MA in Visual Sociology

  • Length
    1 year full-time, 2 years part time
  • Department

Course overview

Designed for students interested in new ways of exploring and understanding the social world through the use of visual, sensory and other experimental approaches, this programme allows you to study sociological issues alongside innovative methods.

The MA will enable you to intervene in and represent the social world by developing the ability to undertake empirical research and present it publicly in a variety of media and materials.

You will engage with sociology as an inventive research practice, orientated towards the creative deployment of research methods.

An introduction to debates in visual and sensory sociology

The MA in Visual Sociology provides an introduction to the range of debates in visual and sensory sociology, encouraging you to build on these by using visual and sensory methodological practices to carry out critical social research in your areas of interest, whether this is science and technology, contemporary capitalism, gender and sexual cultures, human rights, globalisation or other aspects of social life.

A hands-on approach to sociological research

The programme combines lectures and seminars with practical sessions and workshop-based projects in which you develop a hands-on approach to sociological research, providing a skill base in methods which could be used in public sector contexts, art/media research, design or commercial application.

As well as presenting your ideas through writing, during the course you will have the opportunity to produce a range of different outputs including exhibitions, visual models and film/video. Critical feedback sessions function as a testing ground for individual projects.

Themed projects allow groups of students to further develop a portfolio of research outputs geared to a variety of audiences. The dissertation allows you to undertake a substantive research project geared to your individual interests.

You will have access to the Visual Media Lab, which offers post-production and editing stations, as well as equipment for photography and video. Students can also borrow equipment from the Media Equipment Centre.

At the forefront of the discipline

The MA is based in the Department of Sociology, home of the The Methods Lab and at the forefront of research using live methods. It is taught by staff with a wide range of experience in both sociology and interdisciplinary research, including visual and experimental approaches.

The course is suitable for applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds, including art, design, anthropology, media and communications, cultural studies, geography, and sociology. 

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Dr Rebecca Coleman

Modules & structure


In the first part of the course you will take 'Introduction to Sensory Sociology', a module that investigates the transformation of sociology in the age of visual, digital and other empirical methods. The module 'Key Debates for Inventive and Visual Sociology' enables you to address debates within visual sociology, and also encompasses more recent issues surrounding the notions of media, translation and studio practice which are associated with inventive approaches. Assessment of these modules is by essay.

Alongside these modules you will take a core practical component that offers the opportunity to gain skills in photography, sound and video and to develop materials that engage a sociological imagination. A central focus is on how to translate a research question into a variety of materials or media and to be able to critically discuss the selection and use of these.

In the second term you continue with a practical module in inventive sociology in which students working individually or in groups respond to a theme to create a visual, sensory or experimental object or media. Assessment of the practical work includes a diary of research process alongside documentation of work.

These core modules are taught in Sociology. In the second term you will also take an option that may be chosen from Sociology or may be taken from departments across Goldsmiths including the Departments of Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, Politics and Media and Communications. 

In the summer term you will complete a dissertation involving a major practical project consisting of any media and addressing a specific sociological problem. You will meet for individual supervision with a member of the Sociology staff.
 The dissertation is a substantive piece of research in which you develop a visual, inventive or experimental approach to a topic of your choice.

Core modules

Module title Credits
  Introduction to Sensory Sociology 15 credits
  Key debates for Inventive and Visual Sociology 15 credits
  Introduction to Visual and Inventive Practice 30 credits
  Inventive Sociological Practice 30 credits
  MA in Visual Sociology Dissertation 60 credits

Option modules

You will chose an option module to the value of 30 credits from Sociology or from departments across the College including the Departments of AnthropologyEnglish and Comparative LiteraturePolitics and Media and Communications. 

Modules in Sociology address themes such as:

  • contemporary capitalism and inequality
  • human rights
  • globalisation and urban life
  • gender and sexuality
  • science, technology and medicine
  • digitisation of social life 

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.


Sociology at Goldsmiths is ranked:
9th in the UK and 45th in the world for this subject area**
9th in the UK for the quality of our research***


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 2015
***Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings


Staff who teach on and contribute to the programme include: 

Les Back

Les is Professor of Sociology and has been the director of the ESRC-funded Live Sociology Programme, which trains social researchers in the use of new media in ethnographic social research. His most recent book is The Art of Listening (Oxford: Berg, 2007).

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths and Convener of the MA in Visual Sociology. Her research and teaching focuses on visual and sensory sociology, the body and inventive research methodologies.

