• Class Number 5096
  • Term Code 3260
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr Katie Sutton
    • Dr Bianca Williams
    • Dr Siall Waterbright
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/07/2022
  • Class End Date 28/10/2022
  • Census Date 31/08/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/08/2022
SELT Survey Results

An introduction to the field of cultural studies, this unit progresses through a “circuit of culture”. Using this model, it introduces the key concepts and practices of representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation. Two areas of contemporary culture will be of particular interest to this unit:

(1) issues surrounding advertising, corporate power and globalisation, and
(2) debates about the representation of gender and sexuality in the media and popular culture.

In the first half of the course, students will learn to use semiotics, a method that is widely used by cultural and feminist critics to study how meanings are produced in images and texts. Coupling semiotics with theories of identity, subjectivity, ideology and discourse students will analyse power relationships in popular culture. Students will also become familiar with debates relating to production and consumption. Upon completing the course requirements, students will have experience in applying core methods and theories analytically, and will be able to demonstrate critical reflection on key concepts shared by cultural and gender studies.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. understand the central model for this course: the 'circuit of culture';
  2. master a variety of tools for cultural studies and be able to use them in a concrete study of cultural practices, commodities, images,  and social media campaigns in contemporary culture;
  3. become familiar with developments and current debates within the field of cultural studies in a digital era, particularly issues surrounding; advertising, identity and gender;
  4. improve skills in independent research and in written and oral communication.

Required Resources

In addition to the required reading, the following texts will be useful for clarifying your understanding of concepts and methods and completing assignments:

Du Gay, Paul et al. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman. 2nd ed., California SAGE, 2013. [Hancock TK7881.6.D65 1997]

Williamson, Judith. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. 1978. Marion Boyars, 2002. [Chifley HF5821.W54 2002] [ANU eBook]

Decoding Advertisements is useful for Weeks 3 to 5 and for completing the second assessment, a semiotic analysis. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman (on short loan) introduces the concepts on the Circuit of Culture and shows how to use them to do a cultural analysis. If you are uncertain of how to do a cultural analysis (required for the final essay), this textbook is a good start. Gerard Goggin uses the Circuit to analyse mobile phones in his book, Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life (2006). [Chifley HM851 .G645 2006]

An extensive bibliography of supplementary readings is included on Wattle under each topic. Students should use these for writing their final essay. 

The following texts provide a general introduction to Cultural Studies and material covered in the course. Although they are useful resources, students are not required to purchase them. They are on short loan in the Chifley Library where possible. 

Barker, Chris. The SAGE Dictionary of Cultural Studies. SAGE Publications, 2004.

Barker, Chris, and Emma A. Jane. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 5th ed., SAGE, 2016.

Stokes, Jane. How to Do Media and Cultural Studies. 2nd ed., SAGE Publications, 2012.

Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. Routledge, 2015.

Webb, Jen. Understanding Representation. SAGE Publications, 2009. 

Journals for browsing (this list is by no means exhaustive):

Camera Obscura (feminism, culture and media studies)

Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies ? Critical Methodologies

European Journal of Cultural Studies

Feminist Media Studies

differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies

International Journal of Cultural Studies

Journal of Popular Culture

Media, Culture & Society

Public Culture

Theory, Culture & Society 

Whether you are on campus or studying remotely, there are a variety of online platforms you will use to participate in your study program. These could include videos for lectures and other instruction, two-way video conferencing for interactive learning, email and other messaging tools for communication, interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities, print and/or photo/scan for handwritten work and drawings, and home-based assessment.

