Image of Sociological Studies students in a seminar

UCAS code: L391
Duration: 3 years

BA Digital Media and Society

BA Digital Media and Society graphicWatch our recent webinar with Dr Ysabel Gerrard, Programme Leader for the BA Digital Media and Society, where you will learn more about:

  • How the course is structured and the topics of study available to you;
  • The kinds of work placement options that could be available to you in your third year of study;
  • What facilities and support are available to you;
  • The admission requirements and the application process.

Watch now


How do apps, platforms and devices change our social world?

What happens to the information we share on social media?

What does the ‘selfie’ explosion tell us about identity and representation?

These are some of the issues that you will address on the BA Digital Media and Society at the University of Sheffield. The BA is unique in offering you the opportunity to develop a broad understanding of the relationship between digital media and society.

You will also learn how to make digital media products (such as websites and animations) that focus on the needs of the user and to use innovative digital methods to research digital media in society.

You will study the human consequences of digital media developments, the ways in which social factors shape these developments and the various domains in which digital media are developed, used and have an impact.

The BA Digital Media and Society is based within the Department of Sociological Studies, but it brings together modules from other departments in the Faculty of Social Sciences, such as the Information School. It offers you the opportunity to study digital media developments in relation to a range of fields, like education, marketing or journalism.

Your future

A degree in BA Digital Media and Society can open up a variety of careers to you. There is a whole industry behind the scenes of the digital media platforms with which we engage on a daily basis. Lots of these job titles are new and not yet familiar to us, but there is plenty of work there.

You could work within digital media organisations, agencies or game companies, working in roles such as UX (User Experience Design), usability studies or user research.

Alternatively, you could use your skills to launch a career in marketing, communications and PR, for example working as a digital media manager or social media account manager for a local or city council, in a museum or theatre, or working for a charitable organisation.


Each year you will take 120 credits, including all core modules. Modules are assessed by a variety of methods, which include coursework, project work and exams.

You can choose a broad mixture of optional modules, but if your interest is in a specific area, you can choose a themed route. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing, live news production, or how our digital culture plays a part in children’s development, themed routes in education, journalism or marketing are available.

We pride ourselves on offering a wide range of topics for you to choose from. Although the options available may change from time to time, our expertise is wide-ranging, so you can be sure there will be modules available to suit your interests.

Level one

In your first year of study, you will be introduced to the core concepts, methods and practices that make up the study of digital media.

Core modules in year one:

Digital Media and Society

You will be introduced to key concepts, issues, and debates about the production, use and distribution of digital media and information in society, including how these developments relate to social inequalities. You will work together to develop your own ideas for how to tackle some of the pressing challenges facing the development of inclusive digital societies. As part of learning about these topics, you will also be taught how to use web technologies to produce and publish your own digital content, and will apply basic website design and implementation skills to present your coursework.

The Sociology of Everyday Life

You'll be introduced to basic sociological concepts, such as 'the sociological imagination', 'social interaction', 'social identity', 'deviance' and 'globalisation' and will learn how these can be applied to everyday life. Drawing on the work of key thinkers in sociology, a range of everyday life situations, such as mobile phone use, shopping and travel will be used as exemplary cases.

Data Visualisation and Presentation

Through this module, you will receive training in and hands-on experience of data visualisation and presentation techniques for social scientists. You will be introduced to exploratory data analysis, strategies for the design of effective graphics through which to present data quickly and accurately to non-specialist audiences, and to basic mapping and graphicacy skills.

Introduction to Digital Methods

You'll be introduced to methods for carrying out research, sometimes referred to digital methods. Digital methods are techniques for researching digital cultures and content. Sometimes this means moving offline methods online for example, online surveys and interviews, or virtual ethnography. Sometimes it means using new methods devised especially for researching digital content like: social media content, likes and shares; blog posts and comments; hyperlinks; search engine results. These new kinds of digital methods include social media analytics, social network analysis, and data visualisation, amongst others. You will learn about the tools, techniques and processes of digital methods, and will be introduced to the ethical questions that they raise.