Recent publications include Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (2012) and, co-edited with Jessica Ringrose, Deleuze and Research Methodologies (2013). She has organised an exhibition on 'Surfaces in the Making' featuring international artists, and is currently working with artists, designers, curators and academics to develop methodologies for studying time (especially presents and futures).

Michael Guggenheim 

Michael is Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and directs an ERC-starting grant project “Organising Disaster”. He is also working on a multi-media project, which deals with forecasting disasters. He has been a co-curator of “die wahr/falsch inc.” a sociological exhibition on the relationship of science and society in Vienna. 

Paul Halliday 

Paul is a photographer, film-maker and urbanist trained in photojournalism and fine art film. He contributes to the MA in Visual Sociology as a workshop leader.

Noortje Marres

Noortje is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process at Goldsmiths. She was a founding member of the Amsterdam-based foundation and developer of the IssueCrawler research platform.

Nirmal Puwar 

Nirmal is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths. She works on postcolonialism; institutions, race and gender & critical methodologies and is interested in sound cultures. Most recently she has been directing Noise of the past, a collaborative public intervention in war and memory, launched in Coventry Cathedral during Remembrance Day.

Nina Wakeford

Nina is Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths. She founded and runs the research group INCITE bringing together social research and design, with particular relevance to high technology development.

Kat Jungnickel

Kat joined Goldsmiths in June 2013 to lead an ESRC Knowledge Exchange project and teach on a series of undergraduate courses. She completed a PhD in Sociology at Goldsmiths and a Postdoc in the Sustainable Mobilities Research Group at the University of East London.


The MA in Visual Sociology cuts across a range of research in the department and university, including on visual and sensory methods, digital sociology, science and technology studies, feminist theory and cultural theory. It has particular links to the Methods Lab. Other ongoing or recent projects conducted by staff involved in the MA in Visual Sociology include:

Suggested reading

Staff publications

  • Back, Les (2007) The Art of Listening. Oxford: Berg
  • Back, Les & Puwar, Nirmal (Eds.) (2012) Live Methods. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
  • Coleman, Rebecca (2009) The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Coleman, Rebecca (2012) Transforming images: Screens, Affect, Futures, London and New York: Routledge
  • Coleman, Rebecca and Ringrose, Jessica (eds) (2013) Deleuze and Research Methodologies, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  • Guggenheim, Michael (2011) ‘The Proof Is In the Pudding. On “Truth to Materials” in STS, Followed by an Attempt to Improve It.’ Science Technology and Industry Studies 7 (1): 65–86
  • Guggenheim, M. (2014) The Media of Sociology: Tight or Loose Translations? British Journal of Sociology, 66(2): 345-72
  • Jungnickel, Katrina. (2006) 73 Urban Journeys, Research website, Studio INCITE, Goldsmiths, London, Available at
  • Jungnickel, K. (2016) Making Things To Make Sense of Things: DIY as research project and practice, In Sayers, J. (ed) The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities
  • Jugnickel, K. and Hjorth, L. (2014) Methodological Entanglements in the Field: methods, transitions and transmissions, Visual Studies, Special Issue: Transformations in art and ethnography, 29(2): 138-147
  • Jungnickel, K. (2014) Jumps, stutters and other failed images: using time-lapse video in cycling research, in Bates, C. (ed) Video Methods, Routledge, Advances in Research Methods Series. Chapter 6, pp. 132-152
  • Knowles, Caroline, and Paul Sweetman, eds. 2004. Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods in the Sociological Imagination. New York, NY: Routledge
  • Lury, Celia. & Wakeford, Nina (Eds.) (2012) Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. London: Routledge
  • Marres, Noortje (2012) Material Participation: Technology, the Environment and Everyday Publics. London: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Puwar, Nirmal (2007) Social Cinema Scenes, Space and Culture 10 (2) 253-270
  • Puwar, Nirmal (2011) Noise of the Past: Spatial Interruptions of War, Nation, and Memory, Senses and Society 6 (3) 325-345
  • Savage, M. & R. Burrows (2007). The Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology, Sociology (41): 885‐899
  • Wakeford, Nina (2003) Working with New Media’s Cultural Intermediaries. Information, Communication & Society 6 (2): 229–245

