MC408      Half Unit
Theories and Concepts in Media and Communications I (Key concepts and interdisciplinary approaches)

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Bart Cammaerts TW2.6.01C


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and USC), MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society), MSc in Media and Communications (Media and Communications Governance), MSc in Media and Communications (Research), MSc in Media, Communication and Development and MSc in Politics and Communication. This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Gender, Media and Culture, MSc in Management, MSc in Management (CEMS MIM), MSc in Management (MiM Exchange) and MSc in Political Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

In order to accommodate academic staff research leave and sabbaticals, and in order to maintain smaller seminar group sizes, this course is capped, meaning that there is a limit to the number of students who can be accepted. Whist we do our best to accommodate all requests, we cannot guarantee you a place on this course.

Course content

This course addresses key theoretical and conceptual issues in the study of media and communications, within a broadly interdisciplinary social science perspective. It grounds the analysis of media and communications phenomena within broader sociological and political theories of social order and social change, thereby revealing the shifting significance of the media environment for relations among the state, market and public sphere in a globalising knowledge society.

The course is divided into two main sections. The first examines key concepts underpinning the analysis of media and communications phenomena in order to understand processes of power and mediation in contemporary societies. The second explores selected critical perspectives which have proved influential in the field of media and communications. As a team taught course that combines weekly lectures and seminars, its purpose is to expose students to a range of research-led debates at an advanced level, and to enable students to develop their understanding and critical appraisal of the relation between media and power at the levels of institutions, culture and social processes.

The course also includes an invited speaker series (‘Media Agenda Talks’) which addresses the interface between academic issues taught on the Media and Communications programmes and professional issues facing the media and communications industry. Speakers will normally include a mix of journalists and executives working for UK and global media companies in London. The purpose of the seminar is to provide an opportunity for students to relate the topics and themes addressed within their academic studies to the debates and concerns currently facing practitioners.


10 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

13 hours and 30 minutes of Polis Media Agenda Talks in MT.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to complete advance reading, prepare seminar presentations, and submit one essay of 1,500 words during MT.

Indicative reading

A reading list will be provided for each topic. General works relevant to the course include:

Bella, M. (2003) International and Development Communication: A 21st Century Perspective - 2nd  Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Butsch, R. (ed.), (2007) Media and Public Spheres. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Carey, J. W. (1989) Communication as Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Castells, M. (2009) Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chadwick, A. (2006) Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Couldry, N. and Curran, J. (eds) (2003) Contesting Media Power: Alternative media in a networked world. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Curran, J. (ed.) (2010) Media and Society. 5th Edition. London: Bloomsbury.

Dahlgren, P. (2009) Media and Political Engagement, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, S. (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Fenton, N. (ed.) (2010) New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age, London: Sage.

Mansell, R. (2012) Imagining the Internet: Communication, Innovation, and Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McQuail, D. (2010) Mass Communication Theory – 6th Edition. London: Sage.

Mejias, M. (2013) Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.

Thompson, J. B. (1995) The Media and Modernity: A social theory of the media. Cambridge: Polity.

Tomlinson, J. (1999) Globalization and Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press;

Turkle, S. (2011) Alone together. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Wasko, J., Murdock, G. and Sousa, H. (eds) The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hall, S. (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifiying Practices, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 18.9
Merit 49.6
Pass 29.2
Fail 2.4

Teachers' comment

The course brings together a wide and diverse range of theoretical traditions, ideas, approaches and types of research.

It is taught by different lecturers who draw on their expertise and research interests to discuss specific theories and concepts. This makes it a rich and challenging course which demands students to constantly link, compare and contrast between the different topics, and to gradually recognise the emerging ‘big picture’ of media and communications.

Students' comments

"At first theories are difficult but then it makes sense. Seminars are challenging and allow you to really get to grips with texts and increase understanding of concepts."

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2015/16: 246

Average class size 2015/16: 15

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills