MP4017 - Key Debates in Media History

What will I learn on this module?

This module sketches the creation of the modern media and the development of modern ‘mass’ media communications and the significance this has for contemporary society. It begins with a consideration of pre-renaissance methods of communication, focusing on the importance of inscriptions to public communication and highlighting the enduring nature of this and other forms of public communication. The nature and function of early manuscripts and the significance of these to the social whole is explored. The module will chart the practice and social consequences of printing in the fifteenth century, photography and the news print media in the nineteenth; radio, cinema, television and, advertising in the twentieth century. The module concludes with an introduction to information and communication technologies (ICTs). The module aims to chart and debate the main historical developments in the creation of the contemporary mass media and relate these to politics and contemporary society.

How will I learn on this module?

You will be taught through a combination of on campus and/or online lectures and seminars. Every lecture will have a corresponding seminar in which the issues you identify as relevant will be further discussed. In addition, the lectures will be complemented by online quizzes which will allow you to verify your learning. The lectures will mainly be concerned with introducing the key theoretical contentions, historical/political/social contexts, and issues. The lecture slot is long so as to allow space for the tutor to: a) introduce theoretical, industrial and practical ideas; b) demonstrate the ways in which these examples can be understood in relation to the broader history of mass communication; and c) delineate areas of contention raised by the examples. The connections between the historical developments and the issue at hand will be explored further in the seminars. The module includes a significant time allowance for self-directed study. You will be expected to attend seminars having prepared (i.e. having attended the lecture and having conducted independent preparatory reading). The major theoretical texts are available from the campus library and electronic library, thereby ensuring that you can access the literature required for seminar work and assessment preparation. You are encouraged to read extensively beyond the taught components of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module tutor has weekly office hours during which you can drop in for academic support. When carried out online, meetings will be held through a method of your choice such as Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, etc. All students are also provided with an academic tutor who also has hours to support student learning. Students will be directed to the specialist support services offered by the library.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• KU1: Gain an introductory knowledge of the main historical developments in the creation of the contemporary media, showing the significance of technological development
• KU2: Gain an understanding of how historical and technological developments have led to societal change

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• IPSA1: you gain experience of critical review by engaging with the research of scholars and practitioners
• IPSA2: you will enhance your practical communication skills, both written and verbal, as well as improving your critical reflective skills and developing problem-solving and independent learning

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• PVA: you will reflect on professional and ethical approaches to work, focusing on your position as a global citizen

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment and feedback in relation to critical engagement with major developments in Media and Communications History from antiquity to the present day and the significance of these developments to a social structure and its politics will be provided during seminars.

Summative assessment comprises two components:

1 (40%) 4 x fortnightly multiple choice quizzes corresponding with the topics covered in across the module. Quizzes will be completed online.. You will be offered instruction and advice in the early sessions of the module.

2 (60%) A 1,500 word essay. The essay questions will cover the topics addressed in class, and be made available on the eLP.
You will receive written feedback on your summative submissions – where appropriate – within 20 working days. You will receive automated feedback for quizzes, whilst feedback for your essay will be supplied electronically via the eLP. This feedback will provide a detailed account of your research/methodological skills, critical engagement and communicative ability, as well as supporting future learning by indicating areas for development. You can also request additional verbal feedback on your submissions by arranging a meeting with the module tutor.





Module abstract

Key Debates in Media History charts the political, cultural and social history of the media. You will learn about the background, origins and development of key communication methods (including, for example, mass media print culture, radio, cinema, television and the online interconnected communication environment we inhabit today). You will explore the historical climate from which media developments emerged, while reflecting on the connections between older and newer forms of media and the relationships between them. The module will be underpinned by the use of related video clips, illustrative material and online content designed to substantiate and enrich your understanding of the themes being explored. The module provides a robust overview of the ways in which today’s media industry has developed and insight into the media environments which you may choose for future employment.

Course info

UCAS Code P3N5

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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