MA Digital Media and Society modules

The MA Digital Media and Society, delivered by a team of academics with expertise in digital media and digital society, is conducted through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, small-group work and problem solving.

Digital Media and Society student Hana Okasha

The course is based around three main aspects:

  • The first is a series of core modules that are worth one third of your marks on the Masters degree;
  • This is then built upon through optional modules, also worth one third of your marks on the course;
  • The course culminates in the dissertation module, which is worth the final third of your marks. This provides the opportunity, under one-to-one supervision, to focus in depth on a topic of individual choice.

Each module is assigned a credit value: 180 credits are required for graduation. 60 of these are core modules, 60 are optional and finally 60 credits are allocated to the dissertation.

Students who take this programme part-time will have a period of two years to complete. The part-time route is structured in the following way: students will take 90 credits in the first year and the remaining 90 credits in the second year. The dissertation, which is worth 60 credits, must be taken in the second year.

Core modules (60 credits total)

Perspectives on Digital Society (15 credits)

This module examines key issues in researching digital society and the relationship between digital media and society. The module 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 will develop your 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.

Digital Methods (15 credits)

This module introduces you 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). 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,you will evaluate them, the context of their emergence (and sometimes rapid decline). You 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.

Researching Society (15 credits)

This module introduces you 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 you with theoretical understandings and the practical skills required to design and develop a small-to-medium scale research project.

Social Media, Data and Society (15 credits)

This module 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 module 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.

Optional modules 1

Students take a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 60 credits from this group.

Digital Identities (15 credits)

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 identity formations from the earliest digital media moments and considers contemporary concerns, such as: anonymity and agency; selfies and sexting; censorship, resistance and collective identities; social media fandoms; masculinity and gaming.

Contemporary Challenges: Sociology of Brexit (15 Credits)

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 three to four-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.

The Sociology of Surveillance (15 credits)

This module will introduce you to the emerging field of surveillance studies. By focusing on an exploration of the primary literature concerning recent development in surveillance theory, you will be equipped to engage with sociological debates surrounding the spread of new surveillance technologies. In particular the course will explore how `surveillant solutions' have become a dominant form of governance in the 21st century by focusing on case studies of surveillance in particular contexts such as policing and criminal justice, health and welfare, the work place, and consumer behaviour.

Digital Practices (15 credits)

This unit will provide you 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 will introduces you to software and processes relating to these areas in a workshop environment, and you will proceed to develop your 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.

Digital Health (15 credits)

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.

The Sociology of Culture and Identity (15 credits)

This module will provide you with a critical outline of the sociology of culture and identity, allowing you to recognise the key theoretical approaches to a critical understanding of the processes and social consequences of culture and identity. Culture is a defining feature of identity and contributes to how individuals see themselves and the groups with which they identify. You will be given an overview of the growing importance of social identity studies and the tools to further research social identity. You will also be encouraged to use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to examine facets of popular culture.

Multivariate Methods in Social Research (15 credits)

The course will introduce more advanced uses of multivariate statistics in the social sciences. This unit then covers several methods that are often employed in comparative sociology and social policy. These will include:

  • Cluster analysis;
  • Factor analysis;
  • Regression (including Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic Regression).

You will undertake a small secondary data analysis project of your own devising for assessment. It is expected that you will have some previous experience (e.g., at undergraduate level) of SPSS and basic statistics.

Advanced Social Media Research (15 credits)

This module focuses on innovative techniques that move beyond the traditional distinction between quantitative and qualitative approaches in the analysis of social media data. You 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.

Global Challenges in the Digital Society (15 credits)

Global challenges in the digital society explores in depth a series of contemporary issues that affect the relationship between digital media and society in the global context. Topics include, among others, digital labour and international digital labour platforms and markets; disinformation, misinformation and the challenges to traditional forms of expertise; mainstream social media platforms and cross-cultural contamination; decentralised digital networks and transnational collective action; digital media and transnational governance; AI and machine learning; urban automation and smart cities; blockchain and the politics of diffusion.

Visual Methods for Social Scientists (15 credits)

This module explores different approaches to understanding social reality by collating and analysing images. It 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. You will be expected to take photographic images during the course.

Optional modules 2

Students take up to 30 credits from this group.

Media, Culture and Society in East Asia (15 credits)

This module introduces key ideas surrounding media and culture in the context of East Asian society. Via selected case studies you will explore issues such as power and control, propaganda, politics of memory, politics of representation, media production and consumption, globalisation, transnational cultural exchange, media and nationhood and the changing status of the creative industries in East Asia. This module will examine a variety of media products including film, TV, radio, digital archives, animation, memorials and museums and will engage with the media and culture of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the PRC respectively.

Theory and Debates in Food Security and Food Justice (15 credits)

Food Security and Food Justice are areas of increasing importance at local, national, transnational and global scales. While various political and non-political agents at various scales have recognised that Global Hunger and Food Security (of which Food Justice is a primary component) is a key challenge requiring urgent interdisciplinary investigation and problem solving, there remains limited agreement as to how best to approach these issues and at what scale. This unit provides you with a background to the problems encompassed within the food security/food justice nexus by drawing on academic and policy debates that focus on both the macro as well as the micro grassroots impacts. By drawing on country case studies, the unit also critically evaluates different strategies for mitigating the impacts of food insecurity and injustice.

Media, State and Society in China (15 credits)

This module examines PR China's rapidly-changing media environment, and the contributions of state, corporate and popular actors in social and political debates, drawing on new work that highlights negotiations of interest and management of communications in public discourse. After an introduction to the Chinese media environment (delivered by lectures and seminars), you will focus on case studies that explore the shaping of social identity, understandings of social difference and exclusion, boundaries between public and private life, and the management of 'bad news', delivered through seminars. Assessment is based on online articles written by students, and on a researched essay.

Researching Social Media (15 credits)

This research methods module focuses on teaching students how to apply rigorous social science methods to the analysis of data derived from social media. The module also involves studying social media companies and the evolution of platforms and apps as part of a wider social data ecosystem. To better understand contemporary society, social media has become an important area of research, raising imperative questions about how different platforms and apps can be studied and how these developments can be situated more widely within recent shifts in the technology landscape.

Information Governance and Ethics (15 credits)

You will investigate topics related to the handling and governance of digital information and data in organisational and networked contexts. This will include an exploration of a) substantive issues and concerns e.g. accountability, decision-making, freedom, identity, intellectual property, openness, privacy, risk, security, and surveillance b) the design and use of relevant technologies e.g. Internet, DPI, digital rights, open source, P2P, social media c) systematic approaches and frameworks used in the regulation, governance and use of information in organizational and networked contexts e.g. copyright/left, data protection, freedom of information etc.

Digital Advocacy (15 credits)

You will examine how digital media are used to facilitate and promote the campaigns of contemporary advocacy groups and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Theoretical perspectives such as connective action and the clicktivist critique of online activism are introduced in order to explore the effectiveness of online campaigns. You will also consider the criteria by which such campaigns can be considered successful, drawing on a range of case studies including the Occupy Wall Street movement and the so-called `Arab Spring' in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011.

Dissertation in Digital Media and Society (60 credits)

In the dissertation you will undertake an in-depth study on a topic of your own choice, which relates to digital media and society, and is guided by one-to-one academic supervision. It aims to enable you 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.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is 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.

Information last updated: 27 November 2019


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