New Media, Social Media, and International Politics

School: School of Government and Society
Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies

Final year module

Lecturer: Professor Scott Lucas

An approach to the examination of the US "political" through its presence --- or sometimes absence --- American comedy for a mass audience after 1945

The course, drawing on concepts linking culture to the construction of the political, begins with Marx and Chaplin. It then takes up cases from 1945, beginning with the “containment” culture of apolitical comedy in US television.

The course then traces the negotiation of political issues, and even "subversion", from stand-up (Bruce, Sahl) to TV programs (Smothers Brothers, Laugh-In) to series (M*A*S*H*).

Topics include Vietnam, race and civil rights, and the response to 9-11 and the War on Terror. Examples range from the stand-up of Richard Pryor to the animation of South Park and Family Guy.

This module is an academic-based course with a skills component.

The first half of the course will be an academic approach to issues of media and politics, beginning with a historical review of the effect on political, economic, and military activity of the changes in media in the 20th century, from the advent of "mass" media (film, radio, TV) through the effort of 24/7 coverage to the expansion of "news" and analysis via the Internet to constructions of "new media" and "social media".

The course will start by considering the activities of "actors" (politicians, State agencies, NGOs, business interests) with respect to the media. In combination with the co-requisite module, the course will evaluate the attempted use of media by Governments not only through overt programs but also through covert initiatives including propaganda, psychological warfare, and information warfare.

It will then introduce the notion of the "participant", not only the journalist but --- with the changes in media --- the increasing presence of the activist, the "citizen journalist", and the "public diplomat" in politics and conflict.

This idea of the "participant" will lead in the second half of the course to the skills component, with students using academic critique as the basis to develop their analyses for publication via an electronic news and analysis site. Students will also use their critique of new media and social media to develop their strategies for effective dissemination of their work.

The course is led by an academic who is a practicing journalist on a day-to-day basis.

Learning Outcomes 

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the interaction between politics and media in the context of international developments, changing media technologies, and political strategies from the 20th century to the present.
  • Critically evaluate the response by Governments, States, agencies, and other "actors" to the place of media in political, economic, and social affairs.
  • Critically assess the use of electronic, audio-visual, and print sources in collection and critique of information for academic-based publication for a mass audience.
  • Use academic critique and skills training for the writing and dissemination of analysis for both specialist and general audiences.


Term Two:

  • 1 x 1,500-word essay (50%)
  • 1 x 1,000-word article for an electronic news and analysis website (50%)

Related courses:

The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2018. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.