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PL51014: The global politics of cyberspace

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 30%, ES 70%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 30%)
  • Essay (ES 70%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: From the digital interference in democratic elections to the surveillance policies of states and international organisations, the world is fast changing. The hyper connectedness of our contemporary world brings incredible opportunities, but also poses incredible problems to countries, institutions and societies. Cyberspace assumes an increasingly central role, not only in individual lives, but also in how states are run and politics and security are defined. Political concepts, such as democracy, resistance or war are acquiring new meanings and practices and behaviours in international politics are changing accordingly. This unit aims to introduce students to the global politics of cyberspace by identifying the key challenges affecting the digital world, and by studying the policies and approaches of the main actors of the international system when it comes to cybersecurity, the development of norms in cyberspace, and the strategic use of cyber weapons.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the module students should be able to:
1. Have a solid knowledge of the main theoretical approaches to the study of cyberspace in international relations and of the main issues that currently set the agenda
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the evolution of cyberspace as a policy issue
3. Understand the political and ethical issues related to the definition and implementation of cyberspace policies
4. Have a good grasp of how to articulate knowledge on cyberspace in fluent speech and writing
5. Comfortably analyse and interpret policy documents in the field of cyberspace.

Skills: The key skills the unit will hone and further develop are:
* Advanced research skills in identifying, locating and exploiting a wide range of descriptive, evaluative and theoretical literature
* Intellectual skills of conceptual, original and independent thinking, critical analysis, synthesis and reasoned argument
* Skills of assessment and judgement in relation to the soundness of competing arguments and scenarios
* Reading, presentation and discussion of theoretical material
* Understanding and Explaining the development of cyber policies, and corresponding terminology
* Application of theoretical and methodological skills to case studies
* Ability to carry out independent research using different sources
* Develop presentation skills, including the presentation of academic research in a formal student support.

Content: Indicative Content Breakdown: Theoretical Approaches to Cyberspace, Key issues (Internet governance, cybersecurity, cyberwar, privacy and surveillance), Key actors (EU/NATO, US, Russia, China), The future of cyberspace. Instead of seminars, students will have a 4 hour research conference at the end of term where they will present their research papers (essays).

Programme availability:

PL51014 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
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