Text of Media Theory - Audience Representation Narrative Genre
John HartleyHis best-selling book, Reading Television published
inin 1978 andco-authored with John Fiske, was the first to analyse television from a cultural perspective, and is considered a defining publication in the field.
This work also established Hartley as a pioneer and international leader in contemporary television and cultural studies.
The Hartley Classification
There are 7 socially grouped categories when it comes to identifying audience:
• Self – ambitions or interests of the audience
• Age Group
• Class – different social classes e.g. working, upper etc.
Hartley also suggests that institutions produce:
“Invisible fictions of the audience which allow the institutions to get a sense of who they must enter into
In other words, they must know their audience to be able to target them effectively.
The Nationwide Project
• Morley is primarily known as being one of the principal researchers at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham
• The ‘Nationwide Project’ was a research task which looked at the BBC’s current affairs show Nationwide in order to study the encoding-decoding model
• The primary aim was to analyse “the programme'sdistinctive ideological themes and the particular ways in which Nationwide addressed the viewer”
The Nationwide Project
• Morley conducted qualitative research with a wide range of participants from different backgrounds, observing their responses to a clip from the show
• Of the three readings (dominant, oppositional, negotiated), management groups produced dominant readings, students negotiated readings and trade union groups produced oppositional readings
• Morley concluded that decoding cannot be traced solely to socioeconomic position, as members of the same sample produced different readings
• However, the results tend to correlate with the concept that an audience member’s social position structures their understanding and decoding of television programmes
The idea of audience is changing…
• Julian McDougall (2009) suggests that in the online age it is getting harder to conceive a media audience as a stable, identifiable group. Many argue that an audience is just a hypothetical group of people imagined for the sole purpose having a target for a media product.
IenAng• IenAng, a leading professor of
Cultural Studies believes “audiences only exist as an imaginary entity, an abstraction, constructed from the vantage point of the institution, in the interest of the institution”.
• She follows the belief that are not truly reflective of people’s views and serve only to aid producers
Julian McDougall (2009)
• He is often controversial, McDougall explores issues in education, and calls on educators to abandon prejudices and engage with what students are already actually doing with new media forms. He advocates a shift away from students viewing cultural products as texts to a view where even video games need analysis, explanation and research. In this way, he is very much an advocate of exploring new and less traditional forms of literacy, as well as analysing the relationship between new media and postmodern theories
• He believes it is harder to perceive a media audience as a stable, identifiable group in the online age.
• However, audiences still make sense of and give meaning to products.
Julian McDougall Often provocative and controversial, McDougall explores issues in education, and calls on
educators to abandon their prejudices and engage with what students are already actually doing with new media forms. Building on work from David Buckingham, Steven Johnson and David Gauntlett, he advocates a shift away from students viewing cultural products as texts to a view where even video games need analysis, explanation and research.
In this way, he is very much an advocate of exploring new and less traditional forms of literacy, as well as analysing the relationship between new media and postmodern theories,
Audiences ‡ Julian McDougall (2009) suggests that in the online age it is getting harder to conceive a media audience as a stable, identifiable group. ‡
However audiences still clearly make sense and give meaning to cultural products. ‡
An audience can be described as a temporary collective (McQuail, 1972). ‡ Key terms: Mass / Niche & Mainstream / Alternative
• “institutions are obliged to speak not only about an audience, but crucially, for them, to talk to one as well; they need not only to represent audiences but to enter in to relation with them”
• Also suggests institutions should produce “invisible fictions of the audience which allow the institutions to get a sense of who they must enter into relations with”
• Therefore, the institutions must know their audience, in order to target them effectively.
• Audiences still make sense and give meaning to cultural products.
• Audiences are necessary for media products to work as without a a demographic to aim at (however niche or mainstream) it would not be received by anyone.
