Sharon’s reflections on the First year of Media Psychology at Salford

By Aug.20, 2013

As our first year of Media Psychology MSc comes to a close, I take a moment to reflect on this incredible journey, the lessons learned and the lessons still to learn.

We have been extremely lucky this year: we could not have hoped for a better cohort to start off the MSc Media Psychology course: Cathy, Danielle, Kerstin, Lucy, Mahboubeh, Mike, Stephan and Yasaman all came from very different pathways and brought to the course a variety of experiences, interests and motives which enriched our discussions and activities throughout the year. Working with them has not only made it easy to teach and conduct the various activities, but it also made it fun!

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During the first semester, in ‘Professional, contemporary and ethical issues in Media Psychology’ we have talked about media psychology as an emerging discipline, the ethics and responsibilities connected to research in this field and the contribution Media Psychology, by offering a psychological perspective on the study of the interaction between individuals and media, can offer to gain a better understanding of how our relationship with media changes throughout the lifespan, starting from how children make sense of media and interact with new advances in technology, to the study of audiences and audience engagement, to the study of ‘media effects’, celebrities and social media. This course presented the broad applications of psychology to media, which includes, but it is not limited to, the study of Twitter and Facebook.
At the same time, ‘Research Methods in Media Psychology’ offered us the opportunity to explore different approaches to the psychological study of media: we looked at both quantitative and qualitative approaches to the study of media content and audiences, at experimental approaches to the study of media ‘effects’, at ethnography and quantitative (e.g. eye-tracking) techniques adopted to look at how people interact with media. We looked at various examples of research carried out adopting these techniques and tried to apply them first-hand.
The second semester built on the issues discussed in the previous months by providing more in depth analysis of the various applications of psychology to understanding media, audiences and their interaction.
Thus, in ‘The Psychology of Media Communication’, we looked at how Psychology has contributed to – or can contribute to – the study of journalism, political and health communication, marketing, PR, advertisement and persuasion. We had experts in the various areas coming in and talking about what is already known and what are the challenges in their field which can fruitfully be addressed with a psychological approach.
In ‘The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction, Usability and User experience’, students explored a wide variety of issues and approaches to understanding how humans interact with technology: from cognitive ergonomics, to the study of gaming and immersive environments, usability testing, children’s use of technology and applications of technology to anti-bullying and health campaigning, they have seen how psychology can be a key player in understanding and improving the way people interact with new technologies.
Throughout the year, a series of activities on employability, professional development and skills have been organised. Students have been offered the opportunity to work with industry partners and showcase their work and skills. This resulted in some interesting collaborations and opportunities for internships and work experiences being offered to some of them.
At the same time, some more entertaining activities have been organised: the ‘mediapsych team’ was involved in a series of Twitter chats in which we discussed various topics concerning media psychology together with the UG students attending media psychology at level 6 and other members of the ‘Twittersphere’. We also organised a Cineclub, during which we watched movies which were democratically proposed and selected and then had a roundtable discussion on media psychological constructs and insights exemplified or implied in the movies. These have resulted also in some of us writing blog posts concerning the lessons learned from the experience.
Now our MScs are working hard on their dissertations: the fantastic thing is that most of them have changed their mind about what this would be about (they had to draft a research proposal outlining their project in Semester 1, but they were not required to follow it up as a dissertation project), which to me means that this journey has sparked new interests in them (or, as Professor Bruscaglioni used to teach us in Padova ‘added a new petal to their daisy of possibilities).
And while they do so, I am thinking on where to go from here. I think the next steps we need to make will be
– Making sure the public and future employers have a clearer understanding of what type of contribution a MediaPsych MSc can give. Media Psychology is a very young subject –especially in Europe, and most people don’t know what it is about
– Create a sustainable community of people interested in the subject. I would like to see current and previous students talking, collaborating and growing together as a community, and interacting with other communities around the globe (such as Fielding University’s Media Psychology PhD students).
– Broaden the network of industry partners and collaborations available to our students.

To see what our MSC Students have to say about the course, please see:

Danielle, Stephan & Lucy
Mahboubeh
Kerstin

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