Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

Lectures and tutorial group discussions with a viewing and analysis of selected videos and reports of surveys.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Screen-based media, especially the smartphone, is a gateway to global cultures and communities. The small screen is inhabited by personal, corporate and political interests, and is also a melting pot of traditional and emergent content and production practices. There is a need for graduates in this space who bring a critical and ethical lens to bear upon their own work and the diversity of potential meanings that circulate with it, both locally and abroad.


MEDA101 traverses a century of milestones in the evolution of mass media and introduces key theorists who either worried about or celebrated those developments. A single unit cannot entertain them all, and emphasis is given to theories seeking to explain the media’s role in social organisation, and meaning-making. Our exploration is guided by several questions, most notably: what does the media look like from this vantage point, if I think/feel/believe in this way? How does this theory help me to frame and discuss contemporary issues, such as the spreading of ‘fake news’ or the marginalisation of particular groups or subcultures?


It is hoped that each theoretical encounter will provide new tools in the analytic tool kit necessary to answer these questions and to critique the methods taught subsequently within the ACU media sequence.


The aim of MEDA101 to encourage you to critically reflect on your own values and beliefs, and the role that mediated representation has played in establishing and maintaining them: to what extent do we shape the media, and to what extent does it shape us?

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and discuss the major traditions in media analysis and outline the value of each approach (GA3, GA6, GA7);

LO2 - Discuss the roles media communication play in the organisation and control of human society and, especially, in Western democratic societies (GA2, GA3, GA5, GA7);

LO3 - Analyse the power of myth in the construction of media narratives (GA4, GA6, GA8);

LO4 - Analyse the processes involved in the construction of meaning in established and emerging media (GA2, GA4, GA7, GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

This unit examines human symbolic communication from the emergence of mass communication technologies in the 19th century to the public-private spaces of social media. Empirical and cultural approaches to the investigation of mass media will be explored in the context of their origins in North America and Europe. The unit will focus particularly on the ideological mechanisms through which media are able to construct realities as normal, natural, or ‘just the way things are’.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

MEDA101 is a cornerstone theory unit in the ACU media sequence. We assume that you will be active consumers of media products and platforms, but we do not assume prior knowledge of media theory. MEDA101 will introduce the thinkers who have debated the role of media in society, and will use their ideas as lenses upon contemporary issues. ACU media graduates have gone on to complete higher degree film and television studies, and many find employment within the corporate and not-for-profit sectors in a content creation or advisory capacity. With this in mind, MEDA101 prioritises media theories that can be applied in both practical and scholarly contexts.


The unit is delivered as a 1-hour lecture, followed by a 2-hour tutorial. Lectures, tutorials and assessments are sequenced in accordance with constructivist principles, to guide you from simple formative tasks, completed predominantly within tutorials, to more complex summative tasks that invite you to apply media theory to an area of personal interest.


Lectures are media-rich, and structured so as to tell two nested stories over 12 weeks: an intellectual story told through encounters with influential thinkers, and an industrial story about the development of media across a century of new technologies and platforms. The parallel narrative will encourage you to engage with theories on their own terms, situated at particular times and in particular places; to connect theory with practice. This is reinforced through assessment tasks that are timed to emerge just as the theoretical support needed to complete them is explored in lectures.


The union of theory and practice is further encouraged in tutorials. Wherever possible, tutorials simulate real-world problems that are approachable via application of the ideas investigated in the preceding lecture. It is hoped that this strategy will encourage you to consider theories as tools in a tool kit, ready for use at a future juncture.

Assessment strategy and rationale

You will be invited to develop your skills through analytic tasks of increasing complexity that require you to engage with contemporary media outputs, audiences and production contexts. A range of assessment procedures will be used that combine to meet the learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit, consistent with University assessment requirements.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

In-class analysis: Tutorial assignments/presentations/quizzes

The in-class analysis will introduce you to foundational techniques of textual analysis needed for subsequent work completed in MEDA101.


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA3, GA5, GA6, GA7

Ideological Analysis: Analytic/research essays

This task focuses your evolving analytic skills on the topic of ideology, which is a body of theory we use to talk about the intervention of power in representation.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8

Media research project: Photographic blogs/online portfolios

 The media research project is a summative task that encourages you to draw upon the theoretical frameworks explored in MEDA101 to interrogate a contemporary media practice or output.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

Alia, V 2012, New Media Nation: Indigenous Peoples and Global Communication, Berghahn Books, Oxford.

Baran, S & Davis, D 2021, Mass Communication Theory: foundations, ferment, future, 8th ed., Oxford University Press, New York.

Berger, A 2019, Media analysis techniques, 6th edn, Sage, California.

Cunningham, S & Turnbull, S (eds.) 2014, The media & communications in Australia, 4th edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest.

Hodkinson, P 2017, Media Culture and Society, 2nd edn., SAGE, London.

McQuail, D 2010, McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, 6th edn, SAGE, London.

O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J, Casey S 2016, Media and Society, 6th edn., Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Paxson, P 2018, Mass Communications and Media Studies, Bloomsbury Academic.

Pavlik, J & McIntosh, S 2019, Converging Media: a new introduction to mass communication, 6th edn., Oxford University Press, New York.

Sparks, G 2013, Media Effects Research, 4th edn, Wadsworth, Boston.

Sullivan, J 2020, Media Audiences: effects, users, institutions, and power, 2nd edn., SAGE, Thousand Oaks.

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