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 examine, represent and intervene in the social world. You will develop 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, deploying creative research methods to address classic and changing sociological problems.
An introduction to debates in visual research
The MA in Visual Sociology provides an introduction to the range of debates in visual research, encouraging you 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.
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 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 will have the opportunity to produce different outputs, including film/video, photography, sound and multimedia pieces. You will also 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.
Throughout the programme you will have the opportunity to design and reflect on your own research projects. The dissertation allows you to undertake a substantive research project on your individual interests, supported by one-to-one supervision with a member of staff. 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 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 Nina Wakeford
What you'll study
In the first part of the course you will take ‘Empirical Social Research’, a module that takes you through the empirical research cycle in the context of the transformation of sociology in the age of visual, digital and other empirical methods. The module Theories and Debates in Visual Research' enables you to address debates within visual sociology, and also encompasses more recent issues surrounding the notions of media, interdisciplinarity and translation which become significant if sociology works with visual and other sensory materials. Assessment of these modules is by essay.
Alongside these modules you will take a core practical component, ‘Visual and Inventive Practice A’, 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, ‘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.
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 International Relations, Media and Communications, Educational Studies and Music.
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.
If you follow the MA part-time over two years, you will take ‘Empirical Social Research’, ‘Visual and Inventive Practice’ and ‘Social Research for Public Engagement’ in year 1, and ‘Theories and Debates in Visual Research’, the dissertation and an option in year 2.
|Empirical Visual Research||15 credits|
|Theories and Debates in Visual Research||15 credits|
|Social Research for Public Engagement||30 credits|
|MA in Visual Sociology Dissertation||60 credits|
You will choose an option module to the value of 30 credits from Sociology or from departments across the College including the Departments of Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, Politics, Media and Communications, Music and Educational Studies.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
- A 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.
As part of the selection process, you may be offered an informal interview with the Programme Convenor.
Find out more about applying.
Staff who teach on and contribute to the programme include:
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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:
- Transmissions and Entanglements (Kat Jungnickel)
- Organising Disaster: Civil Protection and the Population (Michael Guggenheim)
- Every Minute of Every Day (Les Back, Yasmin Gunaratnam and members of the department)
- We Can’t Be There. Emergency Provisions for (Un)Anticipated Futures (Rebecca Coleman, Michael Guggenheim and Yasmina Reggad)
- 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
- 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
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.