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Making social worlds

In order to survive, human beings live in social worlds which create security, foster stable attachment between individuals and things, and regulate behaviour. This accessible, vocationally relevant module demonstrates how sociological approaches can be applied to make sense of these processes – investigating how they work and how they sometimes fail. Through topics such as immigration, medicine, family, money and reality television, you will explore how social experience is shaped by nature and the material world, and made meaningful through culture and the media. The module is ideal if you have previously studied the social sciences or arts and want to consolidate your understanding of sociology.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module is organised into a number of blocks that combine sociological study with teaching material that aims to develop your transferable skills.

The introductory block, Passports: registering the individual, acts as a taster of the themes and concerns around which the sociological components of the module are structured. Through comparative and historical study the block introduces you to the ways in which some individuals have been ‘recognised’ and others excluded in different social orders. This block features key political figures discussing questions of citizenship, a documentary exploring the passbook regime which helped support apartheid in South Africa, film examining how airports operate, and discussion by leading academics on the use of documents, badges and clothing in controlling movement in early modern Europe.

A second block focuses in greater depth on questions of security. Security is a key component of modern societies. This is not only the case in the heightened climate of ‘the war on terror’, but is also reflected in such things as fear of crime, panics over the risks presented by toxins in food and global panics over disease pandemics. Security is not solely a concern for political science but is crucial to the operation of a range of social and cultural phenomena. The block features a range of case studies designed to explore the role of security in the making of social worlds and stretches from children’s novels to health and disease, urban safety, asylum and immigration. Throughout the case studies the aim is to establish how security operates across different social settings from the psychic to the geo-political; how a sense of security and safety is created out of material practices and through the type of ‘stories’ told in the media and other cultural institutions.

In the third block of sociological study, the focus shifts to attachment. This block is concerned with the ways in which the fabric of the social world – the attachments between people and between people and things – is constantly made and remade through human activity and the interaction between people. In the process of making such attachments, it is not only social worlds that are made but the individuals who inhabit these worlds. The block examines how attachments are made, and sometimes broken, by paying careful attention both to the emotions and feelings as well as the material, technical arrangements involved. These processes are illuminated by a number of case studies including reality television, marketing and family intimacy.

In the final block of sociological study, Conduct, the focus is on how individual behaviour is shaped and regulated in social worlds. This block retains a focus on the material world and the role of culture in ‘mediating’ or making sense of social experience to explore how behaviour is shaped by, among other things, habit, knowledge and example, legislation, advice books and self-help reality television shows. The social processes involved are explored in the context of examples including self-service shopping, personal finance, crime, war and extreme situations, all of which are designed to explore how social worlds work and how they sometimes fail.

The teaching material aims to develop skills that will not only help you complete the module and prepare for the final project-based assessment, but are also transferable to a range of different employment settings.

Vocational relevance

Making social worlds has relevance to a wide range of employment situations including public administration, health and social services, education, business, and other private and public sector organisations. It offers students the opportunity to develop transferable skills, such as the ability to gather, analyse and present written information to audiences, present reasoned arguments, and write reports, and it will help you plan and design your own work.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) is a project that takes the place of an examination. You must also submit your EMA online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End Fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 02/02/2015.

What's included

Study books and website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet during some sections of the module.

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.