Rhodes>JMS>Student Resources>Journalism and Media Studies Masters

Journalism and Media Studies Masters

Lorenzo  Lynette  Larry  Anthea 

Co-ordinator: Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

Teacher: Prof Lynette Steenveld Teacher: Prof Larry Strelitz Teacher: Prof Anthea Garman

Email: l.dalvit@ru.ac.za

Room: 133

Email: l.steenveld@ru.ac.za

Room: 204

Email: l.strelitz@ru.ac.za

Room: 105

Email: a.garman@ru.ac.za

Room: 231


The Masters in Journalism and Media Studies is a NQF 9 level qualification offerred by the School of Journalism and Media Studies full-time over two calendar years. The MA programme is designed to provide a broad understanding of the field of Journalism and Media Studies and aims to ensure that you graduate with a broad view of the different components that constitute the field. It purposely avoids an approach that focuses on themes related to the media in favour of one that is conceptually based and that provides a sophisticated theoretical understanding of the interrelationships between media and society. This requires that students understand how issues of media content, platforms, production, audience and context are all intricately linked. Thorough research in any one of these areas depends on an understanding of their interrelationship. The School of Journalism and Media studies has a range of specialist knowledge in the broad fields and can supervise across a range of important areas. The MA is weighted at a minimum of 180 credits.

The MA degree can be undertaken in a number of ways:

  1. By thesis only
  2. By coursework and half thesis. This option can be undertaken in two ways:
  • By coursework and thesis
  • By coursework, media production and half thesis (this option is known as the Practice MA).

Students who complete the coursework component are required to complete three core courses, which are

  • Critical Social Theory
  • Critical Media Studies
  • Critical Research Methods

Students also select two optional courses from the elective list. Not all options are available in a given year.

Core Modules

Critical social theory -  Prof Lynette Steenveld

Critical Social Theory offers students an introduction to social theory or frameworks for thinking about how the social world is structured. In other words, it offers various approaches to making sense of the world. As all theory-making arises from particular historical conditions, this course will link key historical ‘moments’ to the kinds of hegemonic theories that arose at particular times, but will focus in particular on ‘theories from the south’ that challenge this hegemonic epistemological (knowledge) framing of the world. The course is oriented towards understanding coloniality, decoloniality and transmodernity as our ‘hegemonic’ framework for understanding our world.

Critical media studies - Prof Larry Strelitz

Critical Media Studies offers an overview of frameworks used to think about the media’s relation to society. It will complement the Critical Social Theory course, showing how particular approaches to the study of media arose at particular times. In particular, it will focus on critical theories of the media, rather than positivist ones, and will include perspectives that take coloniality, decoloniality and transmodernity as given.

Critical research methods - Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

The purpose of this course is to clarify what is required at each of the stages of the research process as well as provide an overview of the key theoretical frameworks (methodology) in social science research and the research methods associated with them. This involves the following processes:

  • The identification of a problem, question or issue worth researching;
  • Selecting an appropriate research design for one’s study;
  • Undertaking the actual research. This involves the collection of relevant data using appropriate research methods;
  • Being cognisant of the ethical principles that guide social science research;
  • Reflecting on and theorising one’s research findings.

Within the context of the Mellon Media and Sociality Project (2018 to 2021), this course will necessarily be framed by a consideration of discussions on what it means to ‘decolonise research’.


Masters elective courses for the third term (3 August to 11 September 2020)

The top four electives are being offered in 2020. Each elective is worth 15 NQF credits, corresponding to approximately 150 hours of work. Honours and Masters students are expected to choose two electives. Students at different levels will attend the same course but will be assessed differently. MA students have the option to substitute the electives with a practical project demonstrating quality media production and theoretical substance (see the course information under JMS Prac Masters 2020).

