Career opportunities in digital media

Career opportunities in digital media

At the centre Digital media companies constantly look for prospective employees with a clear understanding of the social aspects of digital media usage.

Trains make for a perfect site to navigate the digital in our everyday life. While I am writing this piece, the lady sitting in front of me is looking for her digital train ticket on a train ticket app, the gentleman to my right is listening to music from his smartphone while the one to my left is fast WhatsApping. In the meantime, I keep wondering how the signal on this route can be so poor, always undermining my attempt to get things done while commuting to work.

When in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee theorised the World Wide Web as a “social creation [rather] than a technical toy,” he probably did not foresee the extent to which digital technology and information systems would become embedded in our everyday life, making it more or less social, depending on what we mean by
‘social’ now.

Figures tell us part of the story about the digital in our everyday practices: according to the International Telecommunication Union, over 70% of the world’s youth are now online and two-thirds of the world population owns a mobile phone, with half of the handsets being ‘smart’. And yet, more men than women have Internet access in two-thirds of the world. In fact, digital inequalities persist across gender, geography, age and income.

Against this global scenario of digital technology access and use, Internet users are turning into media producers; new business models are emerging; social media campaigns are reframing traditional politics; digital cultures are offering new practices of sharing and participation; data collection and analytics are affecting more and more aspects of our lives.

Digital and social media are at the centre of social, political and cultural dynamics, from public opinion formation to voting behaviour, and on to self-monitoring, campaigning, information and disinformation flow. 

Knowing the digital

The pervasiveness of digital media and the constant production and circulation of data and datafied information make digital practice and theoretical knowledge of digital society issues a priority across a range of careers. Postgraduate taught courses that focus on digital media and society span across sociology and media and communication fields, exploring the factors that lead to digital technological transformations and the challenges and opportunities that such transformations present. They enable students to develop specialist knowledge in and critical understanding of areas such as Internet freedom and governance, privacy and surveillance, digital citizenship, digital divide and digital rights, social media, big data, algorithmic bias, digital culture and the creative industries. They equip students with advanced skills in ways of thinking about digital society, in digital production practices and in a variety of methods to develop empirical research projects focused on digital society issues. Digital methods in particular, or the range of techniques used to scrape and mine digital media content using a variety of tools, is a key taught element in the most postgraduate courses. 

Applicants to an MA in Digital Media and Society are generally expected to have an honours degree in a relevant discipline; the course is ideal for graduates from social sciences and humanities degrees like Communication, Media Arts, Media Studies, Digital Media, Economics, Education, Geography, International Relations, Journalism, Law, Management, Philosophy, Politics, Language and Literature.

Digital media companies constantly look for prospective employees with a clear understanding of the social aspects of digital media usage, who are able to think critically and creatively about the digital media landscape. There is also a growing demand within policy and other fields for individuals with the advanced understanding of the ethical issues which emerge in the complex and ever-evolving scenario of social media terms of service intertwining with national and regional data privacy regulations.

Overall, depending on the curriculum pathways that students choose, these courses prepare them to become:

Professionals in digital media production within both the news and the creative industries: they may work, for instance, in the areas of web design, app prototyping or social media content management. 

Public servants working in the areas of information governance and public policy. 

Experts in social media advocacy and campaigning, focusing on the digital aspects of campaigning and fundraising.

Management consultants helping organisations through the analysis of their internal and external digital media and communication needs. 

Researchers who investigate digital uses and practices via a combination of qualitative, quantitative and digitally native techniques.

(The author is with University of Sheffield, UK)