BA Geography with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Digital Technology & the City

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG32061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


With the ubiquitous use of sensors, mobile devices, and artificial intelligence, digital technologies are playing an increasing role in transforming the economic, social, and political realms of urban spaces. While technologies can enhance connectivity and access to public services, they can also encroach on privacy, threaten security, and fuel inequality. The complex implications of digital technologies on urban life, economy, and governance thus require new theories and research methods.

The goal of this module is twofold. First, this module offers insights into the relationship between digital technologies and the city by engaging with ‘smart city,’ ‘surveillance,’ ‘big data,’ and a few other concepts. A range of case studies will be provided to demonstrate the agendas of various technologies, their effects on the material condition and organization of cities, and to evaluate the promises (and failures) of the “technological fix” with respect to social justice and equality. Second, this module introduces the opportunities of digital research in urban studies by offering hands-on experience in using basic Python and data analysis skills to extract and interpret data from social media platforms. Digital skills can be used toward dissertation research or projects at work, as they are increasingly important nowadays since the outbreak of covid-19 when on-site data collection becomes difficult, if not impossible. Overall, this module a critical appraisal of the changes, brought about by digital technologies, in urban environments, processes, and practices. No prior knowledge is required.


  • foster a comprehension of the intersection of digital geographies and urban studies
  • develop students’ digital research skills
  • enable students to analyse the implications of digital technologies on different aspects of urban life
  • improve students’ digital literacy and communication, independent study, and collaboration skills


  • the digital turn in geography
  • python basics
  • social media research
  • data and datafication
  • platform urbanism
  • smart cities
  • digitalisation and the housing crisis
  • urban artificial intelligence 
  • challenges and opportunities of digital cities

Teaching and learning methods

This course will be delivered through 10 weekly two-hour lectures and 10 weekly one-hour seminar. Lectures will introduce key theories and case studies. Seminars will centre on students’ engagement with lecture themes by featuring case studies where digital research methods are used. Seminars will involve a variety of activities such as presentation and group discussion.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how cities have been transformed by digital technologies

Intellectual skills

  • Reflect on the implications of technologies for reducing or reinforcing social injustice

Practical skills

  • Develop digital skills to research urban questions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Practice independent and group work
  • Improve analytical and critical thinking ability

Assessment methods

Assessment task


How and when feedback is provided

Weighting within unit


Research Report

Reflective essay

2000 words

1000 words

Within 15 working days after submission deadline





Recommended reading

Browne, S., 2015. Dark matters: on the surveillance of blackness. Duke University Press.
Brunn, S.D., Cutter, S. L. and Harrington Jr, J.W. (eds.) (2004). Geography and technology. Springer.
Cardullo, P., Di Feliciantonio, C. and Kitchin, R. (eds.), 2019. The right to the smart city. Emerald Group Publishing.
Castells, M., 2009. The rise of the network society, with a new preface. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Cugurullo, F. (2021). Frankenstein urbanism. London: Routledge. 
Evans, J., Karvonen, A. and Raven, R. (eds.) (2016). The experimental city. Routledge.
Graham, S. (ed.) (2004). The cybercities reader. London: Routledge.
Graham, S. and Marvin, S. (2002). Splintering urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. Routledge.
Halegoua, G.R. (2020). The digital city: media and the social production of place. New York University Press.
Kitchin, R. (2014). The data revolution: big data, open data, data infrastructures and their consequences. SAGE. 
Warf, B. (ed.) (2017). Handbook on Geographies of Technology. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Yawei Zhao Unit coordinator

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