Digital Methods in Practice

You will have the opportunity to try out in practice the digital methods to which you have been introduced in the Introduction to Digital Methods module. You'll learn how to use the tools, techniques and processes of digital methods in practical workshops. You will also evaluate the ethical questions that digital methods raise and think about what constitutes best ethical practice in relation to digital methods.


Optional modules available to you in your first year could include*:


Journalism Skills

This module will introduce you to the discipline of news writing and the challenges of producing an accurate, readable narrative.

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

Whether you're a journalist writing stories for the public, or a social research analyst working in government, you need to be able to understand, use and present data. This module aims to demystify data and encourage critical thinking on statistics; often wrongly used, and sometimes in very misleading ways.

Understanding Inequality

This module explores a key concern of sociology to explain how and why material and symbolic rewards are distributed unequally. It will consider the unequal distribution of wealth, privilege and power and, in doing so, will question common-sense understandings of various inequalities in society.

Gender, Sexuality & Society

Through this module, you will address the following questions regarding gender and sexuality and their interaction with society: What do we mean by gender and sexuality? How do we do gender and sexuality? How do we see gender and sexuality? How do we control gender and sexuality?

Globalisation & World Cultures

You'll aim to understand the concept of culture and the ways in which it informs the organisation and practices of societies around the world - specifically in terms of their values and belief systems and traditional practices. You will go on to not only examine the impact of social change and globalisation on different cultures, but also highlight the ways in which cultural ways of living continue to persist despite globalisation or have become more fundamental to societies as a result of globalisation.

Understanding Crime

Crime is a major social problem in virtually all societies. In this module, sociological understandings of crime are discussed, often with reference to their implications for policy. The module will introduce you to major research about crime in contemporary Britain and help you to understand the contribution of sociology to its analysis.

Doing Social Research

You will be given the opportunity to deepen your understanding of theoretical, methodological and practical issues in conducting empirical social research through a staff interview project. The project will be introduced and explained in lectures, and you will be supported in interviewing your assigned Departmental member of staff via tutorial sessions and guided independent learning.

Classic Sociological Theory

The aim of this module is to introduce foundational theories in sociology. You will learn more about the ideas of leading theorists Durkheim, Marx, and Weber with reference to the social context in which they lived and wrote.

Level two

In level two, you will build on the skills you learned in your first year. As in level one, you will take a combination of core and optional modules. You can continue with themed routes in education or journalism, or choose a themed route in marketing.

Core modules in year two:

Advancing with Digital Methods

This module advances your understanding of new methods for carrying out digital research. It will introduce you to advanced techniques for doing digital research. As well as learning how to use advanced tools, techniques and processes, you will evaluate them, the context of their emergence and sometimes rapid decline.

Media Studies

You'll look at the work of classical and contemporary theorists, and will consider the development of media studies. Key debates about media ownership, media effects and representation are used to demonstrate how the field has changed and what has remained intact over the course of its development.

Digital Storytelling

The use of digital media to enhance the effectiveness of a narrative is common in the fields of business, entertainment, cultural heritage, education and journalism. The module provides an introduction to the area of digital storytelling including key concepts and technologies involved in creating/using digital content and how to use digital media to tell a story. You will be taught practical skills such as how to create and use digital media such as images, videos, and sounds, and how to design and create complex multimedia applications using Adobe Animate CC (an industry recognised platform, using HTML and CSS).

Digital Media and Social Change

You'll look at the role of digital media, from email to social media, in protest and activism from the 1990s onwards, by studying theories and debates based on relevant perspectives on digital society and contemporary activism. You will also have the opportunity to carry out some practical research too, looking at the role of social media like Twitter and Facebook in campaigns aimed at social change, such as the #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo campaigns.