Digital inequalities in Africa – Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus long-standing inequalities, including digital ones. Scholarly interest on the issue of digital inequalities peaked at the turn of the century, when terms such as "digital divide" gained currency. The initial distinction between ICT haves and have-nots has gradually been replaced by a recognition of a continuum of experiences and the recognition of multiple and intersecting "divides" which transcend geographical boundaries. The Global South, in this case with reference to the digital domain, does not refer to a particular location but to a condition of marginalisation in terms of access, skills and ability to benefit from digital technology. While multiple classifications exist, these three correspond to the established levels of the "divide" in the literature. Consistent with the critical and decolonial approach informing our programme, we will also focus on the negative side. Most scholarly research on ICT in Africa, informed by a technologically determinist orientation, tends to frame ICt problems in terms of deficit (of access, skills or ability). We will explore concerns around privacy, security, dependency, cultural alienation etc, which thus far have been taken into account almost exclusively in Western contexts. The module starts with extensive engagement with a recent and relevant book edited by Mutsvairo and Ragnedda Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa. Students will then be required to contribute with an in-depth exploration of digital inequalities across domains (education, political participation, economic activity, etc) and different dimensions (gender, race, (dis)ability, etc). Particularly in the latter part, there will be ample opportunities for students to shape the course according to their own personal interests.

Economics journalism – Mr Ryan Hancocks

Economics journalism will look to introduce the topics and questions present in today’s society that deal with the role of financial markets, development, equality and policy. The course will enlighten the prospective student as to the use of core subjects and provide a basic understanding of the importance journalism plays in the economic sphere of a developing ‘global’ South Africa. Over the weeks the module will look at specific topics such as:

  • Introduction to economics and the role of media
  • Companies, markets, and banking regulation
  • Globalisation, development, and the economics of inequality
  • Economics, financial, and business news writing

Students will be taken through the key theories that govern global economies and encounter the variety of systems that governments can put into place to deal with the ever-present fight between growth, inflation, and unemployment. Through seminars, we will examine some of the central arguments present in South Africa around wealth and capital accumulation and look to develop a more informed understanding of market complexities in a global era. Specific time will be given to developing an African context of global and local economic forces while developing the student's ability to produce work that is critical and informed.

Students can feel assured that the content and work will be of a practical nature and novice or expert alike, as long as they possess a keen interest in the real forces that govern our daily lives will find benefit from the instruction provided in the module. Be you an aspiring business reporter, future economic analyst, or just a passionate public sphere economic blogger, the tools and theories to better represent yourself and your reader's interests will be provided.

Navigating the post-truth world, mapping propaganda, lies, and conspiracy theories and making sense of evidence in the digital era – Prof Anthea Garman and Dr Alette Schoon

Those who hold power get to tell the stories that come to be believed and written down as ‘history’. An African proverb says that the story of the hunt would be very different if the lion (instead of the hunter) had the historian to recount the experience. We are accustomed to considering facts as non-negotiable, proven and dependable, but all knowledge, all facts, emanate from knowledge systems and from what Foucault called “regimes of truth”. We know that belief systems and knowledge systems have close relationships, that they are deeply imbedded in cultures, that the oppressed tell very different stories from the powerful, and that the average human is very capable of all sorts of cognitive dissonance – we can hold scientific beliefs and religious beliefs in tandem even though we know that these two world views have fundamental collisions with each other.

But such cognitive dissonance has in the digital era reached a point of such extremes that we are now living in a time where people have lost faith in the mainstream media, experts and institutions. The stock in trade of media workers – the facts – have become plastic, mutable, uncertain. We now find ourselves in a social media world where sinister forces use bots to spread conspiracy theories and where trolls and influencers have become more important than facts and evidence. Or is this a totally wrong exaggeration? In this course we look at the ‘post truth’ and its features from both a media and a theoretical perspective. We will help you unpack messages and assess them for yourself. You will do so in terms of theories of epistemology grounded in the philosophical approaches of modernism, post-modernism and critical realism, You then apply these to understand journalistic methods of verification, unpack what we mean by propaganda in the digital age, and consider the spread of conspiracy theories on social media and the psychology that underpins these. We look particularly at the global rise of alt-right media and how it co-opted internet prankster culture of gamers and hackers, how global right wing movements are increasingly aligned with anti-science movements like the anti-vax movement, and finally focus on the conspiracy theories that have emerged around the corona virus pandemic. We conclude by exploring how we understand the notion of truth in visual representations such as memes, photography and documentary film.