Hypodermic Needle Theory
• The Hypodermic Needle Theory, also known as the Magic Bullet Theory, was the first major theory concerning the effect of the mass media on society. Originating in the 1920s, the theory was based on the premise of an all-powerful media with uniform and direct effects on the viewer or audience. (i.e. information is injected into audiences)
Blumler and KatzUses and Gratifications Theory
• The Gratifications Theory assumes we actively seek out media to satisfy individual needs. The uses and gratifications theory looks to answer three questions:
• What to do people do with the media?• What are their underlying motives for using
said media?• What are the pros cons of this this individual
Uses and Gratifications
The Blumler and Katz theory is the understanding of what the audience does for the media not what the media does for the audience. It is the integration that the audience does for the media that helps sales, for example buying of the product.
The uses and gratifications theory follows a simple model, the audience takes an active role on their media choice, which by seeking out the media, a person fulfils the need to be informed:(1) Diversion - Escape from routine and problems; emotional release. Escapism. (2) Personal Relationships - Social utility of information in conversation; substitution of media for companionship. (3) Personal Identity or Individual Psychology - Value reinforcement or reassurance; self-understanding, reality exploration. (4) Surveillance - Information about factors which might affect one, or will help one do or accomplish something.
Reception Theory — Presentation Transcript
1. David Phillips Reception theory
2. Reception Theory Understanding the early theory of reception of text.
3. Some early thoughts Reception theory is a version of reader response literary theory that emphasizes the reader's reception of a literary text.
4. In essence, the meaning of a text is not inherent within the text itself, but is created within the relationship between the text and the reader.
5. What do we interpret from a message Stuart Hall stressed the role of social positioning in the interpretation of mass media texts by different social groups. In a model deriving from Frank Parkin's 'meaning systems', Hall suggested three hypothetical interpretative codes or positions for the reader of a text.
6. Reception models Dominant (or 'hegemonic') reading: the reader fully shares the text's code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may not have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the author(s)) - in such a stance the code seems 'natural' and 'transparent';
Negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text's code and broadly accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists and modifies it in a way which reflects their own position, experiences and interests (local and personal conditions may be seen as exceptions to the general rule) - this position involves contradictions;
Oppositional ('counter-hegemonic') reading: the reader, whose social situation places them in a directly oppositional relation to the dominant code, understands the preferred reading but does not share the text's code and rejects this reading, bringing to bear an alternative frame of reference (radical, feminist etc.) (e.g. when watching a television broadcast produced on behalf of a political party they normally vote against).
7. Uses and Gratification The basic theme of Uses and Gratifications is the idea that people use the media to get specific gratifications. This is in opposition to the Hypodermic Needle model that claims consumers have no say in how the media influences them. 8. Uses and Gratification - people play and active role.... Jay G. Blumler and Elihu Katz devised their uses and gratifications model in 1974 to highlight five areas of gratification in media texts for audiences. These include: Escape — Some media texts allow the user to escape from reality. Social interaction — People create personal relationships with the characters in a media text. Identify — People often identify a part of themselves in a media text, either through character or circumstance. Inform and educate — the audience gain an understanding of the world around them by consuming a media text, for example print and broadcast news. Entertain - consumed purely for entertainment purposes, meaning that text need not have any other gratifications.
9. Shared experience the basis for this hypothesis, that it is the sharing of subjective experience that is the fundamental element that underlies attachment drive and behavior, requires an examination of the very basis and context of our living experience.
10. The role of role models Fashion Celebrity WoM Association Sense of group and belonging Makes reception easy in social context
11. Evidence of the influence of mass media A single story has little effect Need for context Need for repetition All publicity is good publicity? Is this how propaganda works? David Fan says a free press is a defense against – but not complete.
By Matthew Allard
• How the media shows us things about society through careful mediation of re-presenting a shared view of the world
In our modern world our life is saturated with visual representations
What do these images signify?
What do these images signify?Consider:ClothingPropsGesture
What do these images signify?
Consider:CostumePropsDifferences in clothing and positioning
How to apply theory in your writing and use the theorists
• Assume your reader knows about the theory/theorist• Don’t explain the theory; use it• A Todorovian analysis would argue...• Steve Neale’s statements that Genre is ‘made up of
repetition and change’ could be useful here because...
• Barthes’ notion of action codes provides a useful way of understanding the film in that...
