module specification

SM7105 - Media and Communication Theory (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Media and Communication Theory
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 200
164 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Essay
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

This module deals with the ways in which we might analyse communication artifacts. In doing so it surveys a range of methodologies from the disciplines of linguistics, semiotics, philosophy, literary theory, sociology of language, film theory, media theory, cultural theory and audience theory. The module asks how communication is modelled and mediated. It considers the definition of the sign in mass communications. It also explores what constitutes ‘texts’ and ‘genres’. Ultimately, it considers the role of communication in globalisation.

Module aims

1. To develop an appreciation of media and communication theory
2. To introduce debates surrounding mass culture, modernity and postmodernity and to confront contrasting political perspectives on media and communications
3. To familiarize students with topics in communication and media theory
4. To attempt to answer the question of why people read messages in the way they do.


The syllabus may include:

• Models and modelling
• The sign and semiotics
• Language: representation and dissemination
• Pragmatics of communication
• Text and genre
• Representation, discourse and ideology
• Mediated communication
• Encoding, decoding and the act of reading
• Globalisation
• Political economy of the media and cultural industries
• Feminism and media theory
• Digital cultures
• Media and emotion.

Learning and teaching

The teaching method will consist of a linked system of introductory lectures, guided reading and follow-up seminars/debates. Individual reading is a central component of this unit and students are expected to prepare for seminars by reading the set texts recommended for each week and to participate in seminar discussion. Students are also expected to give presentations on theoretical and historical material.

Learning outcomes

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

1. Provide written evidence of a clear understanding of media and communication theory
2. Apply relevant theoretical frameworks to the analysis of media and communications
3. Analyse media and communications artifacts at short notice
4. Select and interpret literature relevant to their written work.

Assessment strategy

An essay (weighting 100%). In the essay, students should demonstrate the following:
-relevant subject knowledge
-ability to critically analyse relevant texts and arguments
-logical development of argument
-use of evidence to support argument
-clear overall structuring of written work
-original thinking and use of original examples
-correct spelling and grammar
-clear presentation of work
-ability to analyse texts while under pressure


Altman, Rick (1999) ‘What is generally understood by the notion of film genre?’ in Film/Genre London: BFI pp. 13-29

Austin, John L. (1980) ‘Performatives and constatives’ in How to do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press pp. 1-13.
Butler, J. 2006. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London:  Routledge.

Chomsky, Noam (1957) ‘The independence of grammar’ and ‘An elementary linguistic theory’ in Syntactic Structures The Hague: Mouton pp. 13-25

Danesi, Marcel (2010) ‘Semiotics of media and culture’ in P. Cobley (ed), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics, London: Routledge.

Deely, John (1994) The Human Use of Signs, or Elements of Anthroposemiosis. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield pp. 11-22.

Gill, R. (2006) Gender and the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Goodwin, Charles (1994) ‘Professional vision,’ American Anthropologist. 96 (3): 606-33

Halliday, Michael A. K. (1978) ‘Language as social semiotic’ in Language as Social Semiotic. London: Edward Arnold pp. 108-126

Harding, J. and Pribram, E. D. (eds) (2009) Emotions: A Cultural Studies Reader. London: Routledge.
Harris, R. (1999) ‘Integrational linguistics and the structuralist legacy,’ Language and Communication. 19: 45-68

Hesmondhalgh, D. (2013) The Cultural Industries (3rd Edition). London: Sage.
Livingstone, Sonia M. (2004) ‘The challenge of changing audiences. Or, what is the audience researcher to do in the age of the internet’ European Journal of Communication. 19 (1): 75-86

Luckmann, Thomas (2009) ‘Observations on the structure and function of communicative genres’, Semiotica, 173 (1-4): 267-282.
McQuail. D. (2010) Mass Communication Theory. 6th edition. London: Sage.
Machin, David and van Leeuwen, Theo (2004) ‘Global media: generic homogeneity and discursive diversity’ Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 18 (1): 99-120.
Miller, V. 2011. Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.
Mills, B. and Barlow, D. M. (eds) (2012) Reading Media Theory. Harlow: Pearson.
Nöth, Winfried (2002) ‘Semiotic machines’ Cybernetics and Human Knowing 9 (1): 5-22

Peirce, Charles S. (1955) ‘Logic as semiotic: the theory of signs’ in Justus Buchler ed., Philosophical Writings of Peirce New York: Dover pp. 98-119.

Saussure Ferdinand de (1983) ‘Nature of the linguistic sign’ in Course in General Linguistics. trans. Roy Harris, London: Duckworth pp. 65-70.

Sebeok, Thomas A. (1991) ‘Communication’ in A Sign is Just a Sign. Bloomington: Indiana University Press pp. 22-35.
Silverblatt, Aaron (2007) Genre Studies in Mass Media: A Handbook, New York: M. E. Sharpe.

Weaver, Warren (1949) ‘Recent contributions to the mathematical theory of communication’ Scientific American (July): 11-15.
Williams, R. (1965) [1961]. The Long Revolution. Harmondsworth, Middlessex: Penguin.