Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI

The Social Implications of Digital Technology (Sommersemester 2024)

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Gillian Bolsover

General Information

  • Weekly Hours: 2
  • Credits: 3
  • Graded: yes
  • Enrolment Deadline: 01.04.2024 - 15.04.2024
  • Examination time §9 (4) BAMA-O: 31.05.2024
  • Teaching Form: Vorlesung / Übung
  • Enrolment Type: Compulsory Elective Module
  • Course Language: English
  • Maximum number of participants: 8

Programs, Module Groups & Modules

IT-Systems Engineering MA
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA
Software Systems Engineering MA
  • Software Systems Engineering
    • HPI-SSE-EL Ethics, Law and Compliance
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-KT Technology Communication and Transfer
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-ML Management and Leadership


This module is designed to teach students how to think about the potential social implications of technology and code. It aims to help students develop a framework that allows them to be sensitive to the social implications of situations they might face working on the technical side of technology, as well as a foundation of understanding of social approaches to technologies that would facilitate communication with individuals with socially orientated background (whether that be working with social scientists in further education or with diversity or equality officers in the workplace).

Students will be introduced to a selection of key ideas and cases about technology and code deriving from the social sciences, such as echo chambers, filter bubbles and information overload, as well as the social and political ideas that help understand why things like misinformation and AI generated content might have negative social effects, and how the collection of digital data on technology users as part of the prevailing economic model of many technology platforms is seen as having the potential to fundamentally undermine basic human rights.

Additionally, students will be introduced to the core ideas of social science research. The course will cover, practically, how to find, read, understand, and analyse relevant research from the social sciences and teach students how to incorporate those findings into their understanding of their own fields. In this way, students acquire the skills to continue to expand their understanding of the social implications of technology and code based on relevant social science research as they move forward in their future studies / careers.

We will discuss key debates about the social implications of technology, such as privacy vs. protection and convenience vs. freedom, empowering students to form their own ideas about where they stand on these issues that they can take forward to inform their future decisions.




Please read at least three of the following five readings.

As you read, consider the following critical thinking questions. You should not be preparing answers to these questions and nor is there a right or wrong answer. These are prompts to help you approach the reading in a critical way:

  • What is the conclusion of this writing?
  • What evidence is used to support this conclusion?
  • What kinds of evidence or perspectives are not considered that could be relevant or change the conclusion?
  • How are these conclusions relevant to you – in your personal life, in your relationships, in your public life, in your studies, in your future job etc.?
  • What is the idea that the writing sets itself up as arguing against or correcting?
  • How widespread was the idea that the writing argues against?
  • What is the counter argument to the conclusion of this writing?
  • What evidence would be used to support this counter argument?
  • Who would most want to argue against this writing and why?
  • What is the identity of the author and / or publisher of the writing?
  • What do they gain from the publication of this writing and these ideas? How might this this shape their writing and conclusions?
  • What aspect of technology or code does the writing focus on and in what context?
  • How might picking a different aspect of code or technology to focus on or a different context have changed the conclusions?
  • How might the conclusions of the writing change if it were written today and/or in our lived context and why?
  • How might the conclusions of the writing change if it were published in a different format?  
  • What other examples support these conclusions?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the conclusions of the writing?
  • How does the writing change your pre-existing ideas or introduce new considerations?
  • What is the most interesting thing about the writing to you and why?
  • Thinking over all the readings
    • What overall conclusion could be drawn?
    • In what ways to the writings agree? In what ways do they disagree?
    • What are the next questions that need to be answered or issues that need to be considered given this overall conclusion?




Assessment is comprised of 1) an individual presentation (80%) in which students select one social science research paper and use it to reflect on the potential social implications of something they have encountered in one of their courses at the HPI and 2) a reflection and discussion activity (20%) in which students reflect on what they learnt during the course and where they stand on at least two key debates discussed during the course.


26.04. and 27.04.2024
31.05. and 01.06.2024

Room: K-1.02