Media and culture in modern societies

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 13:30 – 15:20

Lecture venue

Course description

This course is a response to the ‘cultural shift’ taking place in society and social sciences in the last few decades. The ‘cultural shift’ points to the increasing centrality of media and culture in social life and in approaches to understanding social life. This shift is revealed in the momentous changes like globalisation of consumer and cultural industries, and the expansion of media and communication technologies in modern societies. There is now a quest to understand social life that is more about what culture does rather than what culture is. This understanding of cultural practices and collective representations, nowadays fundamentally circulated through the media, is valuable in and of itself as everyday life has fundamentally transformed, from the acts on selves to mutation of bodies.

We shall focus on a selected range of media representations and cultural practices in modern society, dissect the experiences and account for the dynamics underlying them. The topics are arranged more or less in a micro-to-macro manner, starting from the changing notions of childhood, to feelings of intimacy, to the ideals of beauty, body and gender, to work ethics, art and culture, modern cityscape and finally to issues of national identity, systemic risk and the future of modernity. Our discussion concentrates on the plural paths and possibilities of media styles and cultural habits in modern societies, with examples and studies from various parts of the world which possess the core features of modern societies.

Course learning outcomes

On completing the course, students should be able to:

  1. Apply key concepts of media and cultural studies into a range of real life issues.
  2. Grasp how cultural meanings are embodied in different facets of everyday life.
  3. Understand the contexts and paths of the development of media and culture in modern societies.
  4. Engage with the debates on the central role of media and culture in the globally connected world of today.
  5. Be sensitive to the need for distributive justice, social inclusion and empowerment in working through the issues of media and culture in modern societies.


Tutorial presentation and discussion20%
Term essay15%

Required reading

Griswold, W. et al. 2013. Cultures and Societies in a Changing World (4/e). London; Thousand Oaks, CA.: SAGE.

 Hall, J.R., L. Grindstaff and M.C. Lo eds. 2010. The Handbook of Cultural Sociology. New York: Routledge.

 Storey, J. 2012. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (6/e). Harlow; New York: Pearson.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Student view

This course was well structured and I was very intellectually stimulated by the content. I really enjoyed this course because it gave me a new perspective on how culture influences so many aspects of everyday life, from the small scale (e.g. the social construction of our bodily image) to the large scale (e.g. nationalism). This course also offers various opportunities to critically reflect on how modernity shapes individuals and societies.

– Ivan Ng, 4th year Sociology Minor undergraduate student