Ferdinand de Saussure - Semiotics
• Meaning is constructed through the interpretation of signs.– Signifier = the physical/visual object i.e. A knife– Signified = the meaning it creates i.e. Threat,
aggression, violence/self-defence and protection• Representations are created through signs which signify
meaning. Like the knife, signs can have more than one meaning leading to a polysemic reading of signs
Look over your images again• Can you apply Saussure’s semiotics to
polysemic representations of the visual signs in the frames?
List the characters in your films
• Who are they?
• What roles do they have in the narrative?
• Stereotype (first used as a term by Walter Lippmann in 1956)
• Has come to be defined as a negative representation or over-simplification of a category of people in a group
• Dyer explains that stereotypes reinforce ideas of differences between people which are natural – i.e. Criminals are represented as low-lifes, untrustworthy...
Counter argument – Tessa Perkins (1979)
• Stereotypes are not always negative
• Are not always about minority groups
• Stereotypes are not always false
• Apply this to your characters in your films – E.g. What social group(s) do your characters belong
to? How is this made clear? – What age group do your characters belong to (e.g.
Nervous, unsure teenagers...)
Counter Argument – David Gauntlett and Martin Barker
• Identities are not given but are constructed and negotiated (Gauntlett)
• Martin Barker condemned stereotypes for mis-representing the real world by reinforcing false stereotypes
• Postmodern theorist
• Argues that representations no longer refer to reality or real things
• The representation has become more real to us than the reality – i.e. The representation of mob bosses as Italian Mafia men instilled through The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Sopranos
• This is re-presentation of reality is termed a simulacrum – a copy of reality
• For Baudrillard, these images have become hyperreal – have no relationship to the real. CSI and Silent Witness as examples of forensic science investigations that through their popularity seem to typify our perception of what that reality is like
• Pick one of the characters from either your film or another group’s.
• Create a profile about them– Motivation– Who they represent – What they represent
• Where did you get your inspirations for your characters? From reality or from media representations on film and television?
• Are they, therefore, arguably a simulacrum of reality?
Insert narrative ingredients game
Theorists you need to know (and love)
• Tzvetan Todorov (Structure of narrative)
• Vladimir Propp (Characters in narratives)
• Roland Barthes (Codes of narratives)
• Claude Levi-Strauss (Binary oppositions)
Plot vs. Narrative• Plot = the chronological events of a story.
E.g. The story of Titanic begins when people board a really big boat and it ends with the peaceful death of the old lady (Rose).
• Narrative = the organisation of this story. E.g. The film of Titanic begins in the present with the old lady relaying her story before the film has prolonged flashbacks to the past
Types of Narrative Structure
StructurePlace these narrative events in
• Detective investigates
• Crime conceived
• Crime discovered
• Detective identifies crime
• Crime committed
• Crime planned
StructureThe plot of this story:
• Crime conceived
• Crime planned
• Crime committed
• Crime discovered
• Detective identifies crime
• Detective investigates
ProppStudied Russian folktales and created a list of distinguishable
character typologies (categories) including:• The hero (sent on a quest)• The villain (struggles against hero)• The princess/prize (what the hero
seeks in completing the quest)• The donor (gives vital information
or object to hero)• The helper (aids in the quest)
Applying Propp to The Shining
Wendy Mr Grady Dick
Applying Propp to Memento ?
Murderer Leonard’s Wife
Propp’s eight character roles and how they can be applied to the shining.
The villain— struggles against the hero- In the shining this character type could be considered to be either Jack as he gets possessed and tries to kill his family or the hotel as this is what possesses him.
The dispatcher—character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off- This character type can not be related to The Shining
The helper — helps the hero in the quest- In the shining the helper could be the character Dick as he does help Danny at some stages throughout the film and Danny could be seen as one of the heroes.. However, this does not directly relate.
The princess or prize — the hero deserves her throughout the story but is unable to marry her because of an unfair evil, usually because of the villain. the hero's journey is often ended when he marries the princess, thereby beating the villain- In the shining the princess or prize would be the main female protagonist Wendy as she is the only female character; the former husband Jack deserves her but as he comes possessed he no longer deserves her. The prize could be the character Danny.
