Contemporary Debates in Media Sociology: Audiences, Publics & Digital Media SOCIO4047

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

In the last two decades, the media have been transformed by the advent of digital technologies, and their increasing integration into every aspect of our social, cultural and political lives. The fundamental concerns of media sociology remain the same - the theorisation of and empirical approaches to the relationship between media and society. What is the role of the media in driving social and political change? In what way do media shape interpretations of social experience and how might they offer us space to forge collective difference and identity? However, the changing nature of these processes, and the continuing usefulness of the conceptual tools that exist to analyse them, are the subject of much debate in the context of the 'post-broadcast age'.


The course will set out the key theoretical arguments in relation to the impacts of traditional media, including competing notions of media as ideology - and those which emphasise audience agency and the dynamics of resistance. It will then explore the work of new media theorists who attempt to conceptualise the transformative impact of digital technologies, addressing the continuities and breaks with previous traditions. For example, we will examine claims that social media may act as facilitators of a more participatory public sphere and, conversely, those that argue our intensely individualised media is a manifestation of neoliberal consumerism and distorts public resistance to it. Across the course, we will draw on contemporary illustrations including trolling as political and everyday public discourse, the rise of the alt-right and the media's response to the climate emergency.


20 contact hours over the course of a single semester. This will normally consist of 2 hours per week and may be a combination of lectures and seminars/workshops.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Sociology requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Sociology 2A and Sociology 2B as a first attempt.

Recommended Entry Requirements

Excluded Courses






1 x 4000 word essay (100%)




Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification.

Course Aims

The general aims of the course follow from our subject area's aim of developing a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the academic discipline of Sociology. In particular, this course aims to:


■ provide you with a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the sociology of media;

■ focus on issues of audience reception, conceptualisations of 'publics' and the social and political impacts of digital media

■ progress you through advanced theoretical debates in the above areas.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

At the end of the course you should be able to:

■ explain the structure of contemporary media and communications focusing on key processes in audience reception, the dynamics of networked publics, and their role in social change;

■ document these issues through a critical examination of debates around the shifting relations between audiences and journalists; social media and identity politics; media engagement and the possible impacts on sexual practices and violent behaviours;

■ demonstrate a clear understanding of contemporary theoretical and methodological approaches in the above areas.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.