MC425      Half Unit
Interpersonal Mediated Communication

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Ellen Helsper


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Data, Networks and Society, MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society), MSc in Media and Communications (Research), MSc in Politics and Communication and MSc in Strategic Communications. 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.

Students are asked to write a short personal statement on LSE for You indicating why they want to take this course and what they would bring to it. Whilst we do our best to accommodate all requests, we cannot guarantee you a place on this course.

Course content

Communication media have simultaneously been blamed for a breakdown of social relationships and been hailed as powerful social tools that can connect people from all walks of life. This discussion is more important than ever, especially now the COVID 19 pandemic has moved our social lives online in unprecedented ways. The course looks at the impact digitisation might have on relationships and interactions. The aim of this course is to provide students with a critical understanding of mediated communication within small groups and dyadic relationships. It examines the influence of media on three key fields of interpersonal interaction which are identified as personal, social and professional communication. We will study the ways in which interpersonal relationships and communication are influenced by mediation, looking at harassment, discrimination, and social isolation but also at collaboration, connection and mutual understanding.

The first half of the course addresses the history of media in interpersonal communication as well as general interpersonal communication and relationship theories. The second half looks in more detail at how the interaction between media and interpersonal communication has been studied in relation to the cross-cutting themes of privacy/trust, isolation/socialisation and multi-modality. These central concepts of the course are reflected upon through theories of social norms, affordances, social capital and supplementation/substitution, and discussed from the perspective of different disciplinary and methodological paradigms. Application of theory to everyday life, practitioner and policy examples will give students the tools to understand what the practical implications are of the ways in which these different paradigms suggest that interpersonal communication processes vary depending on the type of platform this communication takes place on as well as the type of relationship that is under investigation and the context in which this relationship develops.

As a result of the course the students will be able to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of the theories that aim to explain apparently contradictory observations about the practise of interpersonal mediated communication. This can be applied to professional areas such as intra-organisational communication, and the design, moderation and regulation of social media and discussion forums.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Lent 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.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to complete advance reading, participate in the creation of a course wiki, prepare group seminar presentations and write an individual essay (1500 words) based on the presentation and the material provided for the wiki (due the week after the week in which the student  is responsible for the wiki).

Indicative reading

  • Anderson, J. A. & Meyer, T. P. (1988). Mediated Communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Baym, N.K. (2016) Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Oxford (UK): Polity Press.
  • Burke, P. & Briggs, A. (2001). A Social History of the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Hartley, P. (1993). Interpersonal Communication. London: Routledge.
  • Joinson, A. (2003). Understanding the psychology of Internet behaviour. Virtual Worlds, Real Lives. Palgrave: New York.
  • Joinson, A.N., McKenna, K., Postmes, T. & Reips, D. (2009) The Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kovarik, B. (2016) Revolutions in Communication. London (UK): Bloomsbury.
  • Kraut, R. Galegher, J., Fish, R., & Chalfonte, B. (1992). Task requirements and media choice in collaborative writing. Human Computer Interaction, 7(4), 375-407.
  • Lea, M., Spears, R., & de Groot, D. (2001). Knowing me, knowing you: Anonymity effects on social identity processes within groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(5), 526-537.
  • Solomon, D. &  Theiss, W. (2013) Interpersonal Communication: Putting theory into practice. Hove, UK, Routledge.
  • Walther, J. B., Anderson, J. F., & Park, D. W. (1994). Interpersonal Effects in Computer-Mediated Interaction - a Metaanalysis of Social and Antisocial Communication. Communication Research, 21(4), 460-487.
  • Whitty, M.T. & Joinson, A. (2009) Truth, Lies and Trust on the Internet (pp 97-108). Hove, UK: Routledge.
  • Yee, N., & Bailenson, J. (2007). The Proteus Effect: The effect of transformed self-representation on behavior. Human Communication Research, 33(3), 271-290.


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

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 27.5
Merit 47.5
Pass 20
Fail 5

Teachers' comment

This course explores how information and communication technologies shape and are shaped by positive and negative aspects of our everyday intimate and professional relationships.

Students' comments

This course in itself is very interesting and gives you a micro-level perspective to many larger theoretical concepts. Very useful.

I really enjoyed these classes and also appreciate the material uploaded to Moodle besides the readings such as podcasts and other external sources of real life situations to help explain important 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: 21

Average class size 2020/21: 21

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
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills