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MA in Brands, Communication & Culture

  • Length
    1 year full time or 2 years part-time
  • Department
    Media and Communications, Sociology

Course overview

This exciting degree offers you the opportunity to study one of the major areas in contemporary media and communications – branding. 

The unique programme introduces you to the variety of ways in which brands are developed and used, and helps you to understand how the growth of branding – in business, but also in politics, government, sport and culture – has changed the societies we live in.

What happens when the state starts to use branding techniques to communicate with its citizens?

And how does the rise of digital and social media change the relationship between brands and their publics?

What, for example, are the consequences of understanding political parties, artists or sports teams as ‘brands’?

An introduction to contemporary branding debates

The MA in Brands, Communication and Culture aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the history and development of brands and branding, and their relationship to contemporary forms of communication and culture. Specifically, you should acquire an in-depth knowledge of the social, political and economic backdrop against which branding has become so important, and an understanding of the key themes and debates surrounding its development and use, including the relationship between brands and intellectual property, and the extent to which branding promotes or inhibits openness and transparency within organisations.

You will also improve your ability to think critically and creatively about contemporary communications and cultural practices. When you have completed the programme you will have at your disposal a range of tools that will enable you to analyse contemporary communications, to make judgments about their significance and value and be able to thoughtfully contribute to contemporary communications.

A unique approach to the study of brands

This MA is not a conventional branding or marketing course. Instead it offers a unique approach to the study of brands. This is reflected in the topics taught on our core modules, which include:

  • The role of brands in and beyond markets
  • The rise of consumer culture
  • Critical perspectives on brand management and governance
  • Intellectual property
  • Immaterial labour and the rise of ‘branded workers’
  • Gender, colonial history and branding
  • Attachment, identity and emotions in branding
  • Ethics and transparency
  • The emergence of brand experiences and ‘staging’ of brands
  • Fair trade and accountability
  • Branded spaces and communities
  • Social media and open source cultures
  • Geodemographics and new forms of social classification

The MA Brands, Communication and Culture is taught across two departments: Media & Communications and Sociology. This gives you access to experts in many fields. In addition to the two core courses you will have the opportunity to customize your degree by choosing from a range of modules from different departments to allow you to explore your own interests and make wider connections.

We welcome students who bring to the course a range of experiences and interests in communication, management, politics, design and the cultural industries.

Recent dissertation topics include:

  • Branding post-capitalism? An investigation of crowdfunding platforms
  • Trespassed City: Mapping London’s privately owned public spaces
  • The rise of co-working spaces
  • Craft Entrepreneurs: an inquiry into the rise of artisanal production in post-industrial cities
  • Hashtags in photo sharing social media apps
  • Consumer culture in contemporary Shanghai
  • Branding of NGOs
  • Sustainable brand strategies - good for the environment or just a selling strategy?
  • Fashion bloggers and cultural capital
  • Medical tourism and branded healthcare
  • Intellectual property in the fashion industry
  • Branding London's districts

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Dr Kat Jungnickel

Modules & structure

Overview

The programme is made up of two core modules (60 credits in total), between two and four options modules (60 credits in total), and a dissertation (60 credits).

The first core module, Branding I, introduces you to contemporary definitions and theories of branding, its history and development, changes in the role of marketing, promotion and design, and their place in the global economy.

The second core module, Branding II, puts greater emphasis on contemporary themes and issues in branding, and their relationship to wider debates in society, economy and culture.

Throughout the core components of the degree, you will examine the wide range of ways in which branding is currently used, in organisations ranging from large corporations to public sector bodies, charities and other third sector organisations.

For the optional modules, you'll have an opportunity to explore some of the wider contexts for brands and branding by taking up to 60 credits of modules provided elsewhere in Media and Communications or neighbouring departments such as Sociology, Cultural Studies and Anthropology.

Part-time students typically take the two core modules in their first year, and the options modules plus the dissertation in their second year.

Vocational elements

The department offers some practice-based options in areas such as:

  • Media Futures
  • Online Journalism
  • Campaign Skills
  • Media Law and Ethics
  • Design Methods
  • Processes for Innovation

Core modules

Module title Credits
  Branding I: History, Contexts and Practice 30 credits
  Branding II 30 credits

Option modules

We offer a wide range of option modules each year. Below are some examples of modules that are currently running. For a full list, please contact the Media and Communications department.

Module title Credits
  Race, Empire and Nation 30 credits and 15 credits
  The City and Consumer Culture 30 credits
  Embodiment and Experience 30 credits and 15 credits
  Media Audiences and Media Geographies 30 credits
  Campaign Skills: Theory and Practice 15 credits
  Media, Ritual and Contemporary Public Cultures 30 credits and 15 credits
  Music as Communication and Creative Practice 30 credits
  Promotional Culture 30 credits and 15 credits
  Media, Law and Ethics 15 and 30 credits
  Journalism in Context 15 credits
  The Structures of Contemporary Political Communication 30 credits and 15 credits
  Asking the Right Questions: Research and Practice 15 credits

Sociology options

Module title Credits
  What is Culture? 30 credits
  Introduction to Feminist Theory and Culture 30 credits
  Navigating Urban Life 30 credits
  Through The Lens Part A 15 credits
  Empirical Visual Research 15 credits
  Sensory Sociology: Imagining Digital Social Research 30 credits
  Visual and Inventive Practice A 30 credits
  Key Debates for Inventive and Visual Sociology Practice 15 credits
  Consumer Citizenship and Visual Media 30 credits
  Globalising Human Rights 30 credits
  Gender Affect and the Body 30 credits
  Remaking London 30 credits
  Urban Field Encounters 30 credits
  Through the Lens B: Urban Identities 15 credits
  Urban Photographers 15 credits
  Digital Social Research Methods 15 credits (offered jointly by Sociology)
  Social Research for Public Engagement 30 credits
  Bodies in Pain: Subjectivity, Health and Medicine 30 credits
  Mapping Capitalism 30 credits
  Cultural Policy and City Branding 30 credits
  Politics and Difference 30 credits
  Data Made Flesh 30 credits

Assessment

The MA is assessed primarily through coursework essays and written projects. Practical modules may require audiovisual elements to be submitted. It will also include a dissertation of approximately 12,000 words.