The donor —prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object- The donor in The Shining could be the character Dick as he enabled Danny to use his power by making him aware of it.
The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess- The hero in The Shining could either be Danny or Wendy as they both survive until the end.
False hero — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess- The false hero could either be Jack as he pretends to be someone he is not or it could be Dick.
To some extent, Propp's eight character types do relate to the film The Shining. However, not all of them can be connected such as; the dispatcher and the father.
Bordwell and Thompson
Bordwell and Thompson never did come up with a complete narrative theory, they did however come up with some interesting ideas. They believed that chain of events within a media form cause effects on a relationship occurring in time and space and the narrative shapes this material in terms of time space such as; where and when things take place. This can be portrayed through using effects to show the time and space by using flash backs, forwarding time, slow motion and speeding up.
This theory is evident within The shining. We see the character Jack having flashbacks from past events and we see Danny seeing things in the future due to his power. Inter titles are used frequently within the movie showing which day it is connoting the high impact of the time in this film.
Claude Levi Strauss
Claude Levi- Strauss looked at narrative structure in terms of " Binary oppositions" focusing on the different sets of opposite values which reveal the structure of the media texts. His narrative theory is different compared to other theorists as he focused more on the arrangement of themes rather than the order of a media text.
Examples of these binary oppositions could be :Earth – spaceGood – badPast- Present Normal- abnormalHumans- AliensKnown- UnknownDead- AliveHappy- sadWeak- strong
These binary oppositions can be applied to the film The Shining in several ways. They moved to an Isolated place when they were used to living in a civilised area. The character Jack’s sanctity changed as he became insane. Another example of these binary oppositions could be the character Wendy; she appeared weak at the beginning of the film but then became a much stronger character at the end. Lastly Danny appeared to be a normal boy at the beginning but he soon realised, with Dick’s guidance that he had a power.
Todorov was a Bulgarian linguist who produced and published influential narrative theory work from the 1960’s onwards. His theory suggested that stories begin with an equilibrium where any opposing force are in balance. This equilibrium is then disrupted by an event which leads to a series of other events leading to the stereotypical end of all major events being restored.
Todorov’s narrative theory can be applied to The Shining as the film begins normally – the family moving away. A change in equilibrium then occurs- Jack slowly becoming mental and then the enigma is then resolved at the end as Jack dies and Wendy and Danny escape unharmed.
BarthesBarthes describes narrative as a series of codes that are read and
interpreted by the audienceBarthes describes narrative as a series of codes that are read and
interpreted by the audience
Barthes’ 5 CodesAction Code: something the audience knows and doesn't need explaining e.g. someone being wheeled out on a stretcher tells us they are going to hospital
Enigma Code:something hidden from the audience (creates intrigue)
Semic Code:something that the audience recognize through connotations
Symbolic Code:Something that symbolizes a more abstract concept e.g. a darker than usual room of a murder scene could symbolize the depth of darkness and depravity
Cultural Code:Something that is read with understanding due to cultural awareness (e.g. youth culture use certain words that are understood by that culture)
TODOROVTodorov describes narrative as going from equilibrium to
disequilibrium back to an altered equilibrium Todorov describes narrative as going from equilibrium to
disequilibrium back to an altered equilibrium
Standard 3-point narrative.
More detailed 5-point narrative
TODOROVEquilibrium: (sets the scene)Everyday Life
Disruption: (complication)Something happens to alter the equilibrium
Conflict: (climax)Trying to solve the problem (seek resolution)
Resolution:Problem is sorted
New Equilibrium: (satisfactory end)Back to normal (but never the same)- a new normal
LEVI-STRAUSSLevi-Strauss describes narrative as created by constant
conflict of binary oppositesLevi-Strauss describes narrative as created by constant
“Star Wars” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” “Avatar” “District 9”“Once Upon a Time in the West”“Slumdog Millionaire” “Apocalypse Now”“Sherlock Holmes”“Vertigo”
Complex narrative structure
Today’s narratives have become increasingly complex as producers know that audiences have a greater sense of media literacy when it comes to making meaning of the text and reading the signs. There are often numerous plot twists and surprises that keep the audience intrigued with carefully spun storylines.Films such as “Memento” (Nolan,2000) which weaves the story in reverse gives the audience a similar experience to the protagonist who has short term memory loss, as they try and fit the clues together through the use of restricted narrative.
