Intro to Language and Mass Communication

This part builds very naturally on the work undertaken in part 1 and in many ways is an extension and development of it, looking not just at how the individual engages with language and meaning but also at how institutional structures both influence the meaning in texts and are themselves influenced by the social, commercial and political worlds in which they operate.

The learning outcomes require students to do the following.

  • Examine different forms of communication within the media.
  • Show an awareness of the potential for educational, political or ideological influence of the media.
  • Show the way mass media use language and image to inform, persuade or entertain.

There are rich opportunities here for teachers to work with students on the analysis of different kinds of media products and to develop some of the topics looked at in part 1. The way status is encoded in language, for example, could lead to work on political campaigning and the positioning and presentation of politicians and their ideas in the media. Similarly the establishment of community identity through language could lead to work related to the third learning outcome—perhaps examining the diversity of audience and the use of style and register.

While clearly this part of the course shares its pedagogy to a certain degree with areas such as media studies, it is important to remember that the assessment outcomes focus on the detail with which students can analyse texts and their stylistic features in relation to their role and function in, or when presented as, particular media products. An example of this might involve the student analysing the language used to describe a military campaign in the press or on news television, looking at how different constituencies—civilians, aid workers and “allied” or “enemy” forces, for example—are portrayed.

Background work on the power and influence of large media institutions is less important than the close analysis of the details of a particular media product such as an advertisement, newspaper article or institutional use of a social networking site. Students will have opportunities to explore issues such as stereotyping and the use of language by the state and in the presentation of areas including the arts.

Assessment activities such as the further oral activity and the written tasks will ideally grow out of the exploratory work students undertake in looking at the topics (for example, bias or censorship) when working to achieve the learning outcomes in this part of the course.

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