Crime, Media and Culture

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
09 July 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The relationships between crime and the media have long been the subject of intense debate. In particular, a preoccupation with the supposed harmful effects of popular culture on public morality has been a recurring theme in social commentary since at least the sixteenth century and continues in current concerns around 'video nasties', computer games and internet pornography.

Yet at the same time the media, and popular culture more generally, are fascinated with crime, whether this be as diverse forms of 'entertainment' in such staples as cop shows, crime novels, 'true crime' stories and films or as 'news' in television documentaries, newspaper articles and broadcast bulletins to the extent that maintaining a distinction between 'fact' and 'fiction' is becoming increasingly difficult, not least since the rapid growth in 'Reality TV' over the last decade has further blurred the boundaries between fact, fiction and entertainment.

Criminologists have understood media representations of crime in three distinctive ways. One assesses whether the media through violent depictions of crime causes criminal conduct in real life. A second examines how the news media create moral panics and thereby provokes public fear of crime. The third and more recent development attends to a broader consideration of how crime and punishment have been consumed, imagined and represented in popular culture.

Each of these approaches tackles important issues and will be covered in the half option. However, the tendency in criminology has been to focus on individual media and their specific impacts on particular emotional states (whether this is increased aggression or fear). Criminologists have also often failed to interrogate the way news is consumed in as much detail as the ways it is produced.

Instead, this option offers an account of crime stories in the media that is more interested in their social character: the ways they are produced, circulated and read. In doing so it will also move beyond their symbolic meaning – by emphasising the work such stories perform in the wider social order, how they alter over time, shape political processes and clarify moral boundaries.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To enable students to critically assess contemporary thinking and research on the relationships between crime, media and culture.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students will be expected to be able to:

1. Be familiar with and be able to critically assess debates on violence in the media using contemporary examples;
2. Consider how anxieties over crime are bound up with insecurities generated by changes in economic, moral and social life;
3. Understand how the attractions of certain crime narratives vary according to stratifying principles (such as age, class, ethnicity and gender) and subjective processes.
4. Have a thorough grasp of different approaches to analysing texts;
5. Detailing the diverse forms of criminal narratives found at the cinema, on television, in books and on-line;
6. Grasp the politics of news production and the obstacles that impede open communicative processes;
7. Critically assess the continuing relevance of moral panics in multi-mediated worlds and risk societies.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Most modules in Sociology are divided into lectures of around 50 minutes and a class of around 50 minutes. Some are taught as a 2hr seminar, and others via a 50-minute lecture and 2-hr lab. Please note that you should be spending up to eight hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 32 hours in total for four 30-credit modules). The lectures provide an overview of the substantive debates around the topic of the week, while the classes will give you the opportunity to reflect on your learning and actively engage with your peers to develop your understanding further. The weekly lectures and classes will take place face-to-face. You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes as they provide an opportunity to talk with your class teacher and other students. The classes will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of classes is at the discretion of the teacher.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Criminological reflection    100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Mx Ej-Francis Caris-Hamer, email:
EJ Caris-Hamer
Jane Harper, Student Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052 E-mail:



External examiner

Dr Emily Gray
University of Warwick
Assistant Professor of Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 45 hours, 45 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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