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University of Westminster Launches Social Media Research Center

The rise of social media has resulted in millions of users communicating in ways that one never would have thought possible just 10-15 years ago. While users are sharing more than ever about their lives, there is an increased concern regarding privacy and security, particularly how it affects people in their professional lives. While many have tried to study the effects of social media, there have been few programs available for systematic study of the discipline. That is, until now.

The University of Westminster has opened a Center for Social Media Research (CSMR), offering an MA in Social Media studies. The center will accept its first students in September 2013. The research program looks to explore what users think about social media and how it has changed society. Research will examine the cultural, economic, political and social aspects of social media. The center is one of the first in the world, and hopes to attract people who already work in the field of social media research.

Professor David Gauntlett leads the Center for Social Media Research, while Professor Christian Fuchs and Professor Graham Meikle lead the center’s MA program. Fuch’s own work examines how the power structures in society influence, and are influenced by, the rise of social media. Fuchs and his colleague, Daniel Trottier, have been working together on two projects funded by the EU to study privacy, security and surveillance in Europe, and their effects on social media. People have an increasing interest in how social media is changing daily life. Fuchs described the program as “necessary, timely and the right thing to do.”

Because of the complexity and unpredictability of social media, Fuch believes there is no way to predict what it will be like in 5-10 years. Instead of predictions, their program aims to assess how social media is used, what users think about social media, and their experiences with the services. They’re also interested in finding out how the field of research will be impacted by social media.

In the MA program, students will be talking about their experiences in social media by blogging about their course readings, posting videos and sharing photo essays. The center offers a one-year, full-time program, or a part-time program that takes two years to complete. The course features two core modules called Critical Theory of Social Media and Social Media: Creativity, Sharing, Visibility. While the center only offers a master’s level program at present, it may consider a bachelor’s level program in the future. The professors want their students to become experts in using social media, but also in understanding how it is used. The program will have a strong focus on ethics, one of the leading concerns of social media users worldwide.

Entry requirements for the program include a first degree from a recognized university with a GPA equivalent of 3.00; the first degree can be in any discipline. They’re looking for mature students with a professional background that is relevant to social media. High stands of written and spoken English are required, so those who speak English as a second language may be asked to prove their abilities. Interviews are conducted via telephone before an offer of admission is made. The interview is designed to assess the interviewee’s interest and commitment to the study of communication.

The CSMR will officially launch with an international conference, Social Media, in London, on 2-3 September 2013.

It is safe to say that this shows how important social media is becoming in all walks of life. For help developing a winning social media marketing strategy, get in contact with Infintech Designs.

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