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    2024 start September 

    Digital Media and Society

    Department of Sociological Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Develop a broad understanding of the interweaving of digital media and society from a sociological perspective. You'll think about digital media developments, data and algorithms in terms of a range of social issues, such as gender, race, health, intimacy, surveillance and activism. You will also advance your skills in qualitative, quantitative and digital methods.
    Students in a seminar with laptops

    Course description

    This course offers you a unique opportunity to develop a broad understanding of the interweaving of digital media and society from a sociological perspective.

    Drawing on staff expertise in digital media and digital society, you'll get a thorough grounding in key aspects of digital media, allowing you to specialise in a specific area. You'll develop a deep understanding of the following themes: researching digital society, digital practices and digital methods.

    As a student within the Faculty of Social Sciences, you'll also benefit from the research and training activities of both the Sheffield Methods Institute and the faculty-wide Digital Society Network. The latter brings together interdisciplinary researchers engaged in cutting-edge research at the intersection of society and technology.

    Why study digital media and society at Sheffield?


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    You'll complete 180 credits in total.

    Core modules:

    Academic Skills and Literacy

    This 'zero credit''module is designed to support students as they progress through semester 1 of their Digital Media and Society postgraduate degree at the University of Sheffield.

    Perspectives on Digital Society

    This unit examines key issues in researching digital society and the relationship between digital media and society. The unit introduces key concepts that have shaped understanding of digital developments and evaluates debates about how these developments a) have been shaped by the societies in which they have emerged and b) shape those societies. It develops students' understanding of the social, cultural, political, economic and technical contexts in which digital developments emerge,. Topics covered include, but are not limited to: key concepts; users, producers or produsers; identity, representation and self-representation; internet governance and regulation; privacy and publicness; visual digital society; big data and datafication; mobility; gaming and gamification; changing work practices; alternative digital media; health, well-being, education and work.

    15 credits
    Digital Methods

    This unit introduces students to new and emerging methods for carrying out digital research that is, digital methods. Digital methods are natively digital techniques for researching the natively digital (for example, social media content, likes and shares; blog posts and comments; hyperlinks; tag clouds; folksonomies; search engines; recommender culture) (Rogers 2013). Digital methods include social media insights and analytics, social network analysis, issue network analysis, data visualisation, and data sprints, amongst others. As well as learning how to use these tools, techniques and processes, students on this module will evaluate them, the context of their emergence (and sometimes rapid decline). They will develop an understanding of how digital methods are used to create knowledge. In this way, the module addresses questions of web epistemology, information politics, ethics, device critique, and the social life of methods.

    15 credits
    Researching Society

    This unit introduces students to key theories, principles and practices in social research. It provides an overview of the research process in the social sciences, with direct consideration of research design, different methodological approaches, a range of methods available and good ethical standards. It provides students with theoretical understandings and the practical skills required to design and develop a small-to-medium scale research project.

    15 credits
    Digital Media in a Datafied Society

    This unit examines the social consequences of widespread use of social media, a key characteristic of digital society. It explores what happens as a result of the digitised and networked sharing of personal information and life experiences of all kinds, in times of datafication (that is, the transformation into data, numbers and statistics aspects of social life which formerly did not exist in such forms). The unit reviews theoretical literature on social media, data and society and addresses specific debates and issues, including: social media data mining; social media surveillance; the economic value of social media data; data tracking, privacy, rights and data subjects; governing social media data mining; data activism and open data; data visualisation; new forms of data work; data and everyday life.

    15 credits
    Dissertation in Digital Media and Society

    This unit enables students to undertake an in-depth study on a topic of their own choice, which relates to digital media and society, and is guided by one-to-one academic supervision. It aims to enable students to develop and demonstrate skills in the planning, definition and management of a substantial piece of enquiry on digital media and society. The dissertation may take the form of a theoretical literature-based analysis, an empirical exploration, either through primary or secondary research, a work-experience-based piece of work, or it may incorporate elements of digital media production.

    60 credits

    Optional modules - two from:

    The Digital Self

    This module explores how gender, age, race, class and other identities are being reimagined in what various commentators have called a 'social media age'. It provides students with an in-depth understanding of social media platforms, roles in people's identity negotiations, examining users' social media identities in different global contexts, and paying close attention to the intersections between different identities. It reviews debates about self and identity formations from the earliest digital media moments and considers contemporary concerns, such as: anonymity and agency; selfies and influencers; online censorship, resistance and collective identities; social media fandoms; disconnection and digital detox

    15 credits
    Hate, Hope and Digital Misinformation

    The module explores contemporary issues that affect the relationship between digital media and society in the global context. It focuses on digital media and dis/misinformation (for example debates around fake news), the relationship between misinformation and online extremes (such as online hate, conspiracy theories, or online radicalisation), and attempts to counter these phenomena (including fact-checking and the creation of digital counter-narratives). These developments are contextualized in relation to longstanding debates about the ways that power, inequality and the political economy of the mainstream media shape the availability and visibility of information. The module takes examples from around the world and applies relevant theories to their analysis.

    15 credits
    Contemporary Challenges: Refugees and Asylum

    Contemporary Challenges explores a key contemporary challenge in depth and applies key concepts in Sociology (e.g. class, race, nationalism, democracy) in analysing it. The focus of the challenge will change on a 3-4 yearly basis.
    In its first iteration, the module focuses on Brexit: ideas of class and 'the left behind', English nationalism, nostalgia for empire, the media, and some of the impacts of Brexit in relation to everyday life. In doing so the module will develop a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the vote for the UK to leave the EU, as well as some of its consequences.

    15 credits
    Digital Practices

    This unit provides students with practical skills in digital media production, covering the following areas: creative media content; visual design; web design (including areas such as usability and user experience design, web accessibility, search engine optimisation). It introduces students to software and processes relating to these areas in a workshop environment, and students proceed to develop their skills through the production of portfolio work. It focuses on digital media in society by highlighting the importance of users, usage and use contexts of digital media products.

    15 credits
    Digital Health

    This module looks at the social implications of digital technologies in health, considering what these mean for our experiences of health and illness as patients and as citizens, for the work of health care professionals, and for the provision of health care. The module will consider a range of contemporary areas such as self-tracking and gamifying health, telemedicine and care at a distance, health information on the net, electronic patient records, illness death and dying on the web, and health activism and online patient groups. Drawing across these, the module will consider questions about changing representations and cultures of health and illness, whether we can all be medical experts now, who has responsibility for health, how we relate to health care professionals, the commodification of health data and the relative benefits for state and industry.

    15 credits
    Advanced social media research

    This module focuses on innovative techniques that move beyond the traditional distinction between quantitative and qualitative approaches in the analysis of social media data. Students will critically discuss and apply some of the most contemporary digital methods developments. These include:
    - interface methods, that is, methods combining analytical traditions from digital media, social studies of science and technology (STS) and sociology;
    - app walkthroughs, that is, methods to explore the intersections of apps original purposes, normalised meanings and implied users and usages;
    - techniques to detect bots and botnets in social media platforms;
    - techniques to investigate the circulation of fake news on social media platforms;
    - digital methods for visual research.

    15 credits
    Sociology of Genders, Sexualities and the Bodies

    Why are gender, sexuality and the body important areas for sociological study? How can these domains be seen to be political as well as personal? How have understanding around gender, sexuality and the body changed across time and cultures? How might experiences and practices of gender, sexuality and the body be impacted by intersectional factors such as race and ethnicity, ability and disability, faith, social class, age, and space and place? These are some of the key questions explored on this module, which will consider the diverse ways in which gender, sexuality and the body are understood and practiced at individual, collective and structural levels.

    15 credits
    Visual Methods for Social Scientists

    The module explores different approaches to understanding social reality by collating, creating and analysing images. The course will cover several methods such as compositional analysis, content analysis, and discourse analysis. It will also cover the use of different media such as magazine images, video and photography in social research. Ethical and intellectual property issues will also be dealt with such as copyright, anonymity and consent during the research process. Including the visual as part of a mixed methodology in research will underpin much of the material. The students will be expected to take photographic images during the course.

    15 credits
    Information Governance and Ethics (distance learning)

    The module explores a) the emergence of information and data as an economic resource b) the governance challenges and ethical issues arising from organisations' systematic capture, processing, and use of information and data for organisational goals, e.g. value, risk, accountability, ownership, privacy etc. c) governance, ethical, legal and other frameworks relevant to the capture, processing and use of information and data within organisational and networked contexts d) technologies and techniques used in the governing and governance of information and data. Case examples from a number of domains, e.g. business, government, health, law, and social media illustrate the topics investigated.

    15 credits

    Guided Module Choice - you can take a maximum of 15 credits from the following:

    Black Power: Race, Gender, and Liberation in the United States and Beyond

    During its time in the 1960s and 1970s and in its immediate aftermath, the Black Power movement was often caricatured and castigated as a violent, misogynistic, incoherent and self-destructive betrayal of the Civil Rights movement. But in recent years, scholarship which Peniel Joseph has termed 'Black Power Studies' has situated the movement within the longer history of the Black freedom struggle. These works suggest that Black Power was not a break from the recent past, but part of the long history of Black armed self-defence and transnational activism, and an important contribution to Black American identity making, political thought, and political power. The movement called for racial solidarity, cultural pride, and self-determination, and connected its work at the local and national level to the global struggle against racial oppression and exploitation. In this module, we will explore the historiography of the Black Power movement, as well as key primary sources. We will seek to understand the development of the movement's political power at the local level; the emergence of the Black Panther Party in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the Black Power movement in the Caribbean; the relationship between Black nationalism and internationalism; the Black Arts Movement and Black identity in the 1960s and 1970s; Black women's role in the development of the movement's political power and contribution to Black feminist thought in the 1970s and beyond; and the legacies of these events in the era of the Movement for Black Lives.

    15 credits
    Managing Climate Change

    This module aims to provide students with a strong understanding of the social and physical science of climate change with relevance to international development. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South. The module is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climate change.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    Find out what makes us special at our next online open day on Wednesday 17 April 2024.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time


    Teaching is conducted through a combination of lectures, workshops, seminars, and small-group work. Emphasis is placed on the individual aspects of learning.


    Assessment forms vary across modules and will include essays, blog posts, reports, research projects and practical work.

    Students will also conduct a sociological research project on a topic of their interest and write a dissertation of 15,000 words on their project. You will be allocated a dedicated Dissertation Supervisor who will be there to support you along the way, providing you with advice and guidance throughout your dissertation.

    Formal examination may be required for some optional modules.

    Your career

    87.5% of our graduates are in work or further study fifteen months after graduating (2020/21 Graduate Outcomes Survey). Completing this programme will set you apart from the rest as you embark on your career journey.

    Your employability is a priority for us. This is why you can add valuable skills to your CV throughout the course, by taking advantage of the faculty employability hub and access support and opportunities. Alumni from the department have gone on to work in various roles across the globe, such as:

    • Government Worker
    • Designer Journalist
    • Corporate Culture Specialist
    • Apps and Games Marketer
    • Research Assistant 

    Find out more about graduate careers on our PGT Careers and employability page.


    Department of Sociological Studies

    You'll learn about key concepts like society, community, social relationships, and identity. Our courses explore important sociological issues, including inequalities, gender, migration, and the digital world.

    Our world-leading research shapes our teaching, so you're always challenged and up to date. Our interdisciplinary approach brings sociologists, social policy analysts, digital media scholars and social workers together under one roof.

    Your tutors are experts in their fields and work with organisations in the UK and worldwide, bringing fresh perspectives to your studies. They'll give you the advice and support you need to excel in your subject.

    Department staff also play key roles in the Faculty of Social Science's Digital Society Network (DSN), an active group of researchers working on all aspects of digital-society relations. The DSN hosts events and activities to stimulate and support research in this area.

    Our courses develop students who are socially aware, with strong analytical skills and a flair for approaching problems in new ways. You'll become skilled at research and bring your own insights to key issues that affect our lives.

    Department of Sociological Studies students are based in the world-class Faculty of Social Sciences building, The Wave. It features state-of-the-art collaborative lecture theatres, study spaces and seminar rooms. Teaching may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space. If you want to have a closer look, check out our 360 degree tour.

    Student profiles

    Sociology MA Digital Media and Society student

    The course has enabled me to learn practical skills and think critically. I’ve learned to use different tools for data scraping, data mining, data visualisations and to conduct research using qualitative and quantitative methods. I then analyse the results from a social and cultural perspective.

    I am going back to China after the course ends. My plan is to find a job that is related to the media so I can use the skills I have gained.

    Yuqian Chen
    MA Digital Media and Society

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a relevant social science subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now

    This course has a date of equal consideration of 14 January 2024. This date has now passed, but we are currently still welcoming applications.

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.