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Accreditata MUR con D.M. 02/12/2005
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Comunicazione innovativa, multimediale e digitale, classe L-20

Political, social and cultural history of the contemporary age


Anno accademico: 2021/2022



Crediti: ECT: 6 CFU

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  • Second level professor for the academic field 11/A3 M-STO/04 (Contemporary History)
  • Second level professor for the academic field 11/A4 M-STO/07 (History of Christianity and of Churches)




  • 1/01/2003-30/06/2006: PhD in Contemporary History (University of Florence).
  • 30/092003-15/10/2006: Post-doctorate in Contemporary History at the “Scuola Normale Superiore” (Pisa).
  • 1/03/2008- 31/12/2010: Post-doctorate in Contemporary History at the “l’Istituto Nazionale per la storia del Movimento di Liberazione in Italia” (Milan).
  • 1/01-1/07 2014: Post-doctoral semester in Contemporary History at “Deutsche Historische Institut in Rom”, Rome.
  • 31/01-10/12/2018: Scientific consultancy and didactic support at “Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione, Innovazione e Ricerca Educativa” (Indire). Design, research and implementation of the virtual exhibition “Eighty years after the racial laws of fascism (1938-2018). A didactic journey”.
  • 30 November 2018- Present: External collaboration appointment activated by the University of Pisa within the scientific collaboration agreement between the Tuscany Region and the University of Florence, University of Siena, University for Foreigners of Siena and University of Pisa, for the realisation of a survey on “The new racisms and new forms of discrimination in Tuscany”.

Scientific profile of the teacher

Elena Mazzini is a researcher of Social and Cultural History of the Contemporary Age and the author of several monographs and numerous essays published in Italian and international journals, which over the years have given identity to her career as a scholar attentive to the changes that have taken place at global level in the field of historical and scientific research.

The course is dedicated to the history of the birth and evolution of journalism in the main Western countries. The press phenomenon is investigated starting from the various relationships it has with parallel and contiguous dynamics and factors: the process of modernisation of national societies, the transformations of politics and institutions, the formation of public opinion in the modern sense of the term, the spread of other media, mainly radio, TV and telematic networks.

The inherent relationship between information and mass society in both democratic and dictatorial contexts is one of the central themes that underpin the course.



The course consists of 2 modules and the content is detailed below.

  • Module 1 – Histories of the communication means from the modern to the early contemporary age
  • History of press from its origins to the contemporary age.
  • The role of the journalist.
  • Press and wars of the 20th century.
  • The spread of radio.


  • Module 2 – Transformations and continuity in human communication: evolutions and revolutions
    • The media under European Fascism: propaganda and censorship.
    • The era of television and cinema.
    • The advent of digital.


The course intends to study the interaction between the media and the political and cultural events of Western societies in the contemporary era. In particular, the focus will be on the evolution of the relationship between the media and the formation of public opinion, as well as between the rise of mass society and mass culture.

The course aims to provide the basic outlines of a history of the media from its origins to the present day, and to promote understanding of the central role of the mass media in the dynamics of social history.

In particular, it will deal with the reciprocal interaction between the media and the political and cultural events of Western societies in the contemporary age, with the relationship between the media and public opinion, between the media and mass culture, between the formation of a common discourse within public opinion and the realization of new and ever-changing communication strategies as its central theme.

This will provide suitable orientation and learning tools for understanding the processes that determine communication in contemporary society, considering the role of the press, radio, cinema, television and digital media, in the context of the great transformations that have characterised the 20th century and affected the beginnings of the 21st century.

A. Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge of the two basic concepts of the course: ‘mass media’ and ‘public opinion’.
  • Knowledge of the milestones in the historical process of mass media and their evolution over time.
  • Understanding the relationship between journalism and the formation of public opinion.
  • Understanding of the main communication means of 2.0 and 3.0
  • Understanding the difference between reading a paper newspaper and a digital newspaper.


B. Applied knowledge and understanding

The student will learn how to construct a multiple-choice test by following the suggestions given by the lecturer during the course

C. Autonomy of judgement

The student will be able to understand the methods and tools through which a specific communication strategy is formed according to the expected performance, objectives and specificities of the context.

D. Communication skills

The student will be able to present orally the main historical issues concerning the social history of media and journalism using the specialist language of the field.

E. Learning ability

The student will be able to independently explore the main scientific-methodological questions concerning the social history of current and past media.

A. Use of advanced textbooks, knowledge of some cutting-edge topics within the subject studied.

Students will learn about the currently debated notions of what the new digital tools for historical research are and how they have changed the communication of history in its mass use. The conceptual and categorical framework is based on the theories elaborated by Marshall McLuhan during the second half of the twentieth century and still very relevant today.


B. A professional approach to their work and possession of appropriate skills to devise arguments, support them and solve problems within the subject studied. Ability to collect and interpret data useful for making independent judgements.

The student will be able to acquire new and different skills in writing and critically reading a journalistic source – both from web or paper format – which will be the model on which most of the interactive activities of the course will focus.

C. Ability to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to specialists and non-specialists.

The student will have acquired the essential communicative tools for the formation of a non-generalist but specific discourse on communication and its methodological and linguistic complexities.

D. Ability to undertake further studies with a high degree of autonomy.

Thanks to the course, students will be able to acquire notions, knowledge and critical and methodological tools that will be useful for a possible subsequent course of study related to communication issues in the digital era.


  • 4 hours of recorded video lessons available on the platform.
  • 2 synchronous meetings on the platform.
  • Podcasts of all the above-mentioned video lessons.



  • 2 course orientation forums.
  • 2 thematic in-depth forums.
  • Possibility to carry out work in groups.
  • 2 structured e-activities (as described in the section in itinere assessment methods”).



Teaching materials are provided for each module: in-depth thematic studies, articles and slides by the lecturer, open access readings, online resources, reference bibliography, etc.

  • Allotti, Quarto potere. Giornalismo e giornalisti nell’Italia contemporanea, Rome, Carocci publisher, 2017
  • Gorman, D. McLean, Media e società nel mondo contemporaneo, Bologna, il Mulino, 2011


In order to respond flexibly to the specific needs of each student, the lecturer reserves the right to recommend alternative or additional readings during the lessons and to students who ask for them.

Access to the final examination is subject to the following 2 e-activities:


  • For Module 1

Etivity: multiple-choice test on a thematic topic previously indicated by the lecturer

  1. Problem, inspiration or stimulus provided by the lecturer.
  2. Online activity: students have to carry out an activity related to point a).
  3. Involvement: students have to interact with each other, e.g. by giving feedback.
  4. Summary, evaluation, feedback and analysis made by the lecturer or the working group itself.


  • For Module 2

Etivity: multiple-choice test on a thematic topic previously indicated by the lecturer

  1. Online search for a journalistic source assigned to the groups formed during the course.
  2. Each group will present the chosen source, explaining the reason why they opted for that one .
  3. Comments of the other participants to further develop the discussion of the topic presented.
  4. Final discussion at the end of each online research.

The assessment of learning will take the form of an oral interview on the course contents and on the final report submitted, if any. The grade (min 18, max 30 with possible honours) is determined by the level of performance for each of the following dimensions of the oral interview: mastery of contents, appropriateness of definitions and theoretical references, clarity of argument, command of specialist language.