Master Thesis Topics (beta)

Universität Wien

When I said I wanted to go to Tanzania for the Great Football Giveaway, I knew this was going to be in the middle of my last winter term and I knew I’d miss one session of each my classes – including the master thesis seminar of my communication and media science MA. This is basically the last class of the program and is designed to prepare us for conducting the masters research and writing the thesis, give us some exposure to profs (that’s not that common here). However, for a lot of administrative reasons, 4 weeks into the semester we haven’t had a class yet and the first class will be held in a 3-hours session while I’m out there giving out footballs. So instead of me missing the third 1 1/2 hour session, we have until the 7th to deliver a 1-2 pages description of our topic and I won’t be there at the first session held.

Now as always, my problem is that I have more than one rough topic in mind. Some of them are advertising related, some of them are media usage related, some of them are historic and some of them are related to internal organization. So here I am, trying to get to one topic.

1) Use and Reception of (Post-Postmodern-)Advertising

This is basically inspired by Douglas B. Holt and his cultural research into branding and advertising. Holt stated in 2002 that there are 5 contradictions that contribute to the end of postmodern branding and that give rise to brands as citizen artists. He then goes on to hypothesize about a spectrum of brand and media uses that people would resort to. Now this topic is obviously huge, could use some empirical research and might be tackled from a lot of different perspectives but I’m not quite sure which one might be the most interesting and fruitful approach.

Subtopics of this bigger area of interest might be:

  • Building upon my bachelor paper an inquiry into the specifics of reception and usage of recommended/forwarded ads
  • An inquiry into the use of reality aesthetics in marketing communications (everything from user generated content to documentary)

2) Reception and Use of Cross-Platform Narratives (with a focus on gender)

I would have written transmedia here but as it’s the last thing sucked dry by the industry I’d rather stick to cross-platform. I find this topic quite interesting for a while now but it has never been a research focus of mine and it’s never been one of my institute. Still, something that Dan Hon said at TEDxTransmedia re-ignited my interest. He basically asked us to imagine what it would have looked like if Amelie would’ve gotten the “transmedia treatment” just like Heroes, Lost and all the geeky or more “male” franchises. And that prompted me to think about how the realities of cross-plattform narrative use and reception actually looks like, away from industry hype and glory.

3) Play and Abductive Thinking

We all know IDEO and are well-aware of the gameification hype so there’s no need to use a lot of words here. I’ve had a fairly interesting theory seminar about organizational comms last semester and also read a bit into organizational culture, management and organizational thinking styles. I think that play(ful communication) and abductive thinking might be something worth looking into from an empirical and theoretical perspective. But this is still very, very raw.

4) History lessons: Propaganda Theory vs. Planning in a Convergent Culture

Basically a look into historic developments and continuities. I had a very, very interesting lecture about the history and theory of propaganda last semester and have developed a strong interest into the relationship between conceptions of men and theories. Looking at the “perfect product claim”, social media etc I think a theorizing look back in time might be fruitful. But then again that might just be liking to sound smart.

So in case you’ve read this until here, if you’d chip in a thought or two that’d be much appreciated. Does it all sound like BS? Is it relevant or interesting to you? Has it been done before?

14 thoughts on “Master Thesis Topics (beta)”

  1. The link to Douglas Holt's propositions seems broken (technically, that is)

    I didn't even know something like post-postmodernism existed in all earnest, considering that postmodernism was already an extension of modernism that led to a reinterpretation of modernism and what led up to it – up to the point where literary studies discovered that Don Quixote was a postmodern oeuvre (let alone Tristram Shandy).

    In other words: Is a 'beyond postmodernism' thinkable that is neither postmodern nor a modernist atavism? (possibly, but – the link is broken, and if it wasn't, it would probably be too late in the day for me to understand it).

    I reckon the _easiest_ topic would be no. 2, not because it's been sucked dry (meaning literature on the topic should be plentiful), but because it's the one with the most concrete object of analysis.

