Critical Data Studies

Course content

This course is an introduction to the nascent interdisciplinary field of critical data studies, which has sprung up in reaction to the increasing prevalence of digital data practices in our everyday lives. From the meta-data harvested as we use social media, to the biometric data extracted when we enter securitised spaces like airports, to the transactional data generated every time we make a purchase online, data is increasingly the focus of interest not only for commercial enterprises or the state, but also for scholars across disciplines who are concerned at how data is shaping and informing social and political life.

This course provides an introduction to the issues, problems and arguments that critical data studies raises, for example: What does dataveillance mean for our ideas about the nation state? Are algorithms prejudiced? Can a person be their data? What new relations are developing between quantitative and qualitative methodologies? Perhaps most importantly, it asks: What is the role of social critique in these new data landscapes? Students will learn how to engage critically and ethnographically with data practices, and will be able to form their own critical perspectives on the extensive data infrastructures that make up such a large part of our lives.

The course will be made up of lectures and seminars where students will be expected to actively participate, but will also include two experimental workshops where students will have the chance to develop and express their own critical voice.

Learning outcome

At the end of the course, students are expected to be able to:



  • Identify and reflect on different modes of critical approach to data.



  • Compare and contrast different critical approaches to contemporary data debates.
  • Formulate a research question that interrogates the potential and the limits of critical data studies.



  • Transfer the principles and theories acquired during the course to different ethnographic and empirical settings.

Class lectures and tutorials.

Students will be expected to actively contribute to the common learning process facilitated during the course by:

• Thoroughly reading at least any two of the required readings per week and ensuring they are familiar with the rest of the course content.
• Prepare short presentations on at least one of the required readings.
• Actively participate in class discussions.
• Handing in all the portfolio assignments on time and being prepared to discuss them in class.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will receive oral feedback in class for presentations and portfolio work from both their peers and the teacher, and individual written feedback on their essay/portfolio from the teacher.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Essay length: 21,600–26,400 keystrokes for an individual submission. 6,750–8,250 keystrokes per extra member for group submissions. The maximum number of students who can write an essay in a group is four.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 85
  • Preparation
  • 80
  • English
  • 207