Further reading

  • Ball, Susan, and Chris Giligan, eds. 2010. “Special Issue: Visualising Migration and Social Division: Insights From Social Sciences and the Visual Arts.”Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (online journal) 11 (2)
  • Bauer, Martin W. 2000. “Analysis of Noise and Music as Social Data.” In Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound: A Practical Handbook, ed. Martin W. Bauer and George Gaskell, 263-261. London: SAGE
  • Becker, Howard. 1995. “Visual sociology, documentary photography, and photojournalism: It’s (almost) all a matter of context.” Visual Studies 10: 5-14
  • Becker H. (2007) Telling about Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Bowker, G. and Star, S. L. (1999) Sorting Things Out. Cambridge: MIT Press
  • Lather, Patti (1993) Fertile Obsession: Validity After Poststructuralism, The Sociological Quarterly 34 (4): 673–693
  • Latour, B (2005) Reassembling the Social: an introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Latour, B (2005) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. B. Latour and P. Weibel (Eds). Cambridge: MIT Press
  • Law, John. After Methods: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge
  • Mizen, Phillip and Carol Wolkowitz (Eds.) (2012), ‘Visualising Landscapes of Work and Labour’, Special Issue of Sociological Research Online, May.
  • Moody, Cyrus. 2005. “The sounds of science: Listening to laboratory practice.” Science, Technology & Human Values 30 (2): 175
  • Myers, Natasha. (2008) “Molecular Embodiments and the Body-work of Modeling in Protein Crystallography.” Social Studies of Science 38 (2) (April 1): 163 -199
  • Pauwels, Luc. (2010). “Visual Sociology Reframed: An Analytical Synthesis and Discussion of Visual Methods in Social and Cultural Research.”SMR/Sociological Methods & Research 38 (4): 545-581
  • Pink, Sarah. (2009). Doing Sensory Ethnography. Los Angeles; London: SAGE
  • Pink, Sarah, Phil Hubbard, Maggie O’Neill, and Alan Radley. (2010). “Walking across disciplines: from ethnography to arts practice.” Visual Studies 25 (March 23): 1-7
  • Roberts, Brian. (2008). “Performative Social Science: A Consideration of Skills, Purpose and Context.” Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (online journal) 9 (2) (May 31)

Skills & careers

This programme attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds, including art and design, business, and the third sector, as well as those with social science degrees. This means the careers that they are interested in pursuing are wide and varied. 

The programme helps students develop their critical and analytical abilities as well as a number of other practical skills and competencies, which are valued in different sectors. For example, as well as reflecting moves within sociology to study the visual and sensory, the MA also responds to how sociological methods – such as interviews, focus groups and ethnography – are increasingly used in commercial settings, including in social and market research, and in research and development for international companies.

The programme can lead to many types of career including in the arts and creative industries, the charity and public sectors, social research. A number of graduates from the programme are also interested in pursuing further academic research.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths



"The fact this programme only runs at Goldsmiths is testament to the experimental and cross disciplinary atmosphere"

I graduated from the BA Fine Art in 2010 and spent 3 years working independently as an artist in London. During that period of time I became more and more interested in how art might become part of, include, and shape research into the social world. Finding out about the Visual Sociology MA programme was perfect because it allowed me to continue to think about visual and material questions of making as well as introducing me to such a wealth of ideas, theory, research practices and most importantly, a group of other students and tutors, that have expanded my understanding of what visual research is about. The fact this programme only runs at Goldsmiths is testament to the experimental and cross disciplinary atmosphere here and I have enjoyed my time immensely, trying to soak up as much learning as I can! I'm looking forward to putting what I have learned into action by developing the work I was doing previously.


"The Visual Sociology MA was exactly what I was looking for - and more!"

"The Visual Sociology MA was exactly what I was looking for - and more! I joined the course hoping to get practical experience using qualitative methods and improve my film and photography skills while continuing to study social theory. In practice, I've learned so much more. Students considering the MA should be prepared for a very broad understanding of 'the visual' as the programme covers Sensory and Inventive Sociology as well. From day one this MA has opened my mind to methodologies and areas of study I had never before considered. One of its strengths has been the people. I have learned from each student in this diverse class - no two students with the same background. Staff, too, are very invested in the new MA and really encourage experimentation."

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in Sociology or 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 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the written test and no individual test lower than 6.0)

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.
  • An electronic copy of your reference on letter headed paper, or alternatively the email address of your referee who we can request a reference from. It is preferred that you use an academic reference, however in cases where applicants are unable to provide one, a professional reference is acceptable.
  • 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

As part of the selection process, you may be offered an informal interview with the Programme Convenor.

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.

Find out more about tuition fees.

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