Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG Module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To encourage critical reflection on the relationship of consumption and consumers to contemporary economies
  • To reflect on a range of concepts and theoretical approaches suitable to understanding economies through the everyday
  • To develop a grounded understanding of everyday economies through field research


  • Work on economies, whilst increasingly heterodox, is still in a zone which has economies in a box, separate from other areas of cultural, social and political life. This is increasingly untenable on a number of levels. Economies increasingly depend on consumption acts to keep them going, witness recession, austerity. Without consumers buying things economies fail to hold together. At same time, the relation of consumption to economies has deepened – through the rise of virtual/digital economies and the emergence of the ‘prosumer’. Consumers don't just stabilise markets by purchasing manufactured goods; rather, they produce them, and are critical to production in certain areas, for example through the recovery of materials from waste via recycling, and in energy markets (e.g. through the take up of solar technologies). There is, therefore, a strong imperative to think hard about the role of consumers in marketisation. This is not just a matter of the prosumer. It is also important to consider how, with the rise of the digital economy and the increased uptake of digital devices, goods flow directly from distribution warehouses to consumers. Not only does this demonstrate the centrality of consumers to the reordering of economic life; it by-passes the infrastructure and investment that has characterised retail capital for generations (high streets, shopping centres, malls). The effects, combined with recession, are increasingly discernible in the retail landscape. Further, the rise of digital technologies has allowed consumers to produce markets from used consumer goods. eBay, Gumtree and p2p exchange sites are just some of the instances of such markets.
  • This module will consider these transformations and examine their implications, conceptually, empirically and geographically, through a research project conducted by students and focused on the NE region. At its heart, the module asks, and hopefully answers, a set of research questions. To what extent are these changes genuinely transformative? Can consumers and households be thought of as an economic engine? To what extent do we need to start thinking in terms of everyday economies? How does working with cultural economy as method enable us to open up a sense of everyday economies?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate the relationship of consumption and consumers to contemporary economies
  • Critically reflect on a range of concepts and theoretical approaches to understanding economies through the everyday
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • Evaluate and apply key concepts and approaches to contemporary problems and issues
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how field research informs conceptual development
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate a variety of oral communication skills, including working effectively in a team, designing a collaborative research project and formal presentation in a conference setting using visual aids
  • Demonstrate a capacity to reflect on the relationships between field research and argumentation that is also grounded in a solid understanding of the research literature
  • Demonstrate an ability to synthesise information and to develop competences regarding argumentation in relation to contemporary issues and problems

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lecture content will introduce key trends, developments and concepts. Lectures will be ‘open format’ to encourage discussion, and will involve group activity. They will enable students to build their knowledge of the fields that underpin the module (consumption, consumers, the everyday, high streets), the empirical context (the NE region) and allow the development of skills relating to critical reading, listening and discussion in a small group setting.
  • Workshops: dedicated to enhancing field research skills, research project design, field work and analysis. They will enable students to use their subject-specific knowledge to identify key areas of focus for researching the everyday in an economic setting (the high street); to develop skills in (participant) observation and cultural economy methods, and to enhance key skills in collaborative conference presentations.
  • Formative assessment involves a research outine that requires students to formulate their plans for researching the everyday in a given high street.
  • The virtual learning environment (module research blog) is a form of formative assessment that requires students to post notes, photographs, videos, interviews etc. It requires students to think about field work as they do it; the fragments generated provide a sense of the everyday as method, and feedback on the blog posts from tutors provides the opportunity for students to generate dialogue over their research materials and emerging analysis. The VLE further enables students to develop the subject-specific skills of relating field research to conceptual development.
  • Summative assessment involves a group-based class conference presentation and an individual field researchreport. Both assessments require students to put their subject-specific knowledge and skills into practice, to produce presentations and reports that draw on field work and cultural economy as method to examine the NE high street as a changing site of everyday economy.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Open-format lectures 5 Varies 2 hours 10
Workshop 4 2 hours 8
Dedicated research project consultation workshops 4 1 hour 4
Class conference (seminar) 1 3 hours 3
Self-guided student fieldwork Varies Varies 5.5 days (8 hrs/day) 44
Student Preparation and Reading 131
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Literature Review Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Literature Review 100%
Component: Individual Research Project Report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual Research Project Report 6xA4 pages (or equivalent) plus supplementary material 100%
Component: Group Conference Presentation Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group Conference Presentation 15 minutes per group 100%

Formative Assessment:

Initial research outline; course research blog.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University