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COURSE NAME: "Surveillance, Privacy and Social Identities: Practices and Representations"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Anthony Stagliano
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 10:00 AM 11:15 AM

The course provides an in-depth analysis of the technical, social, cultural and political contexts and the implications of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance practices. The focus of the course will be in analyzing the deployment and implementation of specific surveillance practices within mediated digital environments and the other spaces of everyday life. Concepts such as privacy and secrecy will be analyzed as they relate to the general field of surveillance. The course will focus on the ways in which these practices circulate within the spaces of culture, cut through specific social formations and are disseminated in the global mediascape. Particular attention will be placed on the ways in which the concept and procedures of surveillance are imagined, represented and contained in popular culture.

The course will attempt at first to historically situate the rise of data-intensive technologies, discussing the key issues about big data and on-line privacy. Subsequently, it will cast light on social, cultural and political implications of the mass diffusion of these technologies, introducing questions on the on-line production of the self, the surfacing of novel power diagrams, and the practices and tools that have been developed in order to resist these. In addition, during the course, students will familiarize with four case studies that will be critically studied and analyzed.

This is a lecture and discussion course. We will shift back and forth between discussing theoretical and practical issues in relation to issues of data production and collection, privacy, surveillance, and the construction of digital subjectivities.

All reading materials will be distributed in advance through the class MyJCU and will be available in digital format online.

By the end of the course students will be able to:

1. Understand and analyze how contemporary media technologies rely on the intensive collection of personal data. 

2. Comprehend the main cultural, economic, and political debates on the mass scale distribution of data-driven digital technologies.

3. Recognize and assess the key ethical questions that arise from the use of personal information, thanks to an understanding of privacy. 

4. Develop an autonomous and critical capacity to address the key issues of the course into daily practices of media uses.


Attendance and Participation 20%
Attendance and Participation (Attendance)For attendance policy see below.(10%)
Attendance and Participation (Participation to class discussion and activities)Class participation consists of your contribution to class discussions and weekly activities. Students are required to come to class having completed the assigned readings as well as having prepared their own individual, short reflections on them.(10%)
Group Projects and PresentationsStudents are required to select one of the four case studies in order to develop a group research project. During the semester the projects will be developed autonomously and via group discussions in class. In weeks 10, 11, 12, and 13 students will present their findings to the rest of the class, leading the discussion on the readings, and receiving feedback for the final essay.30%
Final Research PaperStudents are required to write an individual research paper between 3500-5000 words, following their own engagement in the group research.40%
Final Research Paper (Final Exam: Research Paper Outline Presentation)During the finals students will present to peers the outline of their individual research paper, in order to receive a feedback before the final submission.(5%)
Final Research Paper (Final Submission: Research Paper)Students have to analyze the chosen phenomenon by applying concepts, concerns and contexts introduced in the course. Papers will be graded according to their clarity, originality, style, adherence to the course topics, coherence of the argument, attention to diversity of sources, correct formatting of citations, ability to develop from feedback, and alignment with the group project.(35%)
Main themes tasksStudents are required to complete and submit 8 individual tasks (6 scoring one point each; 2 scoring 2 points each) throughout the course: these will work for project development.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Please note that frequent absences automatically lower your participation grade.

Also please consider that you will lose one half-letter grade for any absence over 4 (e.g. 5 absences, half letter grade lost). Anything above 8 absences will result in failing the course.

If you have a serious health problem, which causes you to miss more classes than this class allows, you can ask the Dean's Office to consider whether you may warrant a exemption from this policy.

If unexcused, students more than 10 minutes late are marked as absent. Late arrival (less than 10 minutes) is marked as such, and 3 late arrivals are counted as one absence.

Class procedure: Use of cell phones affects your participation grade and is strictly forbidden during class. Please make sure that your cell phone is turned off (and not just muted) when class starts.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


The course is structured around readings, short lectures, related in-class activities, group-work, discussions, and the occasional screening of film and/or video excerpts.

The following schedule provides a general overview of the topics and themes that we will cover throughout the course. Specific details and additional readings will be revealed/assigned on a weekly basis.

Please note that a MyJCU page will be used as support to share updates and news, to collect assignments, to archive readings and other course materials.

Please note that your papers may be submitted to Turnitin (plagiarism detection software).

Please note that the schedule might be subjected to changes.


Week 1 Introduction and Course Overview


Suggested introductory reading:

Anderson, C. (2008). The end of theory: The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete. Wired Magazine, 16 (7). Available from: www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory

The Economist (2017) ‘Data is giving rise to a new economy’, Available from: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21721634-how-it-shaping-up-data-giving-rise-new-economy


Section 1: Key concepts

Week 2 Big Data

The Rise of Big Data, Data Mining, and Analytics


Andrejevic, M. (2014) ‘Big Data, Big Questions: The Big Data Divide’, International Journal of Communication, 8; pp.1673-1689.

Orit Halpern Beautiful Data (Introduction)


Week 3 Privacy

Privacy in the Age of Ubiquitous Media


Nissenbaum, H. (2011) ‘A Contextual Approach to Privacy Online’, Daedalus 140 (4); pp. 32-48.

Week 4 Identity/Subjectivity

Digital Subjectivation: The Production of the On-line Self


Cheney-Lippold, J. (2017) ‘Subjectivity: Who Do They Think You Are?’, Chapter 3, We Are Data. Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves, New York: New York University Press; pp. 91-117.

Week 5 Security

Cybersecurity: Securing Media as Infrastructures


Giacomello, G. (2014) ‘Security in Cyberspace’, Introduction, Security in Cyberspace: Targeting Nations, Infrastructures, Individuals, London – Oxford: Bloomsbury; pp. 1-19.


Section 2: Politics

Week 6 Power I

From Discipline to Control: Distributed Surveillance and the Surfacing of Post-Panoptical Power


Foucault, M. (1977) 'Panopticism', Chapter 3, in 'Discipline and Punishment. The Birth of the Prison', New York: Vintage Books; pp. 195-228.

Deleuze, Gilles. "Postscript on Societies of Control"

Week 7 Power II

Surveillance and its representations in the media


Franklin, S. (2015) Control. Digitality as Cultural Logic. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press (selected excerpts).


Week 8 Resistance I

The Political Dissent of Digital Codes: The Escalation of Cyber Resistance


Kluitenberg, E. (2011) Legacies of Tactical Media. The Tactics of Occupation: From Tompkins Square to Tahir. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures (selected excerpts).

Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience, excerpts


Week 9 Resistance II

(Digital) Resistance and self-defense


Hertz, G. (eds.) (2018) Disobedient Electronics. Protest. PDF Edition, The Studio for Critical Making.

Hands-on session on digital self defense (bring your own devices!)


Section 3: Case Studies

Week 10 Case Study I

The Google Universe, life to algorithmic selves


Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. New York: Public Affairs (selected excerpts).



Week 11 Case Study II

Cambridge Analytica, or data enter the political system


Chun, H. K. W. (2021) Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition. Boston (MA): MIT Press (selected excerpts).

Week 12 Case Study III

Stuxnet and the rise of cyberwarfare


Parikka, J. (2007) Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses. New York: Peter Lang (selected excerpts).




Week 13 Case Study IV

Edward Snowden, the contemporary politics of data leaks


Fidler, D. P. (2015) (eds.) The Snowden Reader. Bloomington – Indianapolis: Indiana University Press (selected excerpts).



Week 14 Recap of Main Concepts