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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

COMM3895 Digital Platforms: Critical and Cultural Analysis

20 creditsClass Size: 32

Module manager: David Hesmondhalgh

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module analyses the rise of digital platforms in the realm of media, communication and culture, across a range of forms, including social media, video (film and television), music, news and games. It takes a critical and cultural approach to these platforms, assessing debates about the potential benefits and harms of various platforms.


To provide a historical analysis of the development of ‘digital platforms’ in twenty-first century media, communication and culture, and the economic, technological, political and cultural forces shaping them
To understand and evaluate key debates surrounding the concept of ‘digital platforms’ in the realm of media, communication and culture, including the potential limitations and problems of the term itself
To analyse a number of major platforms and the public and academic debates surrounding their benefits and shortcomings in terms of media, communication and culture, drawing upon a wide range of academic fields and disciplines, including economics, public policy studies, political economy and media industry studies, science and technology studies, and the nascent fields of ‘platform studies’ and ‘infrastructural’ studies

Learning outcomes
• To explain how a range of commentators and institutions understand the concept of ‘platform’
• To identify and compare the major digital platforms operating in the realm of media, communication and culture,
• To evaluate debates about the benefits and problems of digital platforms across a range of cultural forms
• To work collaboratively on a group project analysing a digital platform and to present arguments and evidence orally to an audience with clarity and coherence


Weeks 1 to 4 introduce the students to key perspectives and debates; weeks 5 to 10 provide critical analysis of particular platforms or groups of platforms. In each week (5-10), each seminar will be led by a student group presentation that provides an analysis of a cultural platform.
The syllabus below is indicative only as content will be updated from year to year in this rapidly changing area.
• What is a digital platform? Understandings from public policy, economics, and critical research
• The historical development of digital platforms: the rise of information technology industries and ‘platform capitalism’
• Differentiating platforms in the realm of culture; the ‘platformisation’ of culture
• Key critiques of cultural platforms e.g. privacy and datafication
• Social media platforms
• Video sharing platforms
• Platforms and retail
• How music streaming platforms transformed music
• How video streaming platforms transformed television and film
• Platforms in China
• Conclusions and essay preparation

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours173.50
Total Contact hours26.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The group project discussed below under assessment is intended to be formative as well as summative. The students will also receive formative feedback in seminars via responses by staff to discussions of readings and of issues and debates that have arisen in the lectures.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or Dissertation3,000 to 3,50080.00
Group ProjectSmall groups of three or four students will prepare a presentation of 5-10 minutes analysing a particular platform. One group will present each week in each seminar between weeks 6 and 10.20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The group project would be replaced by a second essay

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:34:33


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