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 medicine, the family, money and reality television, you will explore how social experience is shaped by the material world, and made meaningful through culture. The module is ideal if you have previously studied the social sciences and want to consolidate your understanding of sociology.
What you will study
The module is organised into three blocks that combine sociological study with teaching materials that aim to develop your transferable skills.
Block 1: Passports
This introductory block acts as a taster of the themes and concerns around which the sociological components of the module are structured. Through comparative and historical study you're introduced to how some individuals have been ‘recognised’ and others excluded in different social orders. Key political figures are featured discussing questions of citizenship. You'll see a documentary exploring the passbook regime which helped support apartheid in South Africa. There is also a 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.
Block 2: Security
This 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. The case studies aim to show 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.
Block 3: Attachment
The focus of this block shifts to attachment as the fabric of the social world. Attachments between people and between people and things – are 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. You'll examine how attachments are made, and sometimes broken, by paying careful attention to the emotions and feelings as well as the material and technical arrangements involved. These processes are illustrated in case studies including reality television, marketing and family intimacy.
Block 4: Conduct
In this block, 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, war and extreme situations, all of which are designed to explore how social worlds work and how they sometimes fail.
Block 5: Skills
In this final teaching block, the material aims to develop skills that will help you complete the end-of-module project-based assessment, which are also transferable to a range of different employment settings. You'll be taught how to design a research question, carry out a literature-based research project, and write and give feedback on an academic blog.
This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU 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.
You'll be provided with three printed books and have access to the module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- module materials
- module specific forums
- audio and video content
- assessment guide
- online tutorial access.
You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.
It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.