MC408      Half Unit
Theories and Concepts in Media and Communications

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Dylan Mulvin


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and UCT), 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, MSc in Politics and Communication and MSc in Strategic Communications. This course is available on the Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (CEMS MiM), Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MPhil/PhD in Data, Networks and Society, MPhil/PhD in Media and Communications, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Gender, Media and Culture 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 part examines what we study, which ranges from content and, infrastructures to audiences, communities, algorithms and data. The second part explores selected critical perspectives which have proved influential in the field of media and communications and which provide answers to the question why we study what we study.

As a team-taught course that combines weekly lectures and seminars, its purpose is to expose students to a wide 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 or in the NGO-sector in London. The purpose 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term.

As part of this course there will also be a series of 'Media and Communications in Action' Talks; a series of recorded interviews with practitioners in the media and communications industries, which students will be expected to participate in online and submit questions.

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 specialist reading list will be provided for each topic. General reference readings relevant to the course include:

  • Atton, C. (2015) The Routledge Companion to Alternative and Community Media. London: Routledge.
  • Bella, M. (2003) International and Development Communication: A 21st Century Perspective - 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Blommaert, J. (2005) Discourse: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Carey, J. W. (1989) Communication as Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Castells, M. (2009) Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Chadwick, A. (2017) The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power – 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Couldry, N. and Hepp, A. (2016) The Mediated Construction of Reality. Cambridge: Polity.
  • 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.
  • Harp, D., Loke, J. and Bachmann, I. (eds.) (2018) Feminist Approaches to Media Theory and Research. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Howarth, David (2000) Discourse. Buckingham: 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.
  • Turkle, S. (2011) Alone together. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Wasko, J., Murdock, G. and Sousa, H. (eds) (2011) The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications. London: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books Ltd.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 19.8
Merit 48.9
Pass 27.6
Fail 3.7

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."

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2019/20: 315

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills