Political Science (POLI) 480

The Politics of Cyberspace (Revision 4)

POLI 480 Course Cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: Students are strongly advised to have taken a senior university course in any of political science, political economy, sociology, communications, economics or cultural theory.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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POLI 480 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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Welcome to Political Science 480: The Politics of Cyberspace. This course 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.

Political Science 480 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.


  • Unit 1: Introduction
  • Unit 2: Cyberspace: A Realm of Control or a Realm beyond Control?
  • Unit 3: The Rise of the Networked Organization
  • Unit 4: The Informational Economy and the Process of Globalization
  • Unit 5: The Global Informational Economy, the State, and Culture
  • Unit 6, Part 1: The Global Justice Movement
  • Unit 6, Part 2: The Zapatistas and al Qaeda
  • Unit 7, Part 1: The Decline of Patriarchy in the Information Age
  • Unit 7, Part 2: The Internet as a Space of Empowerment for Women: RAWA as a Case Study
  • Unit 8: Digital Democracy: Concepts and Issues
  • Unit 9: Digital Democracy, Representative Institutions, and the Public—Making Connections
  • Unit 10: Digital Democracy, Elections, and the Political Process
  • Unit 11: The Future of ICTs: Control or Emancipation?


To receive credit for POLI 480, you must achieve an overall course grade of at least D (50 percent) and receive a mark of at least 50% on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1: Critical Assessment Essay 15%
Assignment 2: Research Essay Proposal 15%
Assignment 3: Research Essay 30%
Assignment 4: Online discussion posts 10%
Final Examination 30%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


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.

Strangelove, Michael. 2005. The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Other materials

All other course materials for POLI 480 are available online through the myAU portal.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the POLI 480 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

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 4, February 15, 2012

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