Participatory Culture and Social Media MA


This course is eligible for Master's loan funding. Find out more.

Start date

28 September 2020


2 years part-time
1 year full-time

About the course

This taught Master’s course, made up of four modules and a 12,000-word dissertation (split into two modules for PT students, with each module producing 6,000 words of work), responds to major transnational developments in contemporary media which have eroded the line between ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’, democratising media or leading to a lo-fi “cult of the amateur.” At the same time, social media platforms have become major economic players, raising questions over who benefits, and how, from the social activity they host. This MA focuses on the specialised, advanced study of current media developments: students will be able to analyse and critically reflect on the media world they inhabit, developing their expertise in participatory culture/social media and associated practices of fandom, activism, community-building, and creativity.

The course is targeted at those who wish to develop their understanding of specific kinds of digital media – involving people “formerly known as the audience” – and their social, economic and cultural contexts. It is designed to lead into PhD work for those wishing to progress to further Higher Education, as well as leading to a range of professional roles linked to participatory culture and social media.

For more information about our research areas of interest visit our [Journalism and Media research pages] (

Course detail

Core modules:

Theorizing Participatory Culture & Social Media

On this module you’ll be introduced to influential scholarly approaches to participatory culture and social media. You’ll begin by exploring how the concept of ‘participation’ has played out in relation to politics, art and media, as well as considering key definitions of ‘participatory culture’. Although this term has sometimes been viewed as overly celebratory, critical approaches to participation emphasise the powerful structures that can still frame participatory culture. And in order to challenge the ‘now-ness’ of much work on participatory culture, you’ll consider its longer history. You’ll also study the history of social media, along with just how ‘social’ it might actually be. Critiques and defences of social media will be analysed, highlighting its ambivalent status, and introducing you to the vitality of contemporary debates.

Researching Participatory Culture and Social Media

On this module you’ll learn how to research participatory culture and social media, beginning with an important focus on ethics. The module reflects on the varied ways that participatory culture/social media have been researched in the humanities. You’ll examine the use of focus groups and ethnography, as well as exploring quantitative research methods regarding ‘big data’, carrying out data visualisation (Social Network Analysis), and scraping data. You’ll also tackle how best to understand and research different platforms through a range of up-to-date examples.

Participatory Culture, Productivity and Fandom

On this module you will analyse one of the major areas where participatory culture has been explored: the creativities and communities of media fans. You’ll begin by exploring foundational work, focusing on how our own participation in media culture can complicate theoretical approaches. You will then focus on how fans’ productivity and creativity link to consumerism and branding as well as to subcultural identities. Having considered issues of gender, you will analyse further dimensions of fan identity and productivity. And you’ll consider whether, in an era of ‘mainstreamed’ participatory culture, it’s now important to analyse ‘ordinary’ media participations that no longer necessarily involve fandom.

Social Media, Politics and Activism

On this module you’ll analyse an area where social media have had a major impact: media/social activism. You’ll begin by exploring how “politics” itself is in the process of being reconfigured. Social media, it has been argued, blurs the personal and the political more than ever before, generating newfound turbulence in political systems. You will analyse how participatory politics is generating new kinds of citizen-journalists. And you’ll consider how the personalization of politics gives rise to distinctive forms of campaigning. Participatory politics – both reactionary and progressive, rightwing and leftwing – will also be assessed via contemporary case studies.

Participatory Culture and Social Media Dissertation P-T Year 1 [Literature Review]

On this module, you will carry out the first half of a substantial, innovative research project. You’ll define your own research topic and produce a Literature Review based on evaluating relevant theoretical work, supported by group workshop sessions and supervision meetings. This module will enable you to tackle exciting, original research at the very forefront of scholarship on participatory culture and social media, as well as focusing on issues that you find the most interesting and rewarding.

Participatory Culture and Social Media Dissertation P-T Year 2 [Methods and Findings]

On this module, you will complete a substantial, innovative research project. Having defined your research topic and questions on the Participatory Culture and Social Media Dissertation, as well as establishing your theoretical frameworks, you’ll now select and use appropriate methods and analyse your findings, again supported by group workshop sessions and supervision meetings. This final P-T module will enable you to tackle research at the forefront of scholarship on participatory culture and social media, exploring related issues that you find the most rewarding.

Entry requirements

Students’ first degrees will usually be expected to be in areas/subjects that are cognate or related to Media/Cultural Studies/Communication (this will include a diverse range of humanities-based and social science degrees), though applicants’ individual circumstances will be considered on merit.

If your first language is not English, you will need to meet the minimum requirements of an English Language qualification. The minimum for IELTS is 6.5 overall with no element lower than 6.0, or equivalent will be considered acceptable. Read more about the University’s entry requirements for students outside of the UK on our Where are you from information pages.

Postgraduate Study

Joe is studying for a PhD in Communication, Cultural and Media Studies. In his film he talks about his aspirations for a career in academia.

Teaching excellence

  1. Huddersfield is a TEF gold-rated institution delivering consistently outstanding teaching and learning of the highest quality found in the UK (Teaching Excellence Framework, 2017).
  2. We won the first Global Teaching Excellence Award recognising the University’s commitment to world-class teaching and its success in developing students as independent learners and critical thinkers (HEA, 2017).
  3. Here at Huddersfield, you’ll be taught by some of the best lecturers in the country. The University is joint first in England for the proportion of staff with teaching qualifications (HESA 2020).
  4. For the past ten years, we’ve been the UK’s leading university for National Teaching Fellowships too, which rate Britain’s best lecturers. It’s all part of our ongoing drive for teaching excellence, which helps our students to achieve great things too.
  5. We’re unique in the fact that all our permanent teaching staff* have, or are completing, doctorates. This expertise, together with our teaching credentials, means that students here learn from knowledgeable and well-qualified teachers and academics who are at the forefront of their subject area.

*Permanent staff, after probation: some recently appointed colleagues will only obtain recognition in the months after their arrival in Huddersfield, once they have started teaching; research degrees applies to those on contracts of more than half-time.

Student support

At the University of Huddersfield, you'll find support networks and services to help you get ahead in your studies and social life. Whether you study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you'll soon discover that you're never far away from our dedicated staff and resources to help you to navigate through your personal student journey. Find out more about all our support services.

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Changes to option modules

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