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  • 1. Collective Identity and Representation of the Working Class
  • 2. • Collective Identity: the individual’s sense of belonging to a group (part of personal identity) - not just representations by mainstream media, but also the self- construction by users of the media and even communities formed from shared identity: age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural values, political ideas etc.; 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.
  • 3. • Owen Jones – Programmes that exploit the working class – dramas and comedies and documentaries. Does he have a point? • An increase in ‘reality’ TV or Jeremy Kyle-type shows - depicting working class people – My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Benefits Street etc. Why are these programmes made and why are they important to the schedulers/TV companies? What problems might arise from this representation?
  • 4. • Gurevitch and Roberts (1993): "Mediation is the process of the representation of events through the media." Thomas De Zengotita (2005) – Almost everything we know about the world comes to us through some sort of media and this influences our view of the world and even our self-definition.
  • 5. Theoretical ‘evidence’? Part 1 • Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci – hegemony - the media is controlled by the dominant group in society and the viewpoints associated with this group become embedded in the products themselves (representation of class, for example), even if the promotion of these views isn’t conscious, dominant views come to be seen as the norm - hence the marginalisation in the representation of the working class in British cinema until the late 1950s – the effect being that the views of the working class weren’t thought of as being important
  • 6. Theoretical ‘evidence’? Part 2 • Katz and Lazarsfeld - Two Step Flow theory (1955) – the importance of Opinion Leaders – i/e. lazy journalism coming up with populist and sensationalist headlines like Daily Star – “Vicky Pollard Yob Sent To Jail”; Kent and Sussex Courier – “Vicky Pollard Train Rant Leads to Death Threats For Hawkhurst Teen”; Daily Telegraph – “Residents fear BBC documentary 'makes their estate look like Shameless”; Daily Mirror – “Worse Than Shameless.”
  • 7. Theoretical ‘evidence’? Part 3 • Cultural Effects Theory (Professor George Gerbner, 1965) - Cultivation research looks at the mass media as a socializing agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it. Gerbner and his colleagues contend that television drama has a small but significant influence on the attitudes, beliefs and judgements of viewers concerning the social world. The focus is on ‘heavy viewers’. People who watch a lot of television are likely to be more influenced by the ways in which the world is framed by television programmes than are individuals who watch less.
  • 8. However – these theories position the audience as passive. Is it? Other theories suggest otherwise. • For example Blumler and Katz’ Uses and Gratifications (1975) which suggests audiences are active viewers and use the media in various ways to get some kind of gratification that will depend on the viewer.
  • 9. • 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.
  • 10. Research Evidence? • Audience response to soaps, for example, is rich and varied, as befits active viewers (See, for example, The Broadcasting Standards Commission to research audience attitude to the British Soap Opera in 2002 – this showed even the most ‘fanatical’ viewers are aware of the dramatic and staged nature of the shows and that they didn’t present a window on reality).
  • 11. How do working class people contribute to these images of collective identity? • Some filmmakers, like Ken Loach, work with non-actors from he community they feature, though I don’t think you could say the actors are contributing to the self-representation more than the director; likewise, in Newcastle, Amber Films works with working class communities to create films based in ideas that come from the community and use people from the area in the cast.
  • 12. The Future • The future? Note the way, in the age of web 2.0, that collective identity is also reflected in the use of websites, blogs etc that use these images of working class to create a community amongst fans e.g. http://eastenders- soaps.blogspot.com/; http://www.eastendersblog.com/; http://www.corrieblog.tv/ (currently running this story: “Tens of thousands of people living in Britain think Weatherfield actually exists according to a survey by Hotels.com.”), http://coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.com/; http://mycorrie.com/). There are also the inevitable facebook pages: http://www.facebook.com/CoronationStreetBlog; and the soaps are, of course, on Twitter, officially and unofficially.
  • 13. The Future • Can working class communities contribute to that sense of identity through other means - posting self-made films about their lives and community on Youtube, for instance? • What about the audience?
  • 14. • Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group notes that the audience does not exist as a silent mass with a collective identity, but as active, thinking, reflective, creative audiences who share cultural experiences in common – and this is surely all the more so when viewers can re-evaluate their relationship to the text by interacting with each other through conversation or through fan sites.
  • 15. • Henry Jenkins (1992): ‘Fans actively assert their mastery over the mass-produced texts which provide the raw material for their own cultural productions (meaning their life and the way they approach and see it NOT their own films) and the basis for their social interactions.’
  • 16. But… • David Gauntlett (2002): The media disseminates a huge number of messages about identity and acceptable forms of self-expression, gender, sexuality, and lifestyle. At the same time, the public have their own robust set of diverse feelings on these issues. The media's suggestions may be seductive, but can never simply overpower contrary feelings in the audience. It seems appropriate to speak of a slow but engaged dialogue between media and media consumers. Neither the media nor the audience are powerful in themselves, but both have powerful arguments.
  • 17. However… • It is impossible to measure or ascertain HOW FAR British soap operas and film have helped to create a sense of collective identity. Bear in mind that TV and film aren’t the only fields contributing to a collective identity of the working class and that some of that representation has become generic and repeated not only on film and TV but also in other forms of media.