Unrestricted Narrative: What the are assumed to know e.g. thriller there will be a crime so they will be expecting it
Restricted Narrative: The information that is withheld from the audience
http://quizlet.com/4162490/narrative-theorists-flash-cards/Now test your knowledge:
Genre TheoryDaniel Chandler: Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the notion that they constitute particular conventions of content (such as themes or settings - iconography) and/or form (including structure and style) which are shared by the texts which are regarded as belonging to them.
The Shining could be read according to this theory as conventionally, thrillers will seek to
place protagonists in an isolated location – The
This convention is emphasised in the film’s climax when Jack pursues his wife into a bathroom
where she cannot escape. Pursuit of an innocent victim as another
thematic convention (cf. North by
Northwest, Cape Fear)
Mori, The Tunnel, Blunt Trauma
• Think carefully about your own films and the one you have studied for today’s lesson
Themes and Iconography(plot info/props/characters...)
Structure and Style (camerawork and editing)
Rick Altman argues that genres are usually defined in terms of media language (SEMANTIC elements) and codes (in the Thriller, for example: guns, urban landscape, victims, stalkers, menaced women or even stars, like James Stewart or Jack Nicholson) or certain ideologies and narratives (SYNTACTIC elements – Anxiety, tension, menacing situation)
Jonathan Culler (1978) – generic conventions exist to establish a contract between creator and reader so as to make certain expectations operative, allowing compliance and deviation from the accepted modes of intelligibility. Acts of communication are rendered intelligible only within the context of a shared conventional framework of expression.
Tom Ryall (1998) sees this framework provided by the generic system; therefore, genre becomes a cognitive repository of images, sounds, stories, characters, and expectations
Traditional Genre Theorists
Tom Ryall (1978) – Genre provides a framework of structuring rules, in the shape of patterns/forms/styles/structures, which act as a form of ‘supervision’ over the work of production of filmmakers and the work of reading by the audience.
John Fiske defines genres as ‘attempts to structure some order into the wide range of texts and meanings that circulate in our culture for the convenience of both producers and audiences.’
Steve Neale (1990) argues that Hollywood’s generic regime performs two inter-related functions: i) to guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset the considerable economic risks of industrial film production by providing cognitive collateral against innovation and difference.
Dial M For Murder
It is easy to underplay the differences within a genre. Steve Neale declares that 'genres are instances of repetition and difference' (Neale 1980, 48). He adds that 'difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre': mere repetition would not attract an audience.
Memento is a conventional thriller in
terms of plot – Protagonist seeks revenge
against his wife’s murderer. Yet the
narrative style creates the generic
divergence in being told backwards
Texts often exhibit the conventions of more than one genre. John Hartley notes that 'the same text can belong to different genres in different countries or times' (O'Sullivan et al. 1994). E.g. Alien as bearing the iconography of a Science Fiction film (setting, props, characters), but the stylistic approach of a Horror – Extreme close-ups and heavy use of low-key lighting to unsettle audience
Your own films
• Can you apply Steve Neale’s theory to your own films?
• Have you challenged the conventional thriller genre at all by adding subtle differences in character, plot, setting etc...
• Or are you conforming to genre by following expected conventions in style and iconography? (David Chandler’s theory)
Traditionally, genres (particularly literary genres) tended to be regarded as fixed forms, but contemporary theory emphasizes that both their forms and functions are dynamic. David Buckingham argues that 'genre is not... simply "given" by the culture: rather, it is in a constant process of negotiation and change' (Buckingham 1993).
