Case study

Associate professor of digital humanities and programme director — Dr Adam Crymble

Set to be introduced by UCL in September 2024, the BSc Information in Society is a new and innovative degree. Programme director Dr Crymble tells us more about the course

What does 'information in society' mean?

Information is everywhere, and increasingly it's being used to make decisions that affect our lives, sometimes without active human intervention. It's deciding who gets a mortgage, who gets hired for a job, or which video shows up next on your social media feed. Even how our governments prioritise policies or seek our support during elections is informed by information and data.

That makes it dangerous if used irresponsibly, but also fabulously empowering if used in the service of good.

This programme has been introduced to help train the next generation of creative and passionate individuals who want to harness data and information for the benefit of our societies.

What type of students would suit this course?

We expect that applicants to the BSc Information in Society course will either be more comfortable in humanities-linked skills such as writing and small group discussion or with technology and maths related areas.

By the end of the programme, we hope they'll feel confident in both areas, and be ready to lead impactful work in the service of a society that increasingly needs flexible thinkers.

 The chance to work with students who have very different intellectual backgrounds to yourself is one of the many things that excite us about this programme.

Tell us more about the course and its modules.

Your first year provides a balanced foundation for your degree, introducing technical skills (programming, maths, web technologies), and a critical understanding of how societies use information in decision-making (social anthropology or social theory, ethics, information literacy). No matter your academic background, this first year provides the foundation.

In the second year you will deepen your knowledge to address increasingly complex information problems that bridge the socio-technical divide, in modules such as the politics of platforms, or analysing textual data at scale, where students work with real-world data and scenarios.

In your final year, you have the chance to specialise, including the chance to apply for specialist Masters-level modules, including data visualisation, foundations of machine learning, or introduction to digitisation. The degree culminates with a dissertation under the direction of an academic supervisor.

How is the course assessed?

The course is assessed through portfolios of creative or technical work, essays and reports, presentations, and technical assignments.

Some optional modules have different modes of assessment, including technical portfolios and take-home exams. Most assessed pieces of work are individual assignments. Some modules also include group work to promote collaborative skill building.

Where can students gain experience in information in society?

They're probably seeing it every day, on social media, in the press, in the decisions governments are making, or in the ways businesses try to grab your attention and your money.

What we'll be doing is helping you to stand back and see those processes and how information shapes them (and how you can shape them in turn).

If students would like to go onto postgraduate study what are their options?

With a set of skills that straddles information studies, technology, and the humanities, there are several pathways for further study. Subject to individual course prerequisites, that could be in technology or data science, or degrees in the humanities.

UCL's Department of Information Studies, where the BSc Information in Society sits, offers MA and MSc degrees in information studies, digital humanities, publishing, library science, and archival science, all of which graduates of this programme would be strong candidates for.

What advice do you have for students studying the course?

The most important thing is to bring a willingness to learn new skills and approaches to knowledge that you do not yet possess.

We also hope that you'll come interested in how information can be used to make our societies better places in the future.

Find out more

  • Learn more about studying at UCL.

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