Media Histories and Cultural Change (874P4)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

This module explores key changes in the media over the past 120 years and how these have both reflected and shaped our cultural life in profound ways. 

By focusing on the emergence of 'new' media, such as radio and cinema in the early 20th century, television in the later 20th century and the internet on the eve of the 21st century, the module looks at key transitional moments in electronic media forms. It assesses how these media were the products of the cultural life of the time and how they subsequently enriched or, arguably, damaged this broader culture. 

The module is arranged in three sections that:

  1. Explores the emergence of broadcasting and cinema between the 1890s and the 1930s, and discusses them in the context of new ideas in America and Europe about communication, mass culture and social psychology, and in the context of new artistic ideas such as modernism.
  2. Explores the rise and spread of television between the 1940s and the 1990s, and discusses it in the context of wider debates about visual culture, the consumer society, the Cold War, the witnessing of global media events, national identity and globalisation
  3. Tackles the spread since the 1990s of internet and social media, discussing them in the context of fierce international debates about the changing nature of knowledge and literacy and in particular the alleged creation of a 'distracted' mindset and a superficial and banal popular culture 

In drawing on specific case studies at each stage, the module aims to enhance your skills in using historical evidence, including written and audio-visual archives and oral history testimony, to develop arguments about media.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 16 hours of contact time and about 284 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2020/21. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: