Media Psychology ‘To Watch’ List

By Nov.07, 2012

Learning takes all shapes and forms.  With a little bit of help from Twitter, we have compiled an interesting list of films, television programmes, documentaries and talks that explore issues relevant to media psychology.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

First up has to be the modern day classic from George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.  The influence of this book can be seen throughout contemporary culture – most of us are familiar with Big Brother and Room 101 right? Published in 1949, Orwell portrays a dystopian view of the future (1984) where Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party (see image below), rebels against Big Brother.  It was later made into a film called 1984 in 1984!

Some might say that Orwell’s vision of the future is not so far from the reality of today, considering modern uses of CCTV and the presence of many “telescreens” in our home environments for example.  Is Big Brother watching you?

Network (1976)

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” shouts Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), a news anchor for the fictional TV network UBS on his way out due to declining ratings.  On his last show, Beale has a massive rant about the state of the world and encourages viewers to get up, stick their heads out of the window and yell “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” too.  They do (see video clip below).  

Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Network has been identified as a film before its time. “Today, Network feels as fresh and vital as it did 36 years ago….It’s because the movie predicts everything about modern media in the 21st Century—from reality TV and YouTube to Glenn Beck and the tabloid news format. And it did so 20 years before the internet even existed” (Jim Edwards, 2012, in Business Insider).

Page One: Inside the New York Times

A fascinating documentary that goes behind the scenes at the New York Times to examine the difficult climate traditional media companies are currently operating within.  The documentary covers the range of contemporary issues impacting on print media such as the disruption of previously well-established advertising models, the influence of wikileaks, and the impact of social media and the participatory web on news.  Released in 2010, Page One illustrates the transformation of the news media industry in the age of digital technology.


A suggestion from SalfordPsych student @totheendandback, iRobot (starring Will Smith) is set in the not too distant future of 2035, in a world where robots do the mundane chores so we humans can get on with the more interesting and important things in life.   The film explores ‘robopsychology’, moral questions around the creation of robots, and the complex interactions between humans and robots.  The inspiration for the film comes from Isaac Asimov’s collection of science fiction stories of the same name first published in the 1950s, which are definitely worth a read too.

Indie Game: The Movie

Released this year, Indie Game: The Movie explores the world of three independent games developers and how they invest so much of themselves to their games.  Wired’s Duncan Geere described the film as being about “the financial and time pressures of making a game, and how incredibly crushing that can be — but also about the differences between their [games developers] respective personalities”.


A recommendation from our very own @coen_sharon, Aprile is a semi-autobiographical film by Nanni Moretti.  Aprile is about the filmmaker who has to deal with Italy’s political situation, his own goals as an artist and becoming a father.  The film is available in Italian with English subtitles.


Fahrenheit 9/11

A Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 delivers a critical insight into the George W Bush administration, the war on terror and the coverage of these events by news media.  Fahrenheit 9/11 ranks as the highest grossing documentary in box office history.


The Net

A 1995 cyber-thriller, in The Net, Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) works as a software engineer from home, using the internet to communicate with others.  As most of her relationships are virtual, there’s no one to verify her identity when all records of her existence are wiped after she gets her hands on a floppy disk (remember those?!) containing information that somebody wants kept secret. 

Another film from the 90s, eXistenZ tells the story of a games developer who has to play her own virtual reality game which uses the body as a power source.  The film revolves around the question of what is real and how we determine our realities. This reality narrative can be seen in many other films such as Tron and Inception.  Can you think of others?

The Social Network

A film about the start up of the social networking site Facebook.  Whether you love or hate Facebook, this film is definitely worth a watch.  In a review of the film, Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw described the film as “an exhilaratingly hyperactive, hyperventilating portrait of an age when Web 2.0 became sexier and more important than politics, art, books – everything.”

A small coincidence perhaps, Mark Zuckerberg was born in 1984!

The Wire (Season 5)

The entire television series of The Wire is great but for media psychological purposes, check out Season 5 in particular.  Season 5 of The Wire focuses on the news media industry, the pressure to write a gripping story and the struggle to keep to the ‘facts’.

The Tribes we Lead

A fantastic TED talk with Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, public speaker, marketer.  He argues that all most of us are trying to do is finding a piece of the status quo that’s itching to be changed and change it.

He points out we are living in a key moment where the way ideas are developed and spread are changing.  Leadership is the key.  Seth argues the web has taken us back to our roots, and that tribes, groups of people who share the same ideas and vision, are the way forward.

An evolving list

We hope you enjoy our list.  If you have any suggestions for our “to watch” list, please leave them in the comments below.

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