Official course description:
Full info last published 15/05-22

The Digital State in Practice

Course info
ECTS points:
Course code:
Participants max:
Offered to guest students:
Offered to exchange students:
Offered as a single subject:
Price for EU/EEA citizens (Single Subject):
21250 DKK
MSc. Master
MSc in Digital Innovation & Management
Course manager
Associate Professor
PhD student
Course Academic Responsible
Associate Professor
Course semester
Efterår 2022
29 August 2022
31 January 2023
Exam type
ekstern censur
Grade Scale
Exam Language
The course zooms in on the ongoing digital transformation of the Danish public sector and provides analytical and methodological tools for understanding and working with digitalization processes across governmental institutions and the private organisations that underpin their transformation.

Public sectors are currently undergoing large-scale institutional changes, not least in Denmark, a world-leading IT nation. Digital technologies are transforming both internal work and management practices and the relation between welfare professionals and citizens. Understanding these processes of transformation and what they entail is crucial for working both in public sector with digitalization and e.g. as consultant in the private sector. 

This course provides theoretical tools and empirical insights into how public sector transformations take place and unfold in practice,  with a  focus on the Danish public sector.  The course goes into depths with the 'how' of public sector digitalization: How are digitalization processes changing the landscapes and ecosystems of the public sector today, and which types of hopes, dreams and challenges are involved in these processes?

The course consists of three main elements:

  • Thematic focus: How are digitalisation processes changing and challenging the welfare state? How are local governmental institutions, welfare encounters, work, professions, and management practices changed by digitalization?
  • Concepts and method: How do we study and make sense of the changing organisational practices of the Danish welfare state?
  • Project work: Grouped in research teams, you will conduct ethnographic research projects in local governmental settings going through processes of digitalization.

The course prepares and equips you to work at the forefront of public sector transformations. As part of the course, you will carry out your own group research project in a Danish governmental setting. Doing so, you will study the implementation and/or changes caused by digitalization, linking your empirical work to core theoretical concepts in the course.

This project work will, furthermore, provide you with inspiration, method and theory reflections, empirical insights and analytical skills relevant for your master thesis as well as future employment.

Formal prerequisites

This course constitutes the second part of the specialisation in Public Digitalisation. ITU students must have participated in the first part, The Digital State, to register.

Single subject and guest students may register for this course without participating in the first part of the specialisation. They should have a basic knowledge of sociological theories of society.

Intended learning outcomes

After the course, the student should be able to:

  • - Describe, analyse and engage with the challenges of digitalization of the Danish public sector – in research and in organisational practice.
  • - Plan and conduct their own exploratory inquiry into an empirical case related to public sector digitalisation through an iterative process of problem formulation, data collection and analysis.
  • - Apply selected methods and conceptual tools to analyse their own empirical data and cases.
  • - Critically reflect on and discuss the decisions made in the research process and the relationship between the chosen methods, theories and data, and their implications for the findings.
Learning activities

The course will combine conceptually and thematically focused lectures with workshops in which the students go through the stages of conducting their own research projects in groups. Each of these stages (access, data collection, problem formulation, emerging themes, data analysis and writing) is concluded with a group assignment (4 in total) of app. 2-3 pages describing the progress of the project.

Supervision will be available at workshops and in office hours, and feedback on each assignment will be provided.

Student Preparation:

Students are expected to have read the assigned literature in advance of each lecture and to participate actively in discussions during class.

Students will be requested to submit a number of group assignments throughout the semester to ensure feedback on the learning process and progression of the research projects. These assignments may be written during the workshop sessions if time permits it.

Conducting ethnographic research is time-consuming, and students are expected to spend time in their groups outside of lectures and workshops. For that reason, the course curriculum is kept relatively short and during some weeks, hours are allocated to fieldwork rather than lectures and workshops.

Course literature

The complete course literature is published in the course page in LearnIT.

Examples include:

  • M. Hulvej Rod & S. Jöhncke, 2015: The Social Life of Evidence: Rationalising Professional Practice in the Welfare State, in V. Steffen, S. Jöhncke & K.M. Raahauge (eds.): Between Magic and Rationality. On the Limits of Reason in the Modern World.Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. 2015. Pp. 43-70.
  • Leigh Star, S., 1999: The Ethnography of Infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist 43(3) 377-391.
  • Plesner, U. and E. Raviola, 2016: Digital Technologies and a Changing Profession: New Management Devices, Practices and Power Relations in News Work. Journal of Organizational Change Management 29(7) 1044-1065.
  • Latour, B., 2005: Introduction: How to Resume the Task of Tracing Associations, in: Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1–17.

Student Activity Budget
Estimated distribution of learning activities for the typical student
  • Preparation for lectures and exercises: 30%
  • Lectures: 15%
  • Exercises: 15%
  • Project work, supervision included: 30%
  • Exam with preparation: 10%
Ordinary exam
Exam type:
D: Submission of written work with following oral, External (7-point scale)
Exam variation:
D2G: Submission for groups with following oral exam supplemented by the submission. Shared responsibility for the report.
Exam submisson description:
Requirements of the report: 15 normal pages + 3 additional pages per student in the group.
Group submission:
  • Group size: 3-4 students.
Exam duration per student for the oral exam:
20 minutes
Group exam form:
Group exam : Joint student presentation followed by a group dialogue. All the students are present in the examination room throughout the examination.

Time and date
Ordinary Exam - submission Fri, 16 Dec 2022, 08:00 - 14:00
Ordinary Exam Wed, 18 Jan 2023, 09:00 - 21:00
Ordinary Exam Thu, 19 Jan 2023, 09:00 - 21:00
Ordinary Exam Fri, 20 Jan 2023, 09:00 - 21:00