Optional modules available to you in your second year could include*:


Children & Digital Culture

Digital technology has transformed the lives of many, impacting on culture and society. Many young people have quickly seen ways of extending and deepening social networks through their uses of technology, and immersed themselves in Virtual Worlds, Facebook etc and enjoyed browsing on shopping sites. This module examines new technologies and associated social practices impacting on children's lives, considering the nature of new digital practices and how these affect identity, society and culture.

Essentials of Marketing

You will study the basics of marketing strategy including segmentation, targeting and positioning as well as the practical domains of strategy development like product and brand management, services marketing, pricing methodologies, promotional strategies, distribution and logistics.

Making Ideas Happen

Enterprise involves putting ideas into practice. 'Making Ideas Happen' introduces you to the areas of enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation, equipping you with the skills to generate and develop a financially-sustainable, socially-driven idea, and work with others with a range of disciplinary backgrounds and expertise.

Media Law

This module will develop your understanding of legal constraints on journalists working in Britain, including defamation and contempt law. You will also study how matter can be published in the public interest, and how a journalist can challenge invalid restrictions.

Race, Immigration and Multiculturalism

The module explores the meaning of race in various social and political contexts. It examines how ideas about race help to shape and determine social and political relations and includes considering the part played by ideas about race in forming notions of self and other at the micro and macro levels.

Doing Qualitative Sociological Research

Qualitative research still dominates sociological research and the skills and techniques that researchers use to generate qualitative data have numerous other applications in the work-place and beyond. In this inquiry-based module, you will develop your ability to collect, analyse, and present qualitative data by working on individual and team-based projects.

Doing Quantitative Sociological Research

This module gives you practical experience of conducting quantitative sociological research that has real-life application to the social world. Using the latest UK datasets provided by the Office for National Statistics, as well as data that you will collect on the `streets of Sheffield', the module will develop your experience of the realities of planning and conducting quantitative research, and allow you to develop your ability to communicate your findings in appropriate formats.

Level three

In your final year of study, you will undertake a year-long dissertation project, which provides the opportunity to focus in-depth on a topic of individual choice. This can incorporate digital methods for social research or include an element of digital media practice. There is the opportunity to undertake a work placement module, as well as further themed and optional module choices.

Core modules in year three:

Dissertation in Digital Media and Society

You'll undertake an in-depth study on a topic of your own choice, which relates to digital media and society, and you will have one-to-one academic supervision to support you. The dissertation may take the form of a theoretical literature-based analysis, an empirical exploration, either through primary or secondary research, or it may incorporate elements of digital media production.

Digital media work placement

The BA Digital Media and Society offers a work placement in the final year of your degree, when you’ll have the opportunity to enhance your skills and employability through hands-on experience of the workplace.

Members of our staff team and the University’s Careers Service have strong links with organisations across Sheffield and in the broader region. On the work placement, so you could find yourself working in a digital media industry or in a digital communications department of a museum, local authority, charitable organisation or local enterprise. You will be fully supported by us in setting up the right work placement for you.

Optional modules available to you in your third year could include*:


Social Media, Data & Society

Read more about this new module below.

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.

Digital Marketing

This module is intended to guide students on the applications of marketing theory to the Internet. The module covers how organisations (both public and private sector) use digital media to connect, interact, establish and maintain productive dialogue with customers. It explores the impact of the Internet on marketing and branding activities and the techniques employed to enable the development of meaningful customer relationships.

Free Speech & Censorship

The subjects of freedom of speech and censorship have been at the forefront of philosophical and political debate for centuries. For journalists debates about these issues are central to their obligations and role in democratic societies. The module will explore the history and theory of freedom and speech and censorship, framing it in both historical and contemporary contexts relating to the development of journalism and the wider media in Britain.

How The World Gets Made

This course provides an in-depth, hands-on immersion in influential and radical interactionist approaches to the study of social order. The improvised and locally produced nature of the social world is emphasised, drawing on the methodological, philosophical and theoretical implications of this approach. Its uses in illuminating, and being of practical use in, a range of fields including science studies, technology development, workplaces will be emphasised.