ANU outlines recommended student system requirements to ensure you are able to participate fully in your learning. Other information is also available about the various Learning Platforms you may use.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Please Note: The point of feedback in this class is to help students improve their work. Thus, the feedback on the short essay on representation and the semiotic analysis is formative - it aims to build skills. In keeping with this class goal, students are strongly encouraged to go into Wattle and read the feedback on their assignments. If a student submits the short essay on representation but does NOT pick up the feedback, they will NOT be given feedback on the semiotic analysis. There is no point in tutors providing detailed feedback if students do not read it. Tutors can see if students pick up their feedback because an icon of head pops up if the student has accessed the feedback via Wattle. If students do not pick up the feedback on their Semiotic Analysis, they will NOT receive comments on the final essay.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

Excessive Word-Count

A 10% allowance for submitted work, in addition to the figure listed for each assignment is permitted. After that, the CASS Education Committee has stipulated a penalty of 10% be deducted from the grade awarded for the essay. In-text citations and quotations should be included in the final word count. Reference lists at the end of an essay should not contribute to the word count.

Applying for an Extension

Students must apply through the Wattle course site if they wish to ask for an extension of time to submit. Extensions can only be granted in documented cases of illness or genuine personal difficulty. Requests for extensions must be made before the due date; otherwise a late penalty will apply.

College of Arts and Social Sciences Extension Policy:

Extensions will not be granted retrospectively, except in medical emergencies or on the advice of the Access and Inclusion.

Extensions will be granted only for medical conditions, bereavement, other compelling reasons as determined by the course convenor or on the advice of Access and Inclusion. Extensions on medical grounds require a medical certificate.

Extensions will not normally be granted because of conflicts with other study commitments, work commitments, holidays, family gatherings, competing assessment deadlines, sporting commitments or commitments to student organisations.

Even when an extension has been granted, assignments will not normally be accepted beyond the date when assessment on that question/topic has been returned to other students enrolled in the course. If a student is unable to submit assessment by that time, alternative assessment may be set by the course convenor.

For more information, see: http://cass.anu.edu.au/current-students/coursework-policy-and-guidelines/late-submissions-andextensions

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction: Making Sense of Culture
2 Representation, Race and Gender
3 Semiotics: Gender as a Sign System
4 Applied Semiotics: Advertising & Its Mythologies Short paper due Aug 17
5 The Subject: Ideology & Discourse
6 Cultural Identities: Taylor Swift
7 Production of Culture Semiotic Analysis due Sept 12
8 Cultures of Production
9 Consumption
10 Feminism and Popular Culture in a Neoliberal Era
11 Regulation
12 The Circuit of Culture in the 21st Century: Limits and Opportunities Final Essay due Nov 7

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Short Paper on Representation (10%) OR In Class Presentation (10%) 10 % 2, 4
Semiotic Analysis (30%) 30 % 2, 4
Final Essay (50%) 50 % 1, 2, 3, 4
Tutorial participation (10%) 10 % 1, 2, 3, 4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 2, 4

Short Paper on Representation (10%) OR In Class Presentation (10%)

For 10% of course mark, students have a choice of doing either a 500 word paper on Representation, OR an in-class presentation (5 mins) on a topic of their choice. Powerpoints must be submitted in advance of the selected tutorial. Details below.


Due: 17 August, 11 pm

Students will be required to submit a 450-word in response to the following question:

Is the image pictured below a representation? Discuss.

The image for this task will be posted on Wattle.

In answering the question, students should draw on the relevant readings and concepts from the course (e.g. Hall, Mitchell, Webb, etc) to argue whether they regard the image as a representation. Students should define the concept of representation, and explain how meaning is produced.

A works cited list is required. A marking rubric will be posted on Wattle.

Estimated return date: Friday, 1 September (if submitted on time)

Marking Criteria:

Answer – coherent explication of the concept of representation, and how representation produces meaning, supported by course readings

Analysis – considered application of the concept of representation to the image

Structure – clearly and concisely written, in their own words (some quotation is acceptable, but students must explain quotes and paraphrase appropriately)

Referencing – works cited list in which each work is appropriately referenced

Grading Descriptors:

A High Distinction response will demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the concept of representation and ability to use the concept to answer the question, and will be very well-written and presented.

A Distinction response will demonstrate a strong understanding of the concept of representation and an ability to use the concept to answer the question, and will be well-written and presented.

