ASTK15499U  SEMINAR: Digital Methods for Political Science and IR

Volume 2017/2018

The proliferation of internet communication technologies had a profound impact on politics across the globe. Illustrated by dramatic events as diverse as the Arab Spring and the recent US presidential elections, the new communication environment radically redistributes knowledge and power in contemporary digitally-mediated societies. The traces of big data these technologies leave behind create unprecedented new opportunities for political science and IR. However, while for many this simply implies the ability to apply the same methods on a broader scale, others, mainly working in various post-positivist traditions, begun to argue that the proliferation of various networked digital devices changes not only the scale, but the very methods through which social relation should be studied. This course will introduce the students to the latter approach, often captured by the term Digital Methods. In the first part, the course will discuss to the ontological and epistemological debates behind this approach, and their implication for the way we study political science and IR. In the second part, the course will introduce the students to various methods in studying digitally- mediated social relations such as hyperlink analysis and network visualization, and apply these methods to concrete cases.  

Learning Outcome


This course will introduce the students to theoretical and methodological  insights as to how digitally-mediated social relations can be studied in Political Science and IR using the Digital Methods approach.


For this purpose, the course shall

1. Introduce students to the basic concepts and theories behind the Digital Methods approach, and this implication for Political Science and IR.  

2. Introduce the students to various research methods which this approach informs.

3. Apply these insights to empirical cases.


Upon completion, the students will be expected to

  • Describe the key concepts and theories behind the Digital methods approach their relevance for Political Science and IR.
  • Critically reflect upon the strength and weaknesses of these theories and concepts.
  • Apply these insights onto concrete cases using the digital methods discussed in class.


The competencies acquired:

This course enhances the students’ ability to understand and research the role of digital networks of communication in contemporary societies, and will useful for students who aim at careers both in the public and private sectors.



Marres, N. (2017) Digital Sociology Polity Press. (240 pages)


Rodgers, R. (2013) Digital Methods MIT Press. (274 pages)


Preliminary list:


Eriksson, K. (2005) Foucault, Deleuze, and the ontology of networks. The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms 10:6, 595-610


Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford University Press, p. 1-17.

The epistemology of networks:


Muller, M. (2015) Assemblages and Actor-networks: Rethinking Social-material Power, Politics and Space, Geography Compass 9(1): 27-41.


Latour (2005) introduction to actor network theory 1-17; 245-262


Venturini, T. (2010) Diving in magma: how to explore controversies with actor-network theory, Public Uniderstanding of Science 19(3): 258-273.


Rupper, E., Law, J. and Savage, M. (2013) Reassembling Social Science Methods: The Challenge of Digital Devices. Theory, Culture& Society 30 (4) 22-46


Marres, N. (2015) Why Map Issues? On

Controversy Analysis as a Digital Method Science Technology & Human Values


Rogers, R. (2013) “Mapping public Web space with the Issuecrawler”, in Digital Cognitive Technologies: Epistemology and the Knowledge Economy, eds Bernard Reber, Claire Brossaud, Wiley


Borra, Erik, and Bernhard Rieder. "Programmed method: developing a toolset for capturing and analyzing

tweets." Aslib Journal of Information Management 66.3 (2014): 262-278.


Rieder, Bernhard. "Studying Facebook via data extraction: the Netvizz application."Proceedings of the

5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference. ACM, 2013.


Manovich, L. (2012) Media Visualization: Visual Techniques for Exploring Large Media Collections. In Media Studies Futures, ed Gates, K. Blakwekk 2012


Markham, A. and Buchanan, E. (2012) Ethical Decision- Making and Internet Research”[http:/​/​​reports/​ethics2.pdf ] 


Bachelor level understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods in Political Science and IR, and keen interest in the politics of internet communication technologies.

A further condition for passing the seminar is that the student has actively participated in the seminar, i.e. min. 75% attendance and active participation. Active participation comprises min. one presentation of the student's own assignment(s) and one opposition to another seminar participant’s assignment. The assignment(s) are based on an area chosen by the student but linked to the seminar theme.
The course will consist of lectures, workshops, student presentations and group work.

Students will receive feedback on mandatory assignments throughout the course.   

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel seminar assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment


  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28