Download the programme specification for this degree to find out more about what you'll learn and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Department

We are ranked:
27th in the world for communication and media studies**
1st in the UK for the quality of our research***

Media and Communications

We’ve also been ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top graduate universities for media professionals, because so many of our graduates go on to find jobs in the industry.

The department includes some of the top academics in the world for this discipline – the pioneers of media, communications and cultural studies. They actively teach on our programmes, and will introduce you to current research and debate in these areas. And many of our practice tutors are industry professionals active in TV, film, journalism, radio and animation.

We also run EastLondonLines.co.uk – our 24/7 student news website – which gives students the opportunity to gain experience working in a real-time news environment.

And we run regular public events featuring world-renowned writers and practitioners that have recently included Danny Boyle, Gurinda Chadha, Noel Clark and Tessa Ross. So you’ll get to experience the latest developments and debates in the industry.

Find out more about the Department of Media and Communications

**QS World University Rankings by subject 2016
***Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings


Sociology at Goldsmiths is ranked:
8th in the UK and 35th in the world for this subject area**
9th in the UK for the quality of our research***

Sociology

The Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths is active, contemporary and inventive. We are interested in everything from the ‘global’ issues of poverty and injustice to the ‘micro’ issues of cultural identity and the presentation of self in a digital world.

Our staff are some of the top academics in the world for this discipline – they’re the pioneers who are pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. They’ve played a key role in developing social research methods, setting agendas in social and cultural policy, and linking theory to practice.

Through their world-leading research you’ll be at the forefront of current debates and will be encouraged to see the world differently.

Find out more about the Department of Sociology.

**QS World University Rankings by subject 2016
***Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings

Staff

Staff who teach on and contribute to the MA include:

Kat Jungnickel

Kat is a Lecturer in Sociology and Convener of MA Brands, Communication and Culture. Her research explores mobilities (particularly cycling), digital technology practices and grassroots DIY/making cultures. She is the author of DiY WiFi: Re-Imagining Connectivity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Liz Moor

Liz is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications and convenes one of the core modules. Her research looks at the role of communication in economic life. She is the author of The Rise of Brands (Berg, 2007) and Design and Creativity: policy, management and practice (Berg, 2009, with Guy Julier), and is currently working on a book about money and communication.

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and convenes one of the core modules. Her research and teaching focuses on visual and sensory sociology, social and cultural theory, and inventive research methodologies. Recent publications include Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (2012) and, co-edited with Jessica Ringrose, Deleuze and Research Methodologies (2013).

Aeron Davis

Aeron is a Professor of Political Communication. His research and teaching focuses on political communications, cultural economy, the political economy of the mass media; promotional culture and cultural intermediaries, political sociology, social movements and civil society. His publications include The Mediation of Power (Routledge, 2007), Political Communication and Social Theory (Routledge, 2010), and Promotional Cultures (Polity, 2013).

Dan Neyland

Dan is a Professor in Sociology. His research interests cover issues of governance, accountability and ethics in forms of science, technology and organization. Most recently he published ‘Bearing account-able witness to the ethical algorithmic system’ (Science, Technology and Human Values 2015).

Brian Alleyne

Brian is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology. He researches and teaches on globalisation, social movements, the social life of information technology, ethnography, and narrative and biographical research methods.

Skills & careers

Skills

The programme helps students to develop a high-level understanding of contemporary branding and communications techniques and their social, economic and political contexts. You will be encouraged to develop your critical reasoning skills and your understanding of contemporary cultural and media theory, but also to develop greater visual literacy and a capacity for creative thinking. Assessments are designed to ensure that you are able to apply these skills in practical ways.

Careers

The programme equips you with the skills necessary to pursue a wide range of careers related to branding and communication in the media and other industries. Students are encouraged to seek work experience and work placements during the programme as time allows. The MA also allows you to pursue further academic research in one or more of the areas covered on the programme.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

Suggested reading

There are no ‘set texts’ but the following are key readings to help prepare you for the course:

Amoore, L. (2013) The Politics of Possibility: Risk and security beyond probability, Duke University Press.

Amoore, L and V, Piotukh. (eds) (2016) Algorithmic Life: Calculative devices in the age of big data, London and New York: Routledge.

Arvidsson, A. (2006) Brands: meaning and value in media culture, London: Routledge.

Hillis, K., Paasonen, S and M, Petit (eds) (2015) Networked Affect, MIT Press

Julier, G. (2008) The Culture of Design, Oxford: Berg, second edition.

Lury, C. (2004) Brands: The logos of the global economy, London and New York: Routledge.

Lury, C. (2011) Consumer Culture, Cambridge: Polity, second edition

Molotch, H. (2003) Where Stuff Comes From, New York

Moor, L. (2007) The Rise of Brands, Oxford: Berg.

Woodham, J. (1997) Twentieth Century Design, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 7.0 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the reading, listening and speaking tests, and 7.0 in the written test)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. 

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Fees & funding

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

The Department of Media and Communications sometimes offers fee waivers for this MA. Find out more on our departmental funding page.

Find out more about tuition fees.

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