A Credit response will demonstrate a solid understanding of the concept of representation and ability to use the concept to answer the question. There may be some problems (sentence and paragraph structure; spelling and grammar mistakes).

A Pass response will demonstrate a basic understanding of the concept of representation and ability to use the concept to answer the question. A Pass response may have significant writing problems (structure; spelling and grammar mistakes).

A Fail essay will demonstrate misunderstanding of the concept and how to apply it to the image; there will be serious flaws with comprehension, writing and presentation.


Sign up online for the week and topic of their choice.

Students who choose this option are required to give a tutorial presentation (max 5 mins.) once during the semester. The presentation should introduce and explain one of the key concepts from the week’s reading and find an example (e.g. images, YouTube videos, other cultural artefacts) to illustrate how the concept can be applied. A good presentation will end with a question(s) as a means of stimulating class discussion. Students must email or speak with the lecturer at the tutorial THE WEEK BEFORE the presentation to say what reading or concept they will present. Students should submit their powerpoint or presentation materials by midnight the night before the tutorial in which the presentation will be given.

Students may choose to work collaboratively with one other student on the week’s topic, each presenting different aspects and examples, but integrated into a coherent whole. Presentations should be a max of 5 mins if solo; 8-9 mins if working together.

For example, in the week on applied semiotics, one student might explain some of the concepts that Judith Williamson introduces, such as ‘objective correlative’ or ‘product as signified’. Explain what the concepts mean, and find specific examples to illustrate the concepts, and work through them with the class. The other student might explain Barthes’ concept of ‘myth’ as a second-order signifying system, and present an example to explain this concept.

Students will be assessed on the presentation. Only the power point needs to be submitted.

The assessment aims to give students the opportunity to:

1. develop their presentation skills;

2. practice explaining a concept;

3. show how the concept can be applied to particular examples. 

4. share an example of their own choosing with the class

Marking Criteria:

Students will be assessed on the following:

Concept – explanation of the concept(s): was the concept clearly introduced and explained? Did the presentation demonstrate a thorough understanding of the concept?

Example – choice of example(s): was the example or case study appropriate for illustrating the concept? Was the example(s) interesting, innovative, and insightful?

Presentation – delivery of the presentation: was the material presented in an engaging, clear and coherent way? Did the student presenter engage the class effectively, for instance in applying the concept to an example(s)? Were the slides and/or visuals clear and easy to read? 

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 2, 4

Semiotic Analysis (30%)

Due: 12 September, 11 pm

As part of the profession, Cultural Studies scholars regularly provide semiotic readings of representations, particularly advertisements. By breaking down and analysing representations that are usually taken for granted, a semiotic analysis helps to decode the meanings, myths, and ideologies that they construct. This task is designed to help students practice their skills in semiotics. The aim is to use semiotics to analyse how a print advertisement uses signs to produce meanings and mythologies. Students are required to use the appropriate theoretical terminology – i.e., terms from Saussure, Barthes, and Williamson, which have been introduced in lectures and tutorials.

For this assignment, students are required to choose a print advertisement (i.e. an ad from a magazine or newspaper) that you find particularly meaningful (for instance, it is clever, confusing, offensive, or otherwise controversial). Then, using Williamson, Barthes, and Althusser’s semiotic and conceptual terms, analyse the range and composition of signs and sign systems used in the ad to produce its meaning.

How do the semiotic elements construct the ad’s meaning/s?

What is the mythology (or mythologies) the ad produces?

Who is the ad addressed to? Is it a successful ad?

Students will be expected to show knowledge of and ability to use a range of semiotics terms appropriately. No external research outside of course material is required.

A detailed guide to writing this analysis and a marking rubric will be posted on Wattle.

