Media Dissertation Topics

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Example media dissertation topic 1:

The internet as a public sphere - an analysis of YouTube.

Habermas defines the public sphere as a 'realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed [and where] access is guaranteed to all citizens' (Habermas, 1989, p. 102). This study seeks to apply this definition of the public sphere to YouTube, particularly in the light of calls for the 2012 anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, to be removed from YouTube. In so doing it not only builds upon an existing body of secondary literature relating to 'the public sphere' but also garners new primary data by interviewing 50 users of YouTube. So that quantitative comparisons can be made in the primary data collected all of the users are second year undergraduates at the University of Bath.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Antony, M.G. and Thomas, R.J. (2010). ''This is citizen journalism at its finest': YouTube and the public sphere in the Oscar Grant shooting incident', New Media and Society, Vol. 12(8), pp. 1280-1296.
  • Douai, A. and Nofal, H.K. (2012). 'Commenting in the online Arab public sphere: Debating the Swiss minaret ban and the "Ground Zero Mosque" online', Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 17, pp. 266-282.
  • Van Zoonen, L., Vis, F. and Mihelj, S. (2011). 'YouTube interactions between agonism, antagonism and dialogue: Video responses to the anti-Islam film Fitna', Vol. 13(8), pp. 1283-1300.

Example media dissertation topic 2:

Internet commentary and blogging: Lacking the credibility of validity to conform to Habermas' public sphere?

In comparison to traditional media outlets such as The Daily Telegraph internet commentators and bloggers who 'respond to' or 'report' news produce copy in a world of anonymity in which the ability to separate one's true identity to the point being proffered is straightforward. Accordingly it can be argued that the validity and credibility of authorship that accompanies named articles within the traditional printed press are missing from the realm of blogging and news commentary. Given this, this dissertation questions the extent to which such internet activity can be defined as part of 'the public sphere' in the conceptualisation of the idea as furthered by Habermas, for an essential component of 'the public sphere' is the integrity of the argument advanced - which is surely, of itself, negated through anonymity.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dreyfus, H.L. (2004).Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity versus commitment in the present age. Berkeley: University of California.
  • Pérez-Peña. R. (2011). 'News sites rethink anonymous online comments', New York Times, 11th April 2011.
  • Poor, N.L. (2005). 'Mechanisms of an online public sphere: The website Slashdot', Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 10(2), DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00241.x.

Example media dissertation topic 3:

Viewer reactions to BBC portrayals of Liverpool and Bristol: An analysis.

Combining themes from media studies and sociology, this dissertation uses a group of volunteers, none of whom have visited either Liverpool or Bristol, to view news items and images of Liverpool and Bristol shown on the BBC between January 2011 and December 2011. Participants are asked to rank how they feel about each city as a result of the footage they are shown, using a Likert scale. This dissertation seeks, through undertaking this research, to suggest that the BBC's portrayal and focus on northern cities such as Liverpool is outdated and concentrates on the negative, whereas its coverage of southern towns (such as Bristol) focuses on more uplifting stories and aspects of the human condition. Through so doing, sustained comment can be made as to the role of the media in not only forming views but also perpetuating views that may, as in the case of Liverpool and Bristol, not be entirely accurate.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hall, A. (2009). 'Perceptions of the authenticity of reality programs and their relationships to audience involvement, enjoyment, and perceived learning', Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 53(4), pp. 515-531.
  • Potter, W.J. and Tomasello, T.K. (2003). 'Building upon the experimental design in media violence research: The importance of including receiver interpretations', Journal of Communication, Vol. 53, pp. 315-329.
  • Tsfati, Y. and Cohen, J. (2003). 'On the effect of the "third-person effect": Perceived influence of media coverage and residential mobility intentions', Journal of Communication, Vol. 53, pp. 711-727.

Example media dissertation topic 4:

24 hour news media: A rejoinder

This dissertation reviews the role and purpose of 24hour news channels, focusing particularly on the BBC, Sky news and CNN. In the first part of the dissertation a content analysis of 48 hours of news coverage is offered in which the percentage of air-time for new 'news' stories is contrasted with the time given over to repeated interviews, filler-items and other programmes not singularly focused on 'news'. Having done do, the thesis then assesses public reactions to 'never-ending' news through asking ten participants to watch a two-hour recording of continual news from one of the three channels investigated. They are asked to comment on the content of the 'news', the repetition of stories and the usefulness of the entire two-hour viewing experience to their understanding of the main stories of the day. The hypothesis that this dissertation seeks to prove is that, far from enriching people's understanding and adding to the greater body of knowledge, the reality of 24 hour news is the opposite. Namely, content is padded by undue exposure to peripheral matters (so as to fill air-time), and constant repetition, with the result that, rather than engaging the viewer, they 'switch off' to the story being discussed.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hargreaves, I. and Thomas, J. (2002). New news, old news. London: The Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.
  • Lewis, L., Cushion, S. and Thomas, J. (2005). 'Immediacy, convenience or engagement? An analysis of 24-hour news channels in the UK', Journalism Studies, Vol. 6(4), pp. 461-477.
  • Mcdonald, I.R. and Laurence, R.G. (2004). 'Filling the 24×7 news hole: Television news coverage following September 11', American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 48(3), pp. 327-340.

Example media dissertation topic 5:

Fair trials and media reporting: A need to rebalance demands?

Recent media reporting into cases such as that regarding Mark Bridger (charged with the abduction and murder of April Jones in 2012) raises a number of interesting points. With regard to Bridger, it can be suggested that 'the accused' has, in effect already been 'tried' by the media and that consequently his ability to get a free and fair trial, devoid of inbuilt prejudices, and a central tenet of the English justice system, may have been compromised. By focusing on this case in particular, this dissertation asks whether the balance between 'the public interest' and 'due process' is indeed the focus of the media, and whether there is a case to be made that there should be no public reporting of allegations or aspects of the life of people 'accused' until the case against them has been legally proven. This is an interesting dissertation that combines contemporary media stories with issues pertaining to self-regulation, freedom of the press and the needs of justice.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Battaglia, N. (2010). 'Comment: The Casey Anthony trial and wrongful exonerations: How "trial by media" cases diminish public confidence in the criminal justice system', Albany Law Review, 75, 1579.
  • Machado, H. and Santos, F. (2009). 'The disappearance of Madeleine McCann: Public drama and trial by media in the Portuguese press', Crime, Media, Culture, Vol. 5(2), pp. 146-167.
  • Surette, R. (2007). Media, crime and criminal justice: Images, realities and policies. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Example media dissertation topic 6:

The changing demands of web advertising: A dynamic medium of opportunity.

The web, unlike printed media, enables the target audience of the advertiser, if the media campaign is so constructed, to interact with the product in focus. This dissertation seeks to evaluate the effects that this change has on the ways that products are sold and how advertising agencies use the Internet (in a different way to how they use the printed press) as a medium through which to sell. A dissertation which places itself at the cutting edge of the advertising media revolution, this study will be primarily engaged with establishing the views of experienced professionals within the field as well as with consumers.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Calder, B.J. (ed.) (2012). Kellogg: On advertising and media. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Rosenkrans, G. (2009). 'The creativeness and effectiveness of online interactive rich media advertising', Journal of Interactive Advertising, Vol. 9(2), pp. 18-31.
  • Wang, K., Wang, E.T.G. and Farn, C-K. (2009). 'Influence of web advertising strategies, consumer goal-directedness, and consumer involvement on web advertising effectiveness', International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 13(4), pp. 67-96.

Example media dissertation topic 7:

Passports for online use: The need to protect chat room users.

