module specification

SM4013 - Media Histories (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Media Histories
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 300
150 hours Guided independent study
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
60 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Summative exercise (500 words)
Group Presentation 30%   Group presentation
Coursework 50%   Media Histories Essay
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to the history of the mass media, and to key theoretical arguments and debates that have emerged in response to the rise of mass media. It explores the development of press and publishing industries, photography, cinema, television, radio, the music industry and digital media by relating the technological changes to both their socio-cultural contexts and emerging theoretical perspectives.  The module also provides grounding in key academic skills as part of the extended induction programme including research, academic reading, and presentation of learning.

The module aims to:

● Provide an introduction to the study of media and its various rationales and methodologies.
● Promote a critical understanding of the history, content and structures of the media industries and examine the social, political and economic factors which shape them.
● Develop an understanding of the development of debates and theoretical contexts related to the media and media technologies.
● Develop and encourage confidence in the use of appropriate learning, analytical and discursive skills in both oral and written argument. To help students acquire key bibliographic research skills.


This module  provides an introduction to the history of the mass media, and to key theoretical arguments and debates that have emerged in response to the rise of mass media. It is divided into four substantive blocks:

Block 1 Press and Publishing: history of printing, the reading revolution, the rise of the news industry, culture and civilisation, the public sphere
Block 2 Photography and film: history of photography, documentary photography, history of moving image, Hollywood, the culture industry and the Frankfurt School; Walter Benjamin, mediation and remediation.
Block 3 Broadcasting: history of television, radio, and the music industry, active audiences and encoding / decoding
Block 4: Digital media: history of computing, history of video games; participatory culture;

Each block provides an overview of the key technological, social and cultural developments in the emergence of the media forms, as well as an introduction to key theoretical debates. Theory is discussed as part of the historical development of mass media and academic responses to mass media. Students are encouraged to view media theory as a part of the historical development of the media industries and the cultures and cultural practices with which they are associated.

In addition the syllabus includes a programme of key academic skills including for example: library research; note taking; presenting; referencing; academic reading etc.

Learning Outcomes LO 1 - 5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Teaching methods include formal lectures, seminar discussion, screenings, library sessions on research methods and tutorials.  Students are expected to attend lectures and seminars: in the seminars they will at times work in small groups and be given practice in listening to each other’s contributions and offering constructive criticism, and in chairing and reporting discussion to the plenary seminar group. The module booklet will be available online, as will lecture outlines and some readings. Weblearn or its equivalent will also be used for communication with students individually and as a cohort. In addition to guided reading, students are expected to read and to use a variety of sources (primary and secondary) and use seminars and tutorials to raise issues, questions and seek feedback.

A blended learning strategy will be employed to enhance the learning experience, facilitate communication between students and tutors and develop collaboration among students. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will be used as a platform to support online activities including on-line discussions, evaluation of online resources, and access to electronic reading packs. The VLE will also be used to facilitate formative assessment and related feedback, as well as a tool to integrate useful online learning materials provided by research institutions, academic publications, professional organisations and other relevant sources.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

1. Describe the historical development of contemporary media forms.
2. Understand different theoretical approaches to understanding mass media and mediated culture and apply those approaches to developments in media and communication
3. Identify and apply a variety of relevant academic sources in developing this understanding
4. Conduct basic research to support their learning and assessment in the study of media history
5. Develop the capacity to engage co-operatively in a group using discursive skills to produce a group presentation


The bibliography will be set each year in reflection of the particular genre forms discussed during the module. The following bibliography reflects the common component of framing lectures and seminars:


Core Texts:

● Albertazzi, D , A. &Cobley, P. (2010). The Media: An Introduction. London: Pearson Publishing. [CORE]
● Briggs, A. & Burke, P. (2010) A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet. 3rdEd. Polity Press.[CORE]
● Crisell, A. (2002)
● An Introductory History of British Broadcasting, 2ndEd. London: Routledge[CORE]Curran, J. & Gurevitch, M.(eds) (2005) Mass Media and Society. 4thEd London: Edward Arnold.[CORE]

Other texts:

● Bailey, M. (2008) Narrating media history. London: Routledge.
● Chapman, J. (2005) Comparative media history: an introduction : 1789 to the present. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
● Conboy, M. and Steel, J. (eds) (2015) The Routledge companion to British media history. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Available at:
● Eisenstein, E. L. (1980) The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at:
● Fellow, A. R. (2013) American media history. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
● Garnham, N. and Polytechnic of Central London. School of Communication (1982) Aspects of media history. London: Academic Press for the School of Communication, Polytechnic of Central London.
● Gitelman, L. (2006) Always already new: media, history and the data of culture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT.
● Kovarik, B. (2016) Revolutions in communication: media history from Gutenberg to the digital age. 2nd edition. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
● ‘Media history’ (1998). Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Carfax. Available at:


● Media History (1998 – present), Taylor and Francis.

Electronic Databases:

● Box of Broadcasts
● Communications and Mass Media Complete