn semester
4 hours per week
56 hours per semester
Teaching language(s): French
Public: Yes
Credits: 6


Study of the Internet, as an unprecedented medium.
This course presents the history and current technical, cultural and economic issues in order to better understand its social and political stakes (right to be forgotten, filter bubble, fake news, net neutrality...).


After writing, printing, the press, radio, telegraph, cinema, photography, telephone and then television, the Internet is an extension of communication techniques. The simplest act of communication consists essentially of the transmission of information in space and time. These techniques made it possible to transmit information further, later and to more individuals, by regularly perfecting and specializing the means of communication.

Social interaction, the formation of identities, cultures and social organizations has thus spread over ever greater distances. This course proposes to integrate the Internet into the continuation of the history of social mediation, in order to better understand its singularity, efficiency, but also its vulnerabilities.

This course is divided into two distinct approaches. The first, more theoretical, proposes to place contemporary debates on the social and political issues of the Internet in the more general context of changing the practical modalities of social interaction. By profoundly changing the space between us, the Internet creates new relationships and new virtualities that will be part of our lives, our coexistence and our future lives. We will successively discuss many of the most salient issues, highlighting the plurality of issues associated with the emergence of the Internet, while emphasizing the extent to which they are essentially relational, social and political issues. The technical dimension of the Internet will thus always be located between intentions and actions, as an apparatus, as a project, considering its layout, but also the environment that makes it possible.

The second approach, more practical, is also more exploratory. It consists in discussing the breakthrough that began in the 1990s with the deployment of the Internet. While the standard protocols that have prevailed until now have been developed, in the context of the relationship between machines and then between pages, interpersonal relationships have gradually shifted between a multitude of social media, whose apparent diversity tends to be reduced and to concentrate most of the practices between a few corporations whose power is completely new. This fragmentation of practices and concentration of power raises specific problems, which are discussed and analysed during collective working sessions. The objective, over the course of the sessions, is to propose a standard for social mediation. This requires discussing current practices, elementary acts of communication, the typology of these digital mediations, the corresponding social and political issues, before proposing what could be the basis of a standard in this field. The identification of the qualities, limitations and difficulties of such a project allows, in contrast, a better understanding of the problem of its absence.

Concepts covered in this teaching:

Alternative facts, Astroturfing, Biais, Big data, Bitcoin, Blackbox society, Blockchain, Code is law, Code/Space, Third-party cookies, Crowdfunding, Crowdsourcing, Cyberculture, Cyberspace, Cybernetics, Cyberwarfare, Darknet, Deep learning, Deep Web, DeepFake, Digiplaces, Digital labor, Distance, DNS, DRM (Digital Rights Management), Right to be forgotten, Related rights, Disconnection, Echo Chamber, Attention economy, Sharing economy, Economies of scale, Network effects, Space, Fake news, Filter bubbles, Digital divides, GAFAM (BATX, NATU....), Geolocation, Internet Governance (ICANN, ISOC, IETF, RFC, IGF...), Hacking, IoT, Libertarianism, Geolocation, Machine learning, Net Neutrality, P2P, Pervasiveness, Positivism, Post truth society, Prediction, Targeted advertising, Revenge Porn, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Reductionism, Slacktivism, Security, Tor, Trackers.

Additional information


Use contextFaculty codeStatusCredits
(2020 ->) ›› Optional6.00
Master of Arts (MA) in Digital Humanities (2016 ->) ›› Digital Culture, Societies and Humanities: Reinforcement Modules - MA-INTERFAC-CSHN-30Compulsory6.00
Master of Arts (MA) in Public Management and Policy, Politics, Law and Economics of Regulation (UNIL) (2016 ->) ›› Politics, Law and Economics of Regulation (UNIL)Optional6.00
Master of Arts (MA) in Social Sciences (2021 ->) ›› Optional Courses Module, Culture, Communication and Media Orientation, Master of Arts in Social SciencesOptional6.00
Master of Arts (MA) in Social Sciences (2015 ->) ›› Transversal Subjects, Core Program, Master of Arts in Social SciencesOptional6.00
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