Political Science (POLI) 580

The Politics of Cyberspace (Revision 2)

Permanently closed, effective December 22, 2016.

Delivery Mode: Grouped study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: Senior undergraduate course work in Political Science; or a senior upper level course in any of sociology, communications, political economy, cultural theory, postmodernism; or MAIS 601; or MAIS 656; or permission of the course professor.

Precluded Course: POLI 580 cannot be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for Athabasca University's POLI 480.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies

**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Welcome to Political Science 580: The Politics of Cyberspace, a graduate course that combines printed course materials with online discussions and assignments over the span of fifteen weeks.

The Politics of Cyberspace explores the emergence of the networked society, the information–technology revolution, and the consequences for power, production, and culture on a global and local scale as examined by such disciplines as political science, political economy, sociology, and communications. Throughout, the course views new information technologies as contested terrain and examines the tension between cyberspace as a means of domination versus a means of hope, liberation and democracy.

Beginning with the information–technology revolution and its effects on structures of power, the course examines how these technologies, including the Internet and social media, disperse power from the state and, in the process, move us from a surveillance state to a surveillance society. At the broader level, as these new information technologies challenge state power, they make possible the global restructuring of capital. While capital and civil–society organizations have rapidly adapted to the logic of a networked society operating on a global scale, the bureaucratic state struggles to adjust. Moreover, the creation of a global informational economy has met with increased resistance from those who view it as a form of domination. These include such different social movements as the Zapatistas of Mexico, the global justice movement, which includes the Occupy Movement, and al Qaeda. This resistance, like the global information economy it struggles against, is assisted by new information technologies.

This course also explores the effect of informational technologies on the democratic processes of the state, its political institutions, its administration, and civil society. In particular, it looks at web tools, including Web 2.0 and its components such as political blogs and their effects on the political process.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students should be able to assess critically how the information technology revolution has

  1. reshaped power and economic production on a global scale.
  2. facilitated globalization in the form of a new informational economy.
  3. facilitated resistance to neo-liberal globalization from networked civil society organizations and social movements.
  4. made possible the creation of alternative identities.
  5. created new political spaces and possibilities of political participation, domestically and beyond the borders of the nation state.
  6. influenced democratic processes, political institutions, administration, and civil society.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 20%
Reaction Paper and Moderated Online Discussion 15%
Critical Assessment Essay 15%
Term Paper Proposal 15%
Term Paper Essay 35%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for Political Science 580: The Politics of Cyberspace include the items listed below. If you find that any of these items are missing from your course materials package, please contact Course Materials Production of Athabasca University at (780) 675-6366, or 1-800-788-9041, ext. 6366 (toll free from anywhere within Canada and the United States). You may also write in care of Athabasca University, 1 University Drive, Athabasca AB T9S 3A3; or direct your e-mail to cmat@athabascau.ca.


  • Castells, Manuel. 2010. The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume I—The Rise of the Network Society, 2nd ed. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • ———. 2010. The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume II—The Power of Identity, 2nd ed. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Chadwick, Andrew and Philip N. Howard, eds. 2009. The Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics. New York: Routledge.
  • Stangelove, Michael. 2005. The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools: http://library.athabascau.ca.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, September 1, 2012.