Buckingham’s argument therefore would compare nicely to Steve Neale to add a further theoretical approach to your response
Daniel Chandler: Every genre positions those who participate in a text of that kind: as interviewer or interviewee, as listener or storyteller, as a reader or a writer, as a person interested in political matters, as someone to be instructed or as someone who instructs; each of these positionings implies different possibilities for response and for action. Each written text provides a 'reading position' for readers, a position constructed by the writer for the 'ideal reader' of the text. (Kress 1988,)
Thus, embedded within texts are assumptions about the 'ideal reader', including their attitudes towards the subject matter and often their class, age, gender and ethnicity.
Contemporary Genre Theorists
'Uses and gratifications‘ research has identified many potential pleasures of genre, including the following:
•One pleasure may simply be the recognition of the features of a particular genre because of our familiarity with it. Recognition of what is likely to be important (and what is not), derived from our knowledge of the genre, is necessary in order to follow a plot.
•Genres may offer various emotional pleasures such as empathy and escapism - a feature which some theoretical commentaries seem to lose sight of. Aristotle, of course, acknowledged the special emotional responses which were linked to different genres. Deborah Knight notes that 'satisfaction is guaranteed with genre; the deferral of the inevitable provides the additional pleasure of prolonged anticipation' (Knight 1994).
Genre and Audience
•Steve Neale argues that pleasure is derived from 'repetition and difference' (Neale 1980); there would be no pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure from observing how the conventions of the genre are manipulated (Abercrombie 1996). We may also enjoy the stretching of a genre in new directions and the consequent shifting of our expectations.
•Other pleasures can be derived from sharing our experience of a genre with others within an 'interpretive community' which can be characterized by its familiarity with certain genres (Daniel Chandler).
Neale (1980)- much of the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “difference in repetition” – i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those elements might be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that unfamiliar elements might be introduced
Nicholas Abercrombie (1996) – The boundaries between genres are shifting and becoming more permeable.
Can Genre be defined by audience? Is it a question of film comprehension?
Neale (1990) – Genre is constituted by “specific systems of expectations and hypothesis which spectators bring with them to the cinema and which interact with the films themselves during the course of the viewing process.”
1. To the producers of films, genre is a template for what they make.
2. To the distributor/promoter, genre provides assumptions about who the audience is and how to market the films for that specific audience.
3. To the audience, it is a label that identifies a liked or disliked formula and provides certain rules of engagement for the spectator in terms of anticipation of pleasure e.g. the anticipation of what will happen in the attic scene of The Exorcist.
4. When genres become classic, they can exert tremendous influence: production can be come quicker and more confident because film-makers are following tested formulae and have a ready shorthand to work with, and actors can be filtered into genres and can be seen to have assumed ‘star quality’ when their mannerisms, physical attributes, way of speaking and acting fit a certain style of genre.
5. In turn, viewers become ‘generic spectators’ and can be said to develop generic memory which helps the in the anticipation of events, even though the films themselves might play on certain styles rather than follow closely a clichéd formula. E.g. the attic scene from The Exorcist – we expect something to jump out on the woman because all the generic conventions are in place, but in the end, the director deflates the tension. We do not consume films as individual entities, but in an intertextual way. Film is a post-modern medium in this way, because movies make sense in relation to other films, not to reality.
6. It is the way genre films deviate from the clichéd formulae that leads to a more interesting experience for the viewer, but fore this to work properly, the audience must be familiar with generic conventions and style.
David Bordwell notes, 'any theme may appear in any genre' (Bordwell 1989) ‘One could... argue that no set of necessary and sufficient conditions can mark off genres from other sorts of groupings in ways that all experts or ordinary film-goers would find acceptable'
PROBLEMS WITH GENRE CLASSIFICATION
Theorist and Critic Rick Altman (1999) came up with a list of points he found problematic with genre classification .
a) Genre is a useful category, because it bridges multiple concerns.
b) Genres are defined by the film industry and recognised by the mass audience.
c) Genres have clear, stable identities and borders.
d) Individual films belong wholly and permanently to a single genre.
e) Genres are transhistorical.
f) Genres undergo predictable development.
g) Genres are located in particular topic, structure and corpus.
h) Genre films share certain fundamental characteristic.
i) Genres have either a ritual or ideological function.
j) Genre critics are distanced from the practice of genre.