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 ClassificationThere are 7 socially grouped categories when it comes to identifying audience:• Self – ambitions or interests of the audience• Gender• Age Group• Class – different social classes e.g. working, upper etc.• Ethnicity• Family• Nation
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 relations with”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 programmesdistinctive 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
Conclusion• 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
John Hartley• “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.
However• 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 Katz Uses 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 media use?
Uses and GratificationsThe 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 readers 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 Parkins 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 texts 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 texts 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 texts 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
Representation• How the media shows us things about society through careful mediation of re-presenting a shared view of the world
Stuart HallIn our modern world our life is saturated with visual representations
What do these images signify? Consider: Colour Symbolism
What do these images signify? Consider: Clothing Props Gesture
What do these images signify? Consider: Costume Props Differences 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?
Richard Dyer Stereotypes• 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
Baudrillard• 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
Your characters• 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?
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
Structure Place these narrative events in order:• Detective investigates• Crime conceived• Crime discovered• Detective identifies crime• Crime committed• Crime planned
Structure The 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 heroseeks in completing the quest)• The donor (gives vital informationor object to hero)• The helper (aids in the quest)
Applying Propp to The ShiningJack DannyWendy Mr Grady Dick
Applying Propp to Memento ? LeonardMurderer Leonard’s Wife
Propp’s eight character roles andhow they can be applied to theshining.The villain— struggles against the hero- In the shiningthis character type could be considered to be either Jack ashe gets possessed and tries to kill his family or the hotel asthis is what possesses him.The dispatcher—character who makes the lack knownand sends the hero off- This character type can not berelated to The ShiningThe helper — helps the hero in the quest- In the shiningthe helper could be the character Dick as he does helpDanny at some stages throughout the film and Dannycould be seen as one of the heroes.. However, this doesnot directly relate.
The princess or prize — the hero deserves her throughout the story but is unableto marry her because of an unfair evil, usually because of the villain. the herosjourney 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 Wendyas she is the only female character; the former husband Jack deserves her but ashe comes possessed he no longer deserves her. The prize could be the characterDanny.
The donor —prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object- Thedonor in The Shining could be the character Dick as he enabled Danny to usehis power by making him aware of it.The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess- Thehero in The Shining could either be Danny or Wendy as they both survive untilthe 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 itcould be Dick.
To some extent, Propps eight character types do relateto the film The Shining. However, not all of them canbe connected such as; the dispatcher and the father.
Bordwell and Thompson never did come up with acomplete narrative theory, they did however come upwith some interesting ideas.They believed that chain of events within a mediaform cause effects on a relationship occurring in timeand space and the narrative shapes this material interms of time space such as; where and when thingstake place. This can be portrayed through usingeffects to show the time and space by using flashbacks, forwarding time, slow motion and speedingup.
This theory is evident within The shining. We seethe character Jack having flashbacks from pastevents and we see Danny seeing things in thefuture due to his power. Inter titles are usedfrequently within the movie showing which day itis connoting the high impact of the time in thisfilm.
Claude Levi- Strauss looked at narrative structure in terms of "Binary oppositions" focusing on the different sets of oppositevalues which reveal the structure of the media texts. Hisnarrative theory is different compared to other theorists as hefocused more on the arrangement of themes rather than the orderof a media text.
Examples of these binaryoppositions could be :Earth – spaceGood – badPast- PresentNormal- abnormalHumans- AliensKnown- UnknownDead- AliveHappy- sadWeak- strong
These binary oppositions can be applied to the filmThe Shining in several ways. They moved to anIsolated place when they were used to living in acivilised area. The character Jack’s sanctity changed ashe became insane. Another example of these binaryoppositions could be the character Wendy; sheappeared weak at the beginning of the film but thenbecame a much stronger character at the end. LastlyDanny appeared to be a normal boy at the beginningbut he soon realised, with Dick’s guidance that he hada power.
Todorov was a Bulgarian linguist who produced andpublished influential narrative theory work from the1960’s onwards. His theory suggested that storiesbegin with an equilibrium where any opposing forceare in balance. This equilibrium is then disrupted byan event which leads to a series of other eventsleading to the stereotypical end of all major eventsbeing restored.
Todorov’s narrative theory can be applied to The Shining as thefilm begins normally – the family moving away. A change inequilibrium then occurs- Jack slowly becoming mental and thenthe