Estimated return date: Friday, 28 September (if submitted on time)

Marking Criteria:

Content – identifies and engages with relevant semiotic terminology;

Answer – a considered argument is made that clearly answers the question;

Analysis – application of the semiotic terminology to the chosen advertisement is original and offers some critical insight;

Structure – clearly and concisely written, in their own words

Referencing – works cited list in which each work is appropriately referenced.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4

Final Essay (50%)

Due: 7 Nov, 11 pm

Students will be required to use the circuit of culture to analyse a cultural practice, object, brand, celebrity, campaign or other relevant case. Case studies can include an advocacy campaign, TV series, food item, clothing, sport, advertising campaign, piece of technology, book or film, or a cultural practice (e.g. Uber, memes, Netflix, Twitter, animal rights, veganism, Instagram, Snapchat) that interests them.

More information on this assignment will be provided by mid-semester break.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4

Tutorial participation (10%)

Your tutorial mark will be based on tutorial preparation and engaged tutorial participation each week in tutorials.

Tutorial Preparation: Weekly Questions

Each week question(s) will be posted on the Wattle Forum. Students are encouraged to answer these questions (100-150 words) and/or respond to or extend another student's answer as a means of preparing for the tutorial and engaging with other class members. You will be awarded .4% for each week you engage in the forum (answer/respond/extend an answer) to a passing standard, to a total of 4% for the semester (out of 10% for tutorial participation). RESPONSES MUST BE RECORDED PRIOR TO THE TUTORIAL; NO CREDIT FOR LATE RESPONSES.

Tutorial Participation:

Students are expected to attend all tutorials and will be assessed on a meaningful contribution to class discussion over the semester. There will be ten tutorials throughout the semester (Weeks 2 to 11, with office hours during tutorial times in week 12). The maximum you can obtain through tutorial participation is .6% per tutorial. To gain additional marks you need to answer the weekly tutorial questions. You can gain .4% for each week you answer a question to a passing standard. If you answered 10 questions and actively engaged in 10 tutorials you could earn 100% for tutorial participation. If you are present but do not engage your mark will be lower.

If students have an unavoidable appointment at the same time as their assigned tutorial, they must make arrangements with their tutor to attend another tutorial. Students who fail to attend any tutorial during any given week should provide a medical certificate (or equivalent) to explain their non-attendance. If students genuinely have to miss a tutorial, they may write an additional 300- word reading summary in lieu of attendance. This must be arranged in advance of the tutorial, not after the tutorial has been missed.

In assessing student participation, the following criteria will be taken into consideration:

  • regular participation in tutorial discussions;
  • demonstration of preparation (i.e. done the reading and thought about it);
  • demonstration of understanding of or engagement with the topic;
  • raising relevant questions, points and challenges; and
  • listening actively and responding to others in a constructive fashion.

Contributing to discussions can be difficult for some students, especially those who have English as a Second Language (ESL), but they are reminded that there are different ways of contributing to tutorial discussion:

  • giving an example to illustrate what someone else has said;
  • agreeing, but adding some suggestions;
  • comparing what has been said to something else;
  • disagreeing—and giving their reasons; and/or
  • asking a question or introducing a new topic.

Listening actively is also part of participation. Students can show that they are participating by looking interested, which means:

looking at the person who is talking;

  • showing by their body language that they belong to the group (e.g. moving their chair to be part of the group, not hiding behind other people, sit forward); and
  • showing reactions to what people are saying in their facial expressions (e.g. nodding, smiling, frowning).

It is important students come prepared for all tutorials. The lecture reflections are designed in part to help students prepare for tutorials. Students can use it as basis for their contributions. If students are someone who does not find it easy to talk in tutorials, they might make it a personal goal to say something each week or ask a question. Students should let their tutor know if there is something the tutor can do to make it easier for them to contribute to tutorial discussions.

This TED Talk discusses how body language shapes success:


Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

If assignments are submitted on time, the course team will endeavour to return them within 2-3 weeks, and well before the next assignment is due.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission of assessment is not permitted in this course. 

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

AsPr Katie Sutton

Research Interests

AsPr Katie Sutton

By Appointment
Dr Bianca Williams
0412 018 770

Research Interests

Dr Bianca Williams

By Appointment
Dr Siall Waterbright

Research Interests

Dr Siall Waterbright

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions