Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Social Media and 21st Century Communications

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Media and Communications

DESCRIPTION The study-unit is aimed at communication students interested in understanding the emerging role of social media in social, cultural and political contexts. It provides a conceptual yet practical toolbox for navigating the evolution and practices of the new, converged media environment, and encourages participants to reflect on the power relationships that are formed as a result.

The study-unit is designed to give students the core media literacy principles and critical thinking skills they need to become smart, informed consumers and producers of media. The primary focus is on engagement with social media, and its role within an ever-changing ecosystem of 21st century communications. It provides comprehensive yet concise coverage of the primary aspects of online media. It both looks back at the history of social media and Web 2.0 and explores what the future may bring as mainstream media adjusts to the reality of 'always-on', personalised, unmediated forms of online discourse. In the process, the challenges and opportunities to mainstream print and audio-visual media outlets, such as citizen journalism and new economic models and structures, are explored to provide an updated context to the emerging media landscape.

The study-unit provides a solid grounding in theoretical frameworks through the use of case studies embedded in popular culture. In the process, students will also secure a hands-on understanding of the social affordances of digital media through the development of an assessed project. The project will involve students learning to engage with key components of 21st century communications, including user-created generated content, social networking, commentary, tagging and customisation.

Study-unit Aims:

The primary aims of the study-unit are to:

- Provide a critical introduction to social media theory and practice;
- Provide a grounding in the foundations of digital literacies and connected learning;
- Help students engage with emerging theory on social media power;
- Develop online communication skills through a review of seminal case studies and applications;
- Develop an awareness of the potential and limitations of social media for education purposes through the development of a practical, relevant online project.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be:

- Aware of the fundamentals of digital citizenship;
- Cognisant of the change in social communication brought about by social media;
- Know of the underlying ramifications on the individual of this social phenomenon;
- Able to communicate effectively online;
- Able to critically assess the role of social media in contemporary society;
- Able to evaluate an online crisis situation and develop appropriate strategies using the right social media tools;
- Able to use social media tools for connected learning.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Engage with social media on mainstream and alternative communication systems;
- Develop an online project using social media that meets pre-set education objectives.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Carah, N. & Louw, E. (2015). Media & Society. Production, Content & Participation. Sage Publications, London.
- Curran, J. Fenton, N. Freedman,D. (2012) Misunderstanding the Internet. Routledge: London.
- Fuchs, C. (2014). Social Media. A critical introduction. Sage Publications, London.
- Hinton, S. and Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding social media, Sage.

Supplementary Readings:

- Creeber, G. and Martin, R. (2009). Digital Cultures. Understanding New Media. Open University Press.
- Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. MIT Press Cambridge MA.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Project SEM1 Yes 100%


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.