Course information

Department

Sociology

Length

1 year full-time, 2 years part time

Course overview

For 2020–21, we have made some changes to how the teaching and assessment of this programme are delivered. Find out more

This MA is designed for students interested in new ways of exploring and understanding the social world through the use of visual, sensory, and other experimental approaches. You’ll study sociological issues alongside innovative methods and gain the tools needed to examine, represent and intervene in the social world.

Why study MA Sociology (Visual Sociology) at Goldsmiths?

  • You’ll join students from a wide variety of backgrounds, including art, design, anthropology, media and communications, cultural studies, geography, and sociology.
  • You’ll develop the ability to carry out empirical research and present it publicly in a variety of media and materials. You’ll engage with sociology as an inventive research practice, using creative research methods to address classic and changing sociological problems.
  • You’ll be introduced to the range of debates in visual research and encouraged to build on these by using visual, sensory and inventive 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, race, human rights, globalisation, or other aspects of social life.
  • Combining lectures and seminars with practical sessions and workshop-based projects, this MA will help you develop a hands-on approach to sociological research. You’ll gain a skills base in methods which could be used in public sector contexts, art or media research, design or commercial application.
  • As well as presenting your ideas through writing, you’ll have the opportunity to produce different outputs, including film/video, photography, sound and multimedia pieces. You’ll also have the opportunity to organise and curate some of this work in an exhibition.
  • Critical feedback sessions function as a testing ground for individual projects, and themed projects allow you to further develop a portfolio of research outputs geared to a variety of audiences.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to design and reflect on your own research projects. The dissertation allows you to complete a substantive research project on your individual interests, supported by one-to-one supervision with a member of staff.
  • You’ll have access to post-production and editing stations, as well as equipment for photography and video. You can also borrow audio-visual and media equipment from the IT Service Desk.
  • The MA is based in the Department of Sociology, home of The Methods Lab and at the forefront of research using 'live sociology' which embraces methodological innovation. You’ll be taught by staff with a wide range of experience in both sociology and interdisciplinary research, including visual and experimental approaches.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact the convenor, Dr Nina Wakeford.

What you'll study

Overview

In the first part of the course, you will take ‘Methodology Now’ a compulsory practical component, ‘Visual and Inventive Practice’, 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 core module in inventive sociology, ‘Social Research for Public Engagement’, in which you will work individually or in groups to respond to a theme to create a visual, sensory or experimental object or media to be exhibited to a particular public. Assessment of the practical work includes a diary of research process alongside documentation of work. You will also take a core module, Thinking Sociologically.

Compulsory modules Module title Credits
  Thinking Sociologically 30 credits
  Social Research for Public Engagement 30 credits
  Methodology Now 30 credits
  Introduction to visual and inventive practice 30 credits

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.

As a full-time student, you will normally complete two compulsory modules in each of the Autumn and Spring terms. As a part-time student, you will spread these modules over two years.

Assessment

Assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice-based projects or essays/logs, group projects, reflective essays, and seen and unseen written examinations.

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

What our students say

Vanessa Bray

I grew more confident in my own practice and theoretical grounding. Putting on a public exhibition allowed me space to develop my performance skills.

Working with a diverse set of artists gave me a broad perspective on ways of working and thinking. I grew more confident in my own practice and theoretical grounding. Putting on a public exhibition allowed me space to develop my performance skills. All round my confidence and knowledge with IT grew, and I learnt a lot more about the practical aspects of research.

My dissertation project 'Writing to Fight' has been performed to several different audiences, from Goldsmiths students through the Dragon Cafe, a community creative project for mental health service users, to Peer Mentors at Southwark Council. I have written a short piece about it for an undergraduate Sociology zine.

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.

International qualifications

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

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Annual tuition fees

The fees for 2021 will be made available soon, but for reference these were the fees for 2020.

  • Home - full-time: £8640
  • Home - part-time: £4320
  • EU - full-time: £8640
  • EU - part-time: £4320
  • International - full-time: £17070

If your fees are not listed here, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

It’s not currently possible for international students to study part-time if you require a Tier 4 student visa, however this is currently being reviewed and will be confirmed in the new year. Please read our visa guidance in the interim for more information. If you think you might be eligible to study part-time while being on another visa type, please contact our Admissions Team for more information.

If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

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.

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • 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.

Staff

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. 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.

Britt Hatzius

Britt is an independent visual artist and researcher working with film, video, sound and performance. After receiving her BA in Fine Art Media at Chelsea College of Art she completed an MA at the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) and worked on various projects within the research group INCITE, Department of Sociology.

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.

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 and Convener of the MA in Visual Sociology. She founded and runs the research group INCITE bringing together social research and design, with particular relevance to high technology development.

 

Research

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 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 www.73urbanjourneys.com
  • 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. http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/2/25.html
  • 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) http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/viewArticle/377

Careers

Visual Sociology 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. 

This MA 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 careers including in the arts and creative industries, the charity and public sectors, and social research. A number of graduates from the programme are also interested in pursuing further academic research.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

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