Self representation, power and identity – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Images and other kinds of self-representation have become a ubiquitous social phenomenon, enabled by the rapid uptake of mobile phones and social media. Self-representation is nothing new, but contemporary digital methods of self-representation are distinguished from earlier forms by the ease of creation and the ability of the resulting texts to be endlessly replicated, distributed and curated. Like other forms of self-representation, we can understand these practices and texts as ‘techniques of self’ that produce particular forms of identity within a specific social and historical context. This course approaches the practice of self-representation on social media from a critical perspective. Using a post-structuralist and Foucauldian frame, the course examines the ways in which self-representations tie us to particular forms of subjectivity within our specific social and historical locale. In so doing we can critique how self-representations participate in producing – or resisting – the power-relations that characterise digital sociality, and the implications these have for lived social relations within our current milieu.

Afrofuturism and the anthropocene – Prof Anthea Garman and Dr Alette Schoon

Email: a.garman@ru.ac.za

Room 231

Email: a.schoon@ru.ac.za

Room 111

This course will explore representations of nature, technology and the future. It will allow students to raise fundamental questions in terms of what it means to be human and a resident of the earth; and how we conceive of the future and our place in it. The course starts with an exploration of the Anthropocene and a geneology of how we’ve conceptualised nature, while simultaneously de-centring the human experience by exploring animal and cyborg consciousnesses. It then looks at the present reality of living in a high-tech ecologically damaged world. It’s a world of exported e-waste and global big data cooled by megatons of water, slums and smart cities struggling with climate change, where oppressive regimes are powered by intelligent surveillance. We trace the roots of the crisis back to the myth of progress fuelled by colonialism, where colonised people were fed broken promises of a prosperous future if they assimilated into Western modernity, and settler societies were justified as custodians of nature and scientific and technological advancement. We then turn to imagining different futures for our continent, possible transmodernities that challenge neo-colonial power. Finally, to explore the power of speculative thinking for new worlds in which science and technology serve social justice and sustainability, we turn to the artists and dreamers of the Afrofuturist tradition.

Comics and the re-imaging of Africa – Mr Brian Garman

Email: b.garman@ru.ac.za

Room 210

The superhero genre emerged from the United States in the late 1930s as an escapist fantasy that helped readers cope with the misery of the Depression and the anxiety brought about by the rise of fascism in Europe. Today, superheroes are no longer only white men, nor are they confined to America, or even the pages of comic books. Such diversity is necessary given the superhero’s increasingly important role as an “escapist fantasy, cross-generational icon, and aspirational figure” (Burke, 2016). Several short-lived black superheroes emerged between the mid 1940s and mid 1960s, but the first American black superhero that has enjoyed any longevity was the Black Panther who appeared in Marvel’s 1966 Fantastic Four. Since then he and his fictional home country, Wakanda, have become symbolic of the possibilities of a newly imagined Africa. In Southern Africa we have recently seen the emergence of our own African superheroes. Characters such as Razorman from Zimbabwe and South Africa’s first superhero Kwezi are beginning to offer readers alternatives to the standard American superhero fare. But are they that different? In this course, we will look at The latest volume of Black Panther and Kwezi through the lens of Afro-futurism and coloniality/decoloniality to unpick what a re-imagined Africa might look like.

The gangster film in South Africa – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Email: p.a.boshoff@ru.ac.za

Room 109

This introductory film course is informed by critical cultural and postcolonial studies and film theory.  Central to this approach is a concern with identity and the politics of representation across class, race, gender and geographical lines.

