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New Course Discourse // MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice

Rebecca landscape
Rebecca landscape

Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
16 October 2015

In the latest New Course Discourse, we talk to Dr. Rebecca Bramall, Course Leader of LCC’s recently updated MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice.

Can you tell us something about the aims of this course?

Our course is highly distinctive in combining a number of different elements.

First of all, the course examines the media and communications theories that are most relevant to today’s creative industries. But there are a lot of other courses that do that kind of thing – there are plenty of other Masters courses that offer a theoretical approach to media and communications.

Where I think our course is really different is in how it connects those more theoretical, critical approaches to the experience of working in the creative industries, to a practical sense of what it’s like to work in these industries, and to students’ creative practice as well.

I think a lot of students now, when they’re thinking about working in the creative industries, in media, in a cultural organisation, or in another role where media and communications is important, they aren’t sure whether it’s their own creative practice or the industry itself that’s attracting them.

I think it’s really important for them to explore those three elements. And what our course does is bring them all together – theory, creative practice, and professional practice.

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MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice students on a visual culture walk in east London, summer 2015.

So what can students expect from the course across the year?

The first two units that they take in the autumn are more theory-based. Media, Culture and Economy asks ‘what’s the relationship between contemporary economies and creative industries?’ while Analysing Contemporary Media develops students’ analytical skills.

Although the courses in the autumn are theoretically oriented, we have innovative ways of assessing and creative ways of getting students to engage with the material, for example by applying new ideas and concepts to live briefs. So theory is very much connected to their creative practice right from the beginning.

And then in the spring there’s a more collaborative focus, because that’s when the students take the collaborative unit. They gain the opportunity to work on a brief for a cultural or media organisation, or in some cases they will work with students from another Masters course. So that unit really brings to the fore professional practices of collaboration, of working with other people, and potentially delivers students’ first experience of working with a creative organisation.

Alongside the collaborative unit there is also a particular focus at this stage on visual culture, which students explore both through key theories of the visual and through the practice of making their own images.

During the summer they prepare for their internship – if they want to go down that route – or the alternative, an industry-focused research report. So there’s a flow through, working from a more theoretical basis to a more creative practice and industry focus in the later part of the course.

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MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice students on a gallery tour, summer 2013.

What are you looking for in applicants to the MA?

Applicants’ academic graduate backgrounds can be quite diverse. We’ve had students who have studied subjects ranging from art history and psychology to law and business.

One thing that I’ll be looking for in applications is how well the applicant explains the relationship between their existing studies, any work experience that they’ve done, and their onward progression – they need to communicate what they hope to achieve from the course. We’re looking for students who have thought carefully about taking this route.

I also find it valuable when students provide details in their personal statement of their particular creative skills or cultural interests, and reflect on how they hope to develop or add to these during the course.

Although most students who join the course intend to work in the creative industries, the course is not exclusively aimed at those students. We also welcome applicants who are interested in media education – for instance in further or higher education, as well as those who plan to embark on a career in research.

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MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice students at the Hayward Gallery, summer 2015.

So why is LCC the right place to study these subject areas?

There are huge advantages. First of all, the professional industry practice unit is central to our course. Students are encouraged to identify placements or internships that they want to pursue, and obviously London as a creative hub is the ideal place to seek out those kinds of opportunities.

Secondly, our course is one of the more critical and theoretical courses within the LCC portfolio. Setting this course within the LCC context means the students have the opportunity to use all the facilities that we have at LCC, and potentially to collaborate with other students who are pursuing more creatively intense courses. They’re set in this very dynamic environment.

Can you describe some of the career or further study options for students graduating from this course?

There are probably three main routes. Firstly, we have been successful with a number of students who’ve found work via the internships experience that they’ve had. For example this year a student made a contact through our industry speakers series and took up an internship to work on a new fashion blog, and she’ll be continuing to work with this company in the future.

So that’s one route to employment – via the internships or the other activities that the students may come to be involved in as part of the course, meeting industry speakers, networking and so on.

Another possibility of course is that students may go on to further study or research. We have got a number of students who’ve gone on to study for PhDs subsequent to the course, so that’s another option – going into academic research or research for policy organisations, think tanks and NGOs.

And precisely because our course covers both theoretical approaches and creative approaches, there is a third route, which is people pursuing their own creative practice. Filmmakers, for example, who have learned a lot during the course about how to fundraise for their creative practice, models of working and so on, may go on to more creative roles.

So the career and study options range from academic research on media and communications, through to professional roles in the creative industries, through to creative practice.

Your own professional experience will be especially useful to students on this course – can you talk a bit about your past roles?

I am fairly new to LCC – I joined in February 2015 – and I was previously a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Brighton. Before my academic life, I worked in the creative industries myself, with particular focus on film.

I had two roles at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the British Film Institute, working in film distribution and film programming, and so I bring experience and contacts from that world to my leadership of the course. Of course, that’s not just me – a number of my colleagues have interesting and rich experiences of working in the creative industries.

But now I’m an academic and so my expertise now is in critical thinking about media, culture and creativity. My own work at the moment is concerned with the relationship between culture and economy, which feeds directly into the new research-led unit focusing on these themes. The students will get to look at some very contemporary debates – areas that I think aren’t studied on any other course.

To give one example, we look not just at how media functions in capitalist societies, and how media and culture are funded, produced and consumed in a neoliberal, capitalist context, but also: what are the alternatives? What are the other ways that we could organise our economies, our cities, and our societies, and if we did reorganise them, what role would media and culture have?

We look, for example, at a society organised on a more sustainable basis – what some people call a ‘post-growth’ society – what would the role of media be in that context? So we’re trying to get students to think about creative possibilities that might exist beyond the frames of the world that we exist in now.

We’re trying to create change by questioning students’ thinking, rather than just training them to perpetuate the way things are.

It’s about finding other ways of working that are right for them, but that also help them to adopt a responsible, or even ethical, way of working in the creative industries. I think that concern with sustainability is another way that there’s a huge consonance between my course, LCC and UAL.

Read more about MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice

View Rebecca’s staff profile