Header image: Person holding silver iphone 6, by Castorly Stock from Pexels

  • Session: 20-24 June 2022
  • Venue: all-remote (100% online)
  • Lectures: Streamed daily at 13.00 CET.
  • Discussion sessions: Daily after the lecture, for about an hour
  • Registration: Closed
  • Facilitator: Chris Meyns (chris.meyns@antro.uu.se)


What is propaganda? What isn’t? Does it even matter? This course aims to support participants in getting a better grip on how propaganda operates in people’s everyday lives. We’ll reflect on some of the key questions that the production, circulation and reception of propagandist material raises. Think: issues about freedom, persuasion, trust, (mis)information and vulnerability. Over the course of the week, we will build a propaganda analysis ‘toolkit’ to apply our insights to concrete cases.


All-remote (100% online). Talks are pre-recorded and go ’live’ daily. Accompanying further readings (optional) will be made available digitally. We’ll meet in daily discussion/brainstorm/conversation sessions for an hour or so to dive deeper into issues raised by the material.


DayTopicStream archive
Mon 20 JunWelcome & What is propaganda?Day 1
Tue 21 JunBots and algorithmsDay 2
Wed 22 JunAds, ads, adsDay 3
Thu 23 JunFriends & influence(rs)Day 4
Fri 24 JunBuilt environmentDay 5


Activities (optional)

  1. Find a propaganda item in your everyday surroundings (online is fine). Capture your propaganda item in a picture, video, drawing or description (no NSFW or personally identifying information, please!). Submit it to the Discord activities channel to share or get feedback.
  2. Select a propaganda item in your everyday surroundings. Analyse the everyday propaganda item, by answering the questions from the propaganda analysis toolkit. Submit your analysis to the Discord activities channel to share or get feedback.
  3. Write a short essay (300-700 words) answering ONE of the following questions relating to everyday propaganda (or discuss to formulate your own question, if you like). Submit your essay to the Discord activities channel to share or get feedback.
  • Question 1: Can there be society without propaganda?
  • Question 2: Is algorithmic propaganda meaningfully different from non-algorithmic propaganda?
  • Question 3: Does marketing undermine democracy?
  • Question 4: Do recommendation systems undermine personal decision making?
  • Question 5: Do friends let friends spread propaganda?
  • Question 6: Should the built environment be a propaganda-free space?

Further readings (optional)

Some potentially helpful further readings, in case you’d like to dive deeper into one or more of the topics.

Download a zip of all pdfs (6 MB) (omits the linked online articles)

What is propaganda?

  • Edward Bernays. 1928. ‘Organizing Chaos’, in: Propaganda, 9–18. New York, NY: Horace Liveright. (online, pdf 262 KB)
  • Leonard W. Doob. 1950. ‘Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda’. Public Opinion Quarterly 14 (3): 419–42. (online, pdf 664 KB)
  • Victoria O’Donnell and Garth S. Jowett. 2018. ‘What is Propaganda, and How Does it Differ From Persuasion?’, in: Propaganda & Persuasion, 1–55. SAGE Publications. (pdf 730 KB)
  • Victoria O’Donnell and Garth S. Jowett. 2018. ‘How to Analyze Propaganda’, in: Propaganda & Persuasion, 313–331. SAGE Publications. (pdf 247 KB)
  • Jason Stanley. 2015. ‘Introduction: The Problem of Propaganda’ in: How Propaganda Works. Princeton University Press. (pdf 204 KB)