Students will be introduced to the formal and stylistic features of film analysis to enable them to read and critically discuss film, specifically the gangster genre. This genre has notably engaged with the themes of class stratification and economic inequities, alongside gender relations, since its inception in Hollywood cinema in the mid twentieth century. The course focus will primarily be on South African films within this genre before and after the political transition – from Mapantsula, to Tsotsi, The Numbers Gang, Hijack Stories and Jerusalema. The intention is to probe the changing social contexts which give rise to these narratives. By studying different films as cultural constructs we are able to consider how they narrate for the audience the fault lines of social inclusion and exclusion in the context of coloniality, and to examine and how shifts in the nature of representation have occurred over recent times. The seminars will be accompanied by a screening programme of two movies a week.

The new information superpowers: are Google and Facebook taking over the world? – Ms Kayla Roux

Email: k.roux@ru.ac.za

Room 227

This course serves as an introduction to a number of key debates in critical digital and social media studies. From informational algorithms and social media surveillance to a new breed of fast-growing multinational corporations, digital and social media have completely revolutionized the way we organize our lives and access information. More specifically, they have introduced formidable and complex new paradigms of power, influence, and control in our lives. Students will examine the relationship between digital technologies and society, interrogating the power relations that characterise digital capitalism, the ways social struggles play out online, and the political economy of new informational superpowers. Students will apply theoretical concepts drawn from critical digital media studies to contemporary case studies such as the free digital labour performed by millions of Facebook users on a daily basis, or the powerful surveillance technology that makes Google products so efficient and effective. 

The pirate’s guide to the internet – Dr Alette Schoon

Email: a.schoon@ru.ac.za

Room 111

This course will help you understand the various elements that underpin the internet across the globe, particularly the material infrastructure that makes notions such as “the cloud” actually work, such as cables, routers and network protocols. Understanding such material infrastructure will provide a precise conceptual vocabulary for revisiting some of the classical literature around the notion of the digital divide. In contrast to the digital divide’s passive construct of the disconnected, the literature on pirate infrastructure considers how various digital platforms for copyright infringement become disruptive spaces for digital access for those living in marginalised postcolonial spaces. We will investigate the history of piracy on the internet, considering platforms such as Napster, torrents, etc. We will also explore how the global open source software movement and the copyleft movement have challenged notions of fair use, access and intellectual property on the internet. Finally we will explore the mobile internet and access for the less-connected. These debates will enable you to understand radical critiques around access to the internet, information and media. This will allow you to produce research around notions of digital inequality and be able to compare different notions of what is meant by “the internet” in different social spaces.

Platform power, communicative capitalism and the future of media and journalism: a Southern perspective – Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

Email: l.dalvit@ru.ac.za


Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and social media surveillance by large multinational corporations such as Google, Facebook, Samsung and Apple, pose substantial theoretical and empirical challenges to contemporary media scholarship. The growing popularity of social media is transforming the ways that some people feel and exert agency and connect and socialize in the world, empowering some while simultaneously excluding others from these digital exchanges and affordances.

Students will examine various approaches to understanding this current era of ‘communicative capitalism’ and the relationship between digital technologies and society, and will interrogate the power relations that underpin digital capitalism and the ways social struggles play out online and in society more generally. Students will apply theoretical concepts drawn from critical digital media studies to contemporary case studies such as the free digital labour performed by millions of Facebook users on a daily basis. Other theoretical perspectives, including New Institutional Economics, Evolutionary economics and Behavioral economics will also be explored.

Self-representation and mobile culture – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Email: p.a.boshoff@ru.ac.za

Room 109

Contemporary culture is in many ways shaped by our mobile phones: what they mean to us, how we integrate them into our everyday routines, and how we use them in a range of ways to communicate with each other - and ourselves. This course looks at the ways we use the mobile phone to represent ourselves online, and what these self-representations mean, both for ourselves and others. I have conceptualised this course as a "service learning" course that looks at self-representation in relation to mobile culture in the local Makhanda setting. This means that we partner with older learners from GADRA and Nombulelo High School to conduct research that has mutual benefits for you and the learners involved. You learn how to conduct a piece of research through engaging with young people about their mobile practices, and they are given the opportunity to develop insights into their own self-representation practices in relation to the demands of contemporary mobile culture.



Last Modified: Tue, 15 Dec 2020 14:33:43 SAST