How to Lie With Statistics

Through this module, you will critically assess the uses of statistics and statistical indicators both in the media and sociological academic literature. The module also expands the previous quantitative modules to include an introduction to multivariate statistics. This will incorporate Ordinary Least Squares regression and a brief overview of other regression techniques used in social sciences.

Intimacy & Personal Relationships

You will explore a range of topics within the field of intimacy and personal relationships, including memory, genealogy, material culture and home, marriage and sexuality, responsibility and care, and friendship. Beginning with the individualisation thesis and its critics, the module will go on to explore recent moves towards conceptualising personal relationships in terms of embeddedness, relationality, intimacy and linked lives.

Whiteness, Power & Privilege

This module explores the importance of studying whiteness in order to understand racism as a system of power relationships. It explains why the construction of whiteness has become a key focus in debates about race and ethnicity and examines critically some of the key themes to emerge in this field of study. You will also look at the racialised, classed and gendered boundaries of whiteness by examining, for example, the socially and politically constructed categories of `white trash' and the `chav'.

The Sociology of Surveillance

You'll be introduced here to the emerging field of surveillance studies. In particular the module explores 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.

The Sociology of Evil

Despite the increasing secularisation and rationalisation of society, evil is still an all too familiar term. For some it invokes images of devils, demons and witches, for others criminals, terrorists and murderers, whilst debates on the 'social evils' of poverty, prostitution and alcohol are continually recycled for each generation. This module will introduce you to a sociological approach to evil by asking you to develop your own innovative case-studies of evil in combination with published research.

Participatory Research with Children & Young People

This module explores the methodological and ethical issues involved in engaging children and young people as active participants in the research process. You will analyse a number of case study research projects that have attempted to ensure the active participation of children and young people, and will design a group research project that engages children and young people as active participants in the research process.

Portfolio in Online Journalism

This module offers you the opportunity to produce a journalism portfolio in the form of a news website. You will develop a theme for site and identify and produce news content combining text, audio, video and still pictures.

Protest, Movements and Social Change This module is an introduction to the study of the ways in which protest and social movements drive social change. The module will take an historical overview, tracing the development of theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of social movements, matched with historical and contemporary case studies of movements from around the world. By focusing on what function movements play in society, as well as how they have been studied, students will be equipped with the tools to both analyse movements, and engage with sociological debates surrounding larger questions of inequality, identity, democracy and social justice.
What it means to be human New scientific knowledge in evolutionary biology, psychology and neuroscience is making powerful claims about `human nature' that are reconstructing how we understand ourselves. At the same time, powerful new technologies have the potential to reshape our bodies and brains. This module aims to critically engage with these developments using concepts from a number of sociological traditions. Can biology tell us anything meaningful about social interaction? What is the nature of choice and agency? Is biology relevant to understanding racial and gender differences? Does our psychology have an evolutionary basis? How are the boundaries between humans and machines changing? Should we use new technologies to enhance ourselves? The module will address and seek to answer these and other important questions. 

Digital Media and Society graphicSpotlight on: Social Media, Data and Society

One of the modules available to you in your final year is Social Media, Data and Society. There’s no denying that social media is now a major part of our society and on this module, you’ll study the social consequences of widespread use of social media.

You will explore what happens as a result of the digitised and networked sharing of personal information and life experiences of all kinds, by looking at the relationship between ‘big data’ and social media. In assessed work on this module, students have investigated what happens to user data on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Flickr, LinkedIn and Taobao. You will study how sharing social media user data raises questions relating to privacy, surveillance and rights, and how to analyse widely shared images and videos on social media.

*Please note that modules listed may change year-on-year due to current events and staff availability.

