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Life of Media: Past, Present and Future

When people think about media these days, the internet and social media immediately spring to mind. But of course, these are only the latest developments in a long history of humans communicating to ever larger numbers, about a wider variety things, over greater expanses of space and time.

This module surveys that history, focusing on journalism’s role as the intellectual backbone of modern media. We look at both the form and the content of media representations.

Journalism is important not only because it is the primary source of the news but also because it is the source of our understanding of ‘the media’ as a distinct force in society. We shall look at such journalistic roles as the critic, the muckraker, the pundit and the broadcaster. These roles were formed when the media consisted of print and, later, radio and television. To what extent do they remain current in the age of the internet?

The module also pays special attention to the rise of public relations in the 20th century as a competitor to journalism in presenting audience-targeted, client-driven information on a mass scale: Is it necessary? Is it ethical? Is it just capitalism run amok?

Finally, we shall look at how the highly distributed and democratised nature of the internet and social media is challenging, not only the top-down ‘broadcasting’ model of 20th century mass media, but also the very nature of expertise and authority in society.

"One of the modules I really enjoyed in first year was the Life of Media module. At first I wasn’t entirely sure what I had gotten into, with a lot of the early content not seeming especially related to the other areas of sociology I had looked at in the past, but I quickly came to see it as my favourite module of the year. The teaching style was at first a bit much to keep up with, but as you got the hang of lecture notetaking the content was incredibly useful. Looking at the development of media as a technology and the different philosophies of its use and purpose in journalism to public relations, absolutely fascinated me, as I’d never truly thought critically of the techniques of media and how they came about. The exam for the module was at first a bit daunting, but the module convenor and tutors were brilliant at advising us on the questions that we should focus on and how to go about revising for a university level exam, and in the end it went well!"

- Dan Smitherman, BA Sociology 


Module Director

Eric Jensen