Official course description:

Full info last published 15/11-23
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):
10625 DKK
MSc. Master
MSc in Digital Innovation & Management
Course manager
Associate Professor
Course semester
Forår 2024
29 January 2024
23 August 2024
Exam type
ekstern censur
Grade Scale
Exam Language
The course examines the new responsibilities and obligations of state actors as they implement IT systems. It explores how public bodies use and store data, questions the line between public and private companies, and explores political and ethical questions of infrastructure and responsibility during public digitization initiatives.
Denmark is at the forefront of public digitalization with profound consequences for public institutions and citizens. In the years to come the importance of digitalization is only likely to increase. To be able to analyze and reflect on some of the complex challenges of public sector digitalization, this course draws on ethnographic studies and theoretical frameworks from Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, and Organisational studies. The course will be focused on a range of case studies of public digitalization. It covers topics such as the digitalization and its effects, the digital state in everyday life, motivations for digitization, comparisons of state digitalization initiatives, as well as successful and failed public digitizalization projects.
Formal prerequisites

This course requires a good level of reading ability in the English language, and the capacity to analyse and synthesize texts. You need to have taken and passed a course that demands reading of 2 academic articles per week. While you do not need to have encountered any particular theories before, a grounding in social science ways of analysing and writing will be useful.

Intended learning outcomes

After the course, the student should be able to:

  • Describe and reflect on historic changes occurring in how states organise information
  • Compare digitalization initiatives in a global perspective
  • Analyse and participate in ongoing research into the digitisation of Scandinavian states and the Danish state in particular
  • Reflect on discourses of innovation through the lenses of transparency, accountability and responsibility
  • Theorise new spaces where state and non-state actors intersect
Learning activities

The course is exclusively based on readings, seminar discussions and workshop exercises. Workshop exercises include debates, group presentations, consultancy scenarios, poster making, document analysis, postcard making and analysis. There will be some guest lectures. However, you will be expected to do the class reading before class, using worksheets, and be prepared to share your perspective on the reading, ask questions and participate in active discussion and debate, exercises and demonstrations.

Course literature

Syllabus  (updated for Spring 2023)

1.   The Digital State in Everyday Life
Implementing digital public services often relies on a number of existing infrastructures, and digitalisation changes the baseline for citizen engagement with the state. In this introductory theme, we look at the history of state relationships to data and information, and early attempts to digitise public services and their concomitant normative cultural imaginaries of connectivity and futurity.

Literature February 9th

  • Scott, James C. 1995. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press. Excerpts: Introduction, Chapter 2 and – optionally – Conclusion.
  • Dencik, Lina and Kaun, Anne. 2020. “Introduction: datafication and the welfare state.” Global Perspectives 1(1): 12912.

Literature February 16th

  • Bowker, Geoffrey and Leigh Star, Susan. 1999. “Sorting Things Out. Classification and Its Consequences”, MIT Press. Excerpts: Introduction and Chapter 1.
  • Krogness, Karl Jakob. 2011. “Numbered Individuals, Digital Traditions, and Individual Rights: Civil Status Registration in Denmark 1645-2010.” Ritsumeikan Law Review 28: 87-126.

2.   Motivations for Digitisation
Why does digitalisation make so much sense to the state? What makes it desirable, and what visions motivate it? In this theme we examine topics such as citizen and consumer. We examine the making of the Danish Digitalisation Strategies, look historically at changes in attitudes and policy, and learn how to understand policy documents in their political contexts.

Literature February 23rd

  • Hjelholt, Morten and Jannick Schou. 2017. “Digital Lifestyles Between Solidarity, Discipline and Neoliberalism: On the Historical Transformations of the Danish IT Political Field from 1994 to 2016.” tripleC 15(1): 370-389.
  • Data as Relation Research Project Launch. 9th March, 2017. IT University of Copenhagen. Jens Krieger Røyen, Head of Office at the Agency of Digitisation, and Judith Simon, Professor at the University of Hamburg.

Literature March 2nd

  • Wedel, Janine R., Cris Shore, Gregory Feldman and Stacy Lathrop. 2005. “Toward an Anthropology of Public Policy.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 600(1): 30-51.
  • Danish Government. 2016. Digital Strategy “A Stronger and More Secure Digital Denmark.” Copenhagen: Agency for Digitisation. Pp. 4-14.

3.   Technologies of Digitalisation
A wide range of technologies constitute how information is organised. What is digitalisation moving from and towards? How are existing ways of studying the state changed or complicated by a shift in practices? What does this mean for power relations? We focus on the politics of infrastructure and take biometrics as an example.

Literature March 9th

Literature March 16th

  • Sharon, Tamar. 2020. “Blind-sided by privacy? Digital contact tracing, the Apple/Google API and big tech’s new found role as global health policy makers.” Ethics and Information Technology 23 (Suppl 1), 45–57.
  • Trauttmansdorff, Paul and Felt, Ulrike. 2021. “Between Infrastructural Experimentation and Collective Imagination: The Digital Transformation of the EU Border Regime.” Science, Technology, & Human Values (online first).

4.   Global Comparisons
This theme draws on cases from different countries to explore how different state digitalisation initiatives encounter distinct opportunities and concerns. We look at India and China. The examples show how digitalisation practices impact and are shaped by existing assumptions about identity, nationhood, and privacy.

Literature March 23rd

Literature March 30th

5.   Studying the Scandinavian State
Trust is a central theme in scholarship on Scandinavian engagements with the State. It is also central to digitisation strategies. What is trust? How is it threatened? These examples in Theme 5 focus on the political dimensions of how and where trusting relations are generated.

Literature April 13th

  • Bauer, Susanne. 2014. “From Administrative Infrastructure to Biomedical Resource: Danish Population Registries, the ‘Scandinavian Laboratory’ and the ‘Epidemiologist’s Dream’.” Science in Context 27(2):187-213.
  • Maguire, James and Brit Ross Winthereik. 2019. “Digitalizing the State: Data Centres and the Power of Exchange.” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 86(3): 530-551.

Literature April 20th

Student Activity Budget
Estimated distribution of learning activities for the typical student
  • Preparation for lectures and exercises: 30%
  • Lectures: 10%
  • Assignments: 10%
  • Exam with preparation: 10%
  • Other: 40%
Ordinary exam
Exam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
Exam variation:
C11: Submission of written work
Exam submission description:
Students will submit a 15 page individually authored exam which responds to one mandatory question and one question selected from four options.

Exam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
Exam variation:
C11: Submission of written work

Time and date
Ordinary Exam - submission Wed, 15 May 2024, 08:00 - 14:00
Reexam - submission Wed, 24 July 2024, 08:00 - 14:00