Study Abroad and Exchanges



SOC2074 : Spectacle, Image and Media: The Sociology of Visual Cultures (Inactive)

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of visual culture, and positions sociological interest in ‘visuality’ within contemporary theories of social change and transformation. The module: i) examines the centrality of ‘the visual’ to the cultural construction of social life; ii) introduces key theoretical/conceptual perspectives on the ‘visual’; iii) introduces key terms for understanding visuality and visual cultures; iv) introduces a range of visual methodologies and frameworks of analytical inquiry; and v) explores the contours of ‘visual cultures’, noting the ethical, social and political relations and effects of visual objects and scopic regimes. The module is structured around the following thematic components: i) visual cultures and social transformation; ii) theorising visual cultures; iii) visual cultures and ethical life; iv) analysing visual cultures I; v) analysing visual cultures II; vi) power, politics and visual cultures.

Outline Of Syllabus

Theme 1: Visual cultures and social transformation (1 lecture, 1 case study analysis, 1 workshop and 1 seminar)
The ‘cultural turn’
Modernity and postmodernity
Scopic regimes
The society of the spectacle
Seeing with critical eyes

Theme 2: Theorising visual cultures (1 lecture, 1 case study analysis,1 workshop and 1 seminar)
Erving Goffman on dramaturgy
Roland Barthes on photography
Jean Baudrillard on simulacra
Mikhail Bakhtin on carnival
Michel Foucault on panopticism

Theme 3: Visual cultures and ethical life (1 lecture, 1 case study analysis, 1 workshop, 1 seminar)
Display and exhibition
The ‘gaze’, scopophilia and voyeurism

Theme 4: Analysing visual cultures I (1 lecture, 1 case study analysis,1 workshop, 1 seminar)
The ‘good eye’ and compositional interpretation
Semiotics and representational methodologies
Elements of a critical visual analysis

Theme 5: Analysing visual cultures II (1 lecture, 1 case study analysis, 1 workshop, 1 seminar)
Archaeological method
Genealogical method
Non-representational approaches

Theme 6: Power, politics and visual cultures (1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 seminar)
Globalisation and visual cultures
Orientalism and occidentalism
Nationalism, national identities and the visual
Visualising difference/exhibiting Otherness

Supplementary compulsory content
Assessment Preparation Workshops (2 @ 1 hour)
Field Trip to the Laing Gallery, the Baltic and/or other local exhibition venue (half-day/4 hours)
OR (if no appropriate exhibition is running during module period)
Film Showing (half-day/4 hours)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture62:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:00Assessment preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:00Student presentations & discussion
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:00Case study analysis
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity61:006:00Workshop preparation
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1158:00158:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures (2 hours) introduce students to the key theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches to visual cultures. Case Study Analysis (1 hour) provides students with the important ‘hands-on’ experience of applying theoretical understanding of visual cultures to a range of empirical data. CSA helps to build confidence in undertaking the group-based workshop tasks, and the individual critical case study assessment. Workshops (1 hour) are based on and develop lecture content; they are student-led and based on an analysis of different kinds of visual cultural media (selected by students) which enable students to make sense of the visual relations of contemporary social, cultural and political life. Such media might include (but not be limited to) films, photographs, cartoons, postcards, paintings, sculpture, graffiti, artworks, architecture, maps, televisual, virtual and other digital media. Seminars (1 hour) provide a forum for presenting, reviewing and critically debating journal articles relevant to the particular thematic. Students will be directed toward particular articles for the seminars and will be expected to prepare a critical review of these articles. Assessment preparation workshops (1 hour): these are compulsory sessions in which students can explore the key features of the assessment requirements and raise questions and concerns as appropriate.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M40critical review of a journal article
Case study1M602500 words - case study will bring together knowledge and understanding of the interdisciplinary field of visual cultures
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MOptional: the essay is in the form of a critical synopsis
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

(1) Essay – described in the module documentation as ‘Strictly journals review’: students will be required to critically review a journal article in the light of, and informed by their knowledge and understanding of different theoretical and conceptual approaches to visual cultures, as well as their understanding of the ethicality of visual cultures. These approaches are introduced and taught in Themes 1, 2 and 3 of the syllabus. Students will choose from a short list of journal articles selected by the module leader. (2) Critical case study: students will be required to submit a critical case study which will assess their knowledge and understanding of firstly, the conceptual vocabulary appropriate to the sociology of visual cultures (Themes 1, 2 and 3); secondly, the design and application of relevant methodological and analytical frameworks to visual cultural media (Themes 4 and 5); and thirdly, the power relations of different kinds of visuality and visualisation (Theme 6). Students will be free to select for themselves the material and focus of the critical case study. The optional formative assessment, Essay – described in the module documentation as ‘Critical synopsis’ - will provide students with an opportunity to write a short and succinct review of the epistemological framing of their selected journal article – this provides an important ‘rehearsal’ of one of the key requirements of the Strictly Journals Review assessment.

Reading Lists