Bots and algorithms

  • ‘Introduction to Algorithms’, GeeksforGeeks, 28 March 2019. online.
  • Andrew Goffey. 2008. ‘Algorithm’. In Software Studies: A Lexicon, edited by Matthew Fuller, 15–20. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. (pdf 464 KB)
  • Robert Kowalski. 1979. ‘Algorithm = Logic + Control’. Communications of the ACM 22 (7): 424–36. (online, pdf 492 KB)
  • ‘How Search Works’. Google. (online)
  • Robyn Caplan, Joan Donovan, Lauren Hanson, and Jeanna Matthews, ‘Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer’. Data & Society. 18 April 2018. (online)
  • Paul Covington, Jay Adams, and Emre Sargin. 2016. ‘Deep Neural Networks for YouTube Recommendations’. In Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems, 191–98. Boston Massachusetts USA: ACM. (online, pdf 192 KB)
  • Már Másson Maack. 2019. ‘“YouTube Recommendations Are Toxic,” Says Dev Who Worked on the Algorithm’. TNW. 14 June 2019. (online)
  • Samuel Woolley, danah boyd, Meredith Broussard et al. 2016. ‘How to Think About Bots’. Data & Society. 22 March 2016. (online)

“Ads, ads, ads”

  • Seth Godin. 2018. This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See. Penguin. Selected passages: ‘Introduction’ + ‘Marketing to the Most Important Person’ (ch. 23) + ‘A Simple Marketing Worksheet’ (combined pdf 212 KB)
  • ‘Advertising’, in: Cull, Nicholas John, David Holbrook Culbert, and David Welch. 2003. Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present. ABC-CLIO. (pdf 70 KB)
  • Megan Boler, and Elizabeth Davis. 2020. ‘Digital Propaganda and Emotional Micro-Targeting: Interview with Jonahan Albright, Carole Cadwalladr, Paolo Gerbaudo, and Tamsin Shaw’. In Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda by Other Means. Routledge. (pdf 258 KB)
  • Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott. 2018. ‘Digital Deceit: The Technologies behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet’. Report. New America. (online, pdf 552 KB)
  • Dennis G. Wilson. 2017. ‘The Ethics of Automated Behavioral Microtargeting’. AI Matters 3 (3): 56–64. (online, pdf 328 KB)

Friends & influence(rs)

  • An Xiao Mina. 9 January 2019. ‘Databite No. 117: Memes to Movements’. Data & Society. (online)
  • Delonia Cooley, and Rochelle Parks-Yancy. 2019. ‘The Effect of Social Media on Perceived Information Credibility and Decision Making’. Journal of Internet Commerce 18 (3): 249–69. (online, pdf 251 KB)
  • Kelley Cotter. 2019. ‘Playing the Visibility Game: How Digital Influencers and Algorithms Negotiate Influence on Instagram’. New Media & Society 21 (4): 895–913. (online, pdf 149 KB)
  • Tiffany Jones. 2020. ‘Viral lesbians: geopolitical uses of digital meme worship and sharing’. In T. Jones, J. Power, H. von Doussa, & T.W. Jones (Eds.), Bent street 4.1: Australian LGBTIQA+ art, writing & ideas: love from a distance: intimacy and technology in time of COVID-19 (Vol. 4, pp. 101-113) (online)

Built environment

  • ‘Architecture’, in: Cull, Nicholas John, David Holbrook Culbert, and David Welch. 2003. Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present. ABC-CLIO. (pdf 72 KB)
  • David Lock. ‘The Propaganda of the Built Environment’, RSA Journal, Vol. 139, No. 5419 (June 1991), pp. 455-466. (online, pdf 460 KB)
  • David I. Cunningham, and Jon Goodbun. 2009. ‘Propaganda Architecture: Interview with Rem Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf’. Radical Philosophy 154: 35–47. (online, pdf 489 KB)
  • Böck, Ingrid. 2015. ‘Shape: CCTV, Beijing 2002–2008’. In Six Canonical Projects by Rem Koolhaas: Essays on the History of Ideas, 305–327. Jovis Verlag. (pdf 511 KB)
  • ‘CCTV – Headquarters’. Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). 2012. (online)

Still want more? Explore for yourself! The Internet Archive and Google Scholar often provide access to full-text material. Also have a look at SciHub or Z-Library.

tags: propaganda vulnerability philosophy