The growing role of chat rooms and social media sites is unquestionable. However, news stories of the vulnerable being exploited signify the dangers that may lurk 'online' for those who are uninitiated. Noting the need for security within the online banking sector and the use of passports, driving licences, and 'proof of age' cards as mechanisms through which real identities can readily be checked in everyday life, this dissertation poses a single question: whether or not it is time to introduce a form of virtual e-passport to enable safe and secure communication and interaction through the medium of the internet, as well as accurate identification of users. This is a dissertation that has the potential to combines issues ranging from the safe use of the internet as a form of media and communication, to issues of freedom of speech, aspects of public sphere theory and human rights, depending on the individual strengths of the writer.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Allen, K. (2011). 'The identity of ID', Engineering and Technology, Vol. 6(3), pp. 84-87.
  • Livingstone, S., Ólafsson, K. and Staksrud, E. (2011). 'Social networking, age and privacy', EU Kids Online, April, 2011, pp. 1-13.
  • Phair, N. (2008), 'What is trust online?'. In, Michael, K. and Michael, M.G. (eds), Australia and the new technologies: Evidence based policy in public administration. Wollongong, NSW: University of Wollongong and the Research Network for a Secure Australia, pp. 241-246.

Example media dissertation topic 8:

Naked hypocrisy: The tabloid press, page 3, and the Duchess.

That The Sun should widely condemn aspects of the foreign press for publishing pictures of a topless Duchess of Cambridge may be seen as hypocritical, given not only its own use of page three but also its recent printing of Prince Harry naked. That other proprietors of newspapers should also condemn foreign coverage of the Duchess may also be seen as hypocritical, given 'top shelf' publications in which they hold a stake. Taking into account, therefore, the juxtaposition of 'outrage' and 'titillation' that nudity seems to elicit within the tabloid press within the UK, this dissertation assesses whether the time has come to ban 'page three' models and similar images from the British press. Building on the propositions advanced by, amongst others, Harriet Harman MP, this is a dissertation that would also benefit from the undertaking of primary interviews.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Callender Smith, R. (2011). 'Freddie Starr ate my privacy, OK!', Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, Vol. 1(1), pp. 53-72.
  • Schofield, K. (2012). 'Leftie Hattie, 62, from Camberwell, makes a right tit of herself', The Sun, 5th October 2012.
  • Thomas, R. J. (2012). 'Changing the conversation: Can the phone hacking scandal lead to a new covenant on media responsibilities?', The Political Quarterly, Vol. 83(3), pp. 524-531.

Example media dissertation topic 9:

Media psychology: An evaluation of the effects of advertising to children on the gift giving intentions of parents.

This dissertation follows, from August to December, the lives of ten families living in Caerphilly. The parents of the families are, in accordance with the processes that they have deployed over a number of years, asked to note down the gifts that they intend to purchase for their children. As autumn develops and the nature and tone of advertising to children alters (on television and in leaflet distribution to houses) they are subsequently asked to review their purchase intentions and to note how they have changed. Post-Christmas, interviews are held with the families to determine the nature of the media psychology forces that they faced and the extent to which they succumbed to them.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Giles, D. (2003). Media psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • O'Cass, A. and Clarke, P. (2002). 'Dear Santa, do you have my brand? A study of the brand requests, awareness and request styles at Christmas time', Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2(1), pp. 37-53.
  • Palmer, E.L. and Young, B.M. (eds) (2008). The faces of televisual media: Teaching, violence, selling to children. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Example media dissertation topic 10:

Media and sociology: A life remembered - Pierre Bourdieu.

To many, the book On Television (Bourdieu, 1999) was a seminal study that showed how television manipulates its watchers through forms of invisible censorship pertaining to content. In commenting upon the views furthered by Bourdieu it can be suggested that he believed that, rather than providing society with a series of diverse views, television tends to homogenise opinion so that ideas are either easily digestible (to the masses) or simplified so that complex nuances are lost. This dissertation critically analyses the ongoing relevance of the theories relating to media espoused by Bourdieu through an analysis of his academic legacy.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bourdieu, P. (1999). On television (translated by P.P. Ferguson). New York: The New Press.
  • Hesmondhalgh, D. (2006). 'Bourdieu, the media and cultural production', Media, Culture, Society, Vol. 28(2), pp. 211-231.
  • Lane, J.F. (2000). Pierre Bourdieu: A critical introduction. London: Pluto Press.

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