<ul><li>What are the social implications of media representations? </li></ul><ul><li>The media do not just offer us a transparent ‘window on the world’ but a mediated version of the world. They don’t just present reality, they re-present it – David Buckingham </li></ul><ul><li>Branston and Stafford (2001) - soaps rely on archetypal characters and stereotypes - ensure ready accessibility because stories have universal appeal about families and communities. Stereotypes depend on shared cultural knowledge – some part of the stereotype must ring true. </li></ul><ul><li>Stereotypes are always about power: those with power stereotype those with less power (Dyer, 1979). Can you find evidence to support or critique these views? </li></ul><ul><li>A soap involves multiple perspectives and no consensus: ambivalence and contradiction is characteristic of the genre. There is no single 'hero' to identify with and the wide range of characters in soaps offers viewers a great deal of choice regarding those with which they might identify which leaves soaps open to individual interpretations David Buckingham (1987). </li></ul><ul><li>Women were represented as passive objects of the male gaze – Laura Mulvey 1975 – true when applied to these texts – or false? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Representation: the way reality is ‘mediated’ or ‘re-presented’ to us. </li></ul><ul><li>Collective Identity: the individual’s sense of belonging to a group (part of personal identity); the idea is that through participating in social activities –in this case, watching films and television - individuals can gain a sense of belonging and in essence an "identity" that transcends the individual. </li></ul><ul><li>“ A focus on Identity requires us to pay closer attention to the ways in which media and technologies are used in everyday life and their consequences for social groups” - David Buckingham. </li></ul><ul><li>Application of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of Hegemony – much of the media is controlled by the dominant group in society and the viewpoints associated with this group inevitably become embedded in the products themselves (i.e. via representation of race, class, gender, sexuality, for example), even if the promotion of these views isn’t conscious – dominant views come to be seen as the norm. </li></ul>
<ul><li>This is developed in the book Manufacturing Consent where Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman summarise the process of hegemony thus: The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. </li></ul><ul><li>Hegemony is a representational strategy of power; it involves the uses of representations to control people (to manufacture the consent of the ruled to the rule of the rulers). Hence the general marginalisation in the representation of the working class in British cinema until the late 1950s in this patriarchal, white, middle class ‘governed’ society… </li></ul>
<ul><li>Can we resist this representation? Are audiences passive or active? </li></ul><ul><li>Can audiences be influenced by what they watch? </li></ul><ul><li>There are a number of theories about this. </li></ul><ul><li>The Hypodermic Syringe theory posits that audiences are passive and absorb what they see in the media and can be influenced by it </li></ul><ul><li>Uses and Gratifications suggests audiences are active viewers and use the media in various ways to get some kind of gratification that will depend on the viewer. </li></ul><ul><li>Hall and Morley’s Encoding/Decoding model (1973) claims that audience reaction can be broken uo into four basic groups: </li></ul><ul><li>A preferred reading of a text would imply that the spectator may accept the dominant values within the text and read it in a way consistent with the intentions of the producer. </li></ul><ul><li>A negotiated reading means the spectator chooses whether or not they accept the preferred reading as their own. </li></ul><ul><li>An oppositional reading would mean the spectator completely rejects the preferred reading. </li></ul><ul><li>An aberrant reading means the spectator picks up an entirely different reading to that which was intended by the maker. </li></ul>
<ul><li>How is identity formed? </li></ul><ul><li>Foucault: </li></ul><ul><li>We often talk about people as if they have particular attributes as 'things' inside themselves -- they have an identity , for example, and we believe that at the heart of a person there is a fixed and true identity or character (even if we're not sure that we know quite what that is, for a particular person). We assume that people have an inner essence -- qualities beneath the surface which determine who that person really 'is'. We also say that some people have (different levels of) power which means that they are more (or less) able to achieve what they want in their relationships with others, and society as a whole. </li></ul><ul><li>Foucault rejected this view. For Foucault, people do not have a 'real' identity within themselves; that's just a way of talking about the self -- a discourse . An 'identity' is communicated to others in your interactions with them, but this is not a fixed thing within a person. It is a shifting, temporary construction. </li></ul><ul><li>People do not 'have' power implicitly; rather, power is a technique or action which individuals can engage in. Power is not possessed; it is exercised. And where there is power, there is always also resistance. </li></ul>