Entry requirements

As we are one of the top departments in the country our entry requirements reflect the strong competition for places. There are two routes of entry into the Department; conventional entry through UCAS applications, and the mature student entry.

Find out more about the entry requirements for the BA Digital Media and Society.

Fees and funding

For the latest information on tuition fees for undergraduate study please visit the University’s undergraduate finance webpages, where you will find lots of information about the financial support available to you through the University and guidance on how to apply for government funding if you are a UK applicant.

You can also look up fees for full-time undergraduate courses here.

International students

Studying for your degree at the University of Sheffield offers you a world-class high-quality qualification and excellent value for money. One of the great advantages of studying at the University of Sheffield is that your money will go further in our city.

Find out more about living costs, scholarships, tuition fees and more for international students.

Tuition fees

You can find information on tuition fees for both UK/EU and overseas students here.

Home or overseas tuition fee status?

In common with other UK universities, the University of Sheffield charges different fees dependent on whether students are classed as Home or Overseas for tuition fee purposes. The decision to class a student as a Home or an Overseas student is determined by government legislation as set out in the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 2007. The regulations governing the fee status of students can be found on the government legislation website.

Read more about home or overseas tuition fee status.

Tuition fee refund policy

If you are considering, or have decided to take leave of absence, withdraw entirely or transfer to another University, you will need to know how this will affect your tuition fees. Read the  Tuition Fee Refund Policy for essential information on tuition fee refunds here.

Funding your study

Find out more about financial support, the University of Sheffield Bursary Scheme, money management and additional support here.

Other potential costs


We provide all undergraduate students with an annual allowance on their UCard which is designed to help offset some of the costs for materials and printing. It is up to the individual student to manage this allowance and budget accordingly.

There are no compulsory text books required for the undergraduate courses in Sociological Studies.

We provide a recommended reading list which is intended to give a general background to your undergraduate course. It is not expected that you will read every book over the course of the year, but you are encouraged to read as widely as possible to inform your coursework, project work and exams. Individual modules will provide more specific reading lists, which include readings that can be accessed electronically via the University's library.

You are encouraged to use the University's Library, which has an extensive collection of recommended books to support your studies.

Reassessment fees

If for any reason, you fail or are unable to complete an assessed piece of work which is a requirement to pass your course, you may be required to pay a reassessment fee. information about these fees can be found on the University's exam webpages.

The team

The teaching staff you will encounter on the BA Hons Digital Media and Society come from the range of departments which contribute to the programme. Here are some of them, including the programme leader and staff responsible for core and popular optional modules.

Image of Ysabel GerrardYsabel Gerrard, Programme Leader

Ysabel is interested in how people’s identities (gender, age, race, social class, and sexuality) play a role in how they use social media. Her other research interests include: social media content moderation; feminised media practices, feminist media theory, and digital research methods. She has also previously worked with researchers at Microsoft Research New England, USA.

Image of Dr Navdeep AthwalNavdeep Athwal

Navdeep researches in the area of social media marketing and branding, and also works closely with digital marketing agencies, writing both academic and white papers in the field. She teaches digital marketing to undergraduates and her module explores contemporary issues in the digital environment. She was the first academic in the Management School to offer videography training to students, encouraging its use in her module assessment.

Image of Jo BatesJo Bates

Jo is interested in the social shaping of digital information and data. Jo’s research interests include the factors that influence the production and use of data, and that enable and restrict the movement of data between different people and organisations.

Image of Julia DaviesJulia Davies

Julia researches how people use technology to produce texts as part of their everyday-life, She considers how this affects the way we live our lives, see ourselves and communicate with each other. She explores how this might affect how we conceptualise literacy and how academic literacy teaching could embrace `Digital Literacies´.

Image of Peter HoldridgePeter Holdridge

Peter teaches themes of digital literacy and usability, and has a research background in how people browse and search the web. His interests focus around learning styles, learning analytics and technology enhanced learning. Peter was awarded the faculty award for Outstanding Practice in Learning and Teaching 2017 for his role in the development of online teaching programmes.

