We’ve wrapped up teaching for the first year of our first cohort of Media Psychology students and I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve enjoyed most. Here’s my top 5:
5. Working at MediaCity UK. Picture this on a Monday morning: Cycling into Salford Quays along the terminus of the historic Manchester Ship Canal, in the distance the lights and glass of MediaCity UK shimmering on the water. Industrial meets digital as I cycle up and over the elegant swing bridge and down onto the concourse where BBC Breakfast (being filmed just above) is broadcast on the large TV screen. The area has truly come to life now and the many producers, researchers, academics and students currently bustling to get to their desks will more than likely be meeting up later in Costa Coffee to explore exciting collaborative projects.
4. Vibrant class discussions. Our discussions of media psychological theories have been brought to life courtesy of the Teletubbies, Dexter, the Blair Witch Project, Simon Cowell, Tracey Beaker and many, many more. Through our ‘media panel interview’ style student presentations, we’ve chewed on whether the internet is dampening our cognitive processes, whether we should limit children’s screen time, and whether we need to be on-line to be full members of society. And we’ve addressed contemporary issues and challenges such as the Leveson Enquiry and the Bailey Report, through to enhancing media engagement with trans-media storytelling.
3. Working with industry. We’ve been delighted with the interest from industry partners who have offered some excellent briefs, giving students the opportunity to develop research proposals on topics ranging from connected second screen, media influences on eating disorders, social media use in healthcare and perceptions of art vs outdoor advertising. I’m really excited to see how these projects develop. Particular mention has to go to the practical activity we undertook with usability firm ‘KeepItUsable’ through which our students gained first-hand experience of conducting user-testing of social networks.
2. Fantastic guest speakers. Part of being based at MediaCity UK is the opportunity to attract some fascinating guest speakers. We have heard useful insights on the role and responsibilities of psychologists working with the media from Dr. Ceri Parsons, a Psychologist who has worked closely with the media herself. The BBC popped over to talk about the role of audience planning and deliver a workshop on engaging audiences. Kirsten Bartlett talked about her views of ethics in both broadcasting and research from her perspective as someone who appeared in media as a child, later worked as a producer, and converted to a career in Psychology. Media lecturer Dr. Kirsty Fairclough gave an absorbing lecture on media representations of the body. Emily Pykett (founder of ‘Socially Dorset’) dazzled with her passion and insight on social media campaigning from a PR perspective. Dr. Lorna McKnight from Lancaster University delivered an excellent practical session on web accessibility. Dr. Marianne Patera took us over to see the virtual reality lab. And Professor Garry Crawford’s session on ethnographic research has left me wanting to abandon my experimental roots…
1. Our students! Taking the top spot, however, has to be the student community. It’s great to have such enthusiasm in our first cohort, bringing diverse academic, professional and cultural experience to the table. They’ve embraced all that’s on offer, attending additional evening lectures, joining impromptu field trips to art galleries, and seeking out work experience opportunities. It’s great to see them establishing their particular expertises in the broad and evolving discipline of Media Psychology and we’re looking forward to seeing where the journey takes them next!