MC408      Half Unit
Theories and Concepts in Media and Communications

This information is for the 2021/22 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 introduces key theoretical and conceptual issues in the study of media and communications, within an interdisciplinary, social science perspective. It grounds the analysis of media and communications in broader theories of social order and social change to better understand the historical, political, and technological significance of media, justice, and a changing knowledge society.

This course is the compulsory, theoretical component for all students in the MSc programmes of the Department of Media & Communications. As such, it is oriented towards introducing students with a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds to the core questions and problems in media and communication studies. Accordingly, its topics range from the power of networks and the politics of representation and difference, to the social and economic role of platforms, algorithms, and media ownership, to the changing shape of the public sphere.

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.

The course also includes an invited speaker series (‘Media in Action Talks’) which addresses the interface between academic issues taught on the Media and Communications programmes and professional issues facing media and communications industries. Speakers will normally include a mix of journalists, activists, 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 online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. 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 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.
  • Benjamin, R. (2019) Race After Technology. Cambridge: Polity. 
  • Blommaert, J. (2005) Discourse: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Brock, A. (2020) Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures. New York: NYU Press
  • Carey, J. W. (1989) Communication as Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Castells, M. (2009) Communication Power. 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.
  • Gill, R. (2007) Gender and the Media. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Gitelman, L. (2006). Always Already New: Media, History, and The Data of Culture. Cambridge: MIT 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.
  • McKinney, C. (2020) Information Activism: a Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies
  • 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.
  • Wasko, J., Murdock, G. and Sousa, H. (eds) (2011) The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications. London: Wiley-Blackwell.


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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.9
Merit 51.9
Pass 27.2
Fail 3

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 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 355

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: 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