Image of Helen KennedyHelen Kennedy

Helen has been studying and making digital media since the 1990s. Her interests include: social media, data mining, data visualisation, data in everyday life, and digital media work. Her book Post, Mine, Repeat: social media data mining becomes ordinary was runner up in a recent international book competition for internet researchers.

Image of Warren PearceWarren Pearce

Warren is interested in new digital methods like social media data mining and ethical controversies in social media research.. He is currently investigating the implications of social media for climate change.

Image of Paul ReillyPaul Reilly

Paul was named one the most influential UK Higher Education professionals using social media in 2015. His research focuses on the use of social media by citizens to create and share acts of sousveillance (inverse surveillance), and how digital media can help promote better community relations in divided societies such as Northern Ireland.

Image of Stefania VicariStefania Vicari

Stefania has been studying the use of digital media in activism and protest for the past 13 years. She has mapped and discussed the work of Cuban bloggers, analysed the use of Twitter in Italian anti-austerity protests and is now exploring ‘health social networking’ or how people use social media to campaign for health issues.

What our students say

Image of student Hana Okasha"I chose to study the BA Digital Media and Society course because of its aim to educate the digitally dependent generation about the behind the scenes of digital advancement that most of us are completely unaware of. I saw it as an opportunity to be a part of a technologically innovative culture, which is where our future is heading. I was also interested in the dangers of digital media and how it can impact our society, in an attempt to share and help others around me to avoid those dangers.

"The module I’ve enjoyed the most so far is the core digital media and society module. It opened my mind to the insides of how the online world works. It also has encouraged creative thoughts and questions about how specific online outlets receive information and spread information from and to groups of society, its political impact, and ethics behind it.

"This course teaches less about the digital world, and more about our society. For example, our search histories on search engines give us a general guideline to our society's culture and interests.

"If you're interested in understanding the future of our society, which is very much digital, this course is perfect." - Hana Okasha, current BA Digital Media and Society student

Image of Jessica Tyrell"The Social Media, Data and Society module was one of my favourite modules throughout my three years at Sheffield. The content was engaging, interesting and thought-provoking. The module leader Professor Helen Kennedy and seminar leader Dr Ysabel Gerrard were excellent teachers and provided great support throughout the module and during assessments.

"One particular aspect of the module that I loved was the topic of algorithmic power and metrics, exploring how certain social media sites work, why certain images are displayed first on news feeds and how numbers are increasingly used as a method of valuation online. A really important message we investigated here is the need for people, especially young people using social media sites, to not value themselves based on how many likes they have or in comparison to others.

"As a result of taking the module, I'd say I'm much more aware of what happens to our data when we are online and when we use social media, something which I was naive about before. I'd say I now take more care when using social media platforms, and have changed the way I think about privacy, what it means to be private on social media and how I operate online.

"This module has also been very useful since starting a business that thrives off a large social media presence and has allowed me to gain authentic followers on social media sites by using social media analytics and in-platform tools." - Jessica Tyrell, Sociological Studies graduate

“Being an active user of the Internet and a self proclaimed expert on all things technological, I was left stunned upon learning the extent to which our lives are quantified and observed. I found myself discussing the Social Media, Data and Society module on a general basis more often than any other, because of how relatable it was, and I realised how engaging the discussions were because of this, as almost everyone had an opinion on this issue.

“I would highly recommend this to students and encourage them to take the Social Media, Data and Society module. A brilliant experience overall and I leave a more informed and concerned citizen.” - Dinuk Kiriella, third year student

“Having taken a placement year in a digital marketing recruitment agency, I know how big this market of employment is. The best thing about this area of employment is it’s only going to get bigger. As businesses demand more knowledge, they demand more data, so this area of study will become increasingly beneficial for those looking to enter into that market.” - Jack Harrison, third year student

See our full list of undergraduate courses