  2. First of all thank you for the your input. I certainly agree that topics 3 and 4 are still very raw and that topic number two is technically the easiest one to do. On the other hand I don't know if the second one is giving enough interesting and new angles, that haven't been done before a million times, to justify a master thesis.

    I also just fixed the link and was referring to “Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding” (JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Vol. 29, June 2002,…).

    If I understood him correctly, Holt didn't invent something like post-postmodernism but rather extrapolates a new perspective on branding that evolved out of the postmodern branding paradigm, that itself evolved out of what he calles modern branding. I don't feel that comfortable throwing around these terms usually, but while in a larger societal context, this might only be a minor iteration, for brand management it would represent a bigger shift. “Reality” and “creative identity value” in advertising (and its reception) sound interesting to me as a relatively concrete research object.

  3. Actually all the topics sound like they offer a gazillion more props points on the relevance scale than the thesis topics most comms students chose in the past.

    Don't you worry … Youre gonna find sth great and your thoughts seem highly explorable.

    If you want to go for an inspirational talk, u know whom to regurgitate up your plethora of contacts 🙂


  4. @thomas thanks for the link! I could only infer that the post-postmodern stance came from Holt – wrong guess. about to enlighten myself now, thx.

    (EDIT: But the article's opening* does of course trigger my my buzz-alert-o-meter… and race, gender, politics are battles of the past? Hum. Anyhow, proceeding now. Though asking how and why (or if at all) the social web era challenges the ' corporate cool machine' is an angle worthwhile exploring (hopefully not sucked dry yet).

    * “The old political battles that have consumed humankind during most of the twentieth cen- tury—black versus white, Left versus Right, male versus female—will fade into the back- ground. The only battle worth fighting and win- ning, the only one that can set us free, is The People versus The Corporate Cool Machine.”

    EDIT: Note to self: Read beyond first paragraph – THEN COMMENT. Quote above is Kalle Lasn, quoted by Holt.

  5. I like the last one very much but it is still very, very raw and hard to frame into a concrete description of research that I want to carry out. I only know it would have (almost) nothing to do with broadcast vs. dialogue.

    I'd love to get an outline of your thoughts on the propaganda topic but I think tracking it down spanning some 12 comment sections on different blogs will already be pretty hard. Some reading to do before I head of for Tanzania it seems.

  6. I was thinking about writing something that'd frame FIAT money as the biggest experiment in the history of brand equity, but then again they probably wouldn't accept that.

    Do you mean 'information warfare' in a political context or in a commercial ('planning') one? Or more specifically what's your hypothesis? 😉

  7. FIAT money would be an excellent case study but only really capable of traction if provable that it's open to competition. Which it might be but it's a risk. Catch me on Skype and I'll take you through what I mean as it's not entirely thought through though I have a couple of other ideas too.

  8. A bit late but anyway:

    First of all Thomas, interesting subjects all of these. I'm the best or the worst person to judge this, depending on how you see it, as I will decide on what to write for my own media and comms master thesis pretty soon.

    1. Using Holt would be really interesting, I've read that article and it's intriguing. I would look into reality aesthetics. There's surprisingly little written about visual communication that's any good.

    2 is good – I'm thinking myself of writing in terms of cross-platform, but less real media narrative and more brand “narrative”/value co-creation blah blah.

    3 is a bit raw to comment on, but in general of course it's smart to draw on your management/organization studies as this makes your thesis relevant to a lot of people who are not in comms.

    4 sounds very very interesting to me – but I think maybe you should watch it so you don't end up leading a too advanced academic discussion. The rule of thumb is: when I think it's very very interesting, it's too academic for others. 🙂 That is, if you're thinking tactically about your thesis in terms of job seeking. In that case, reception studies are good…

    (About 3. What I WOULD like is for someone to look at the gameification discourse in terms of ideology. It's not as innocent as it looks, I think… but it's not for your thesis of course. Too internal.)

    To summarize, I sort of like everything. Not much of a help, am I.

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