<ul><li>A lot of research has been done into audience consumption and it is possible to find evidence to support opposing points. British researcher David Buckingham (2000) has conducted studies into the nature of children’s consumption of television and has concluded that children are active consumers: they can decode what they watch and form strategies to deal with problematic material; on the other hand, the Americans, Donnerstein and Linz, claim their finding suggest passive consumption and suggest that audiences are directly and negatively affected by watching violent images. </li></ul><ul><li>In terms of censorship, it’s usually politic within media studies to suggest that audiences are active consumers of media products. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Gammon and Marshment (1998) stress the role of the audience in the construction of meaning from texts and suggest there is a range of interpretations offered by any text. </li></ul><ul><li>Henry Jenkins (1992): ‘Fans actively assert their mastery over the mass-produced texts which provide the raw material for their own cultural productions and the basis for their social interactions.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Gary Giddens (1991) claims that mediated experiences make us reflect upon and rethink our own self-narrative in relation to others. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Giddens : The self is not something we are born with, and it is not fixed </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, the self is reflexively made- thoughtfully constructed by the individual We all choose a lifestyle </li></ul><ul><li>Latterly, a key figure in identity theory has been David Gauntlett. </li></ul><ul><li>Gauntlett (2002): By thinking about their own identity, attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle in relation to those of media figures - some of whom may be potential 'role models', others just the opposite - individuals make decisions and judgements about their own way of living (and that of others). It is for this reason that the 'role model' remains an important concept, although it should not be taken to mean someone that a person wants to copy. Instead, role models serve as navigation points as individuals steer their own personal routes through life. (Their general direction, we should note, however, is more likely to be shaped by parents, friends, teachers, colleagues and other people encountered in everyday life). </li></ul>
<ul><li>Gauntlett (2002) : Media messages are diverse, diffuse and contradictory. Rather than being zapped straight into people's brains, ideas about lifestyle and identity that appear in the media are resources which individuals use to think through their sense of self and modes of expression. </li></ul><ul><li>Because 'inherited recipes for living and role stereotypes fail to function', we have to make our own new patterns of being, and it seems clear that the media plays an important role here (David Gauntlett, 2002). </li></ul>
<ul><li>Media products provide numerous kinds of 'guidance' - not necessarily in the obvious form of advice-giving, but in the myriad suggestions of ways of living which they imply. We lap up this material because the social construction of identity today is the knowing social construction of identity. Your life is your project. The media provides some of the tools which can be used in this work. Like many toolkits, however, it contains some good utensils and some useless ones; some that might give beauty to the project, and some that might spoil it. (People find different uses for different materials, too, so one person's 'bad' tool might be a gift to another.) (Gauntlett, 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>I don't believe that 'experts' can have the final word about representations, since representations are only meaningful when processed in the minds of individual audience members. – David Gauntlett (2008) (an expert, who is, of course, trying to have the final word…) </li></ul>
So what is ‘Collective Identity’? Collective Identity: the individual’s sense of belonging to a group (part of personal identity); the idea is that through participating in social activities –in this case, watching films and television - individuals can gain a sense of belonging and in essence an "identity" that transcends the individual. Collective Identity: not just representations by mainstream media but self-construction by users of the media and communities formed from shared identity: age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural values, political ideas etc. We can see this fairly obviously on internet fan sites and blogs related to the soaps, such as http://coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.com/ http://www.corrieblog.tv/ http://www.corrie.net/
<ul><li>I think the way forward is to acknowledge Collective Identity exists but that it seems to difficult measure or ascertain HOW FAR British soap operas and film have helped to create a sense of collective identity. </li></ul><ul><li>Audience response to soaps, for example, is rich and varied, as befits active viewers, but if Giddens and Gauntlett and current identity theory are correct, then it seems likely that audiences do, indeed, use these particular media examples to form a sense of identity, but along with many other aspects of life too. </li></ul><ul><li>As to how much the media reflects collective identity as opposed to constructing it, I think you would need a detailed breakdown of the intentions of the film-makers, many of whom, let’s face it, have an agenda, often a political one driven by a leftish/liberal middle class view of what representation of working class life should be like; this political agenda and, therefore, certain themes, are less likely to be present in television soap opera which is attempting to be more ‘commercial’ and appeal to a larger audience within a set viewing pattern. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Once we acknowledge the idea of collective identity and that audiences do draw on various aspects of their lives, including what they watch on television and in the cinema, we have to look at the issue of whether representation of the working class is different in soaps and film and has it changed over time. </li></ul><ul><li>And of course it is and it has in several respects, but you’re going to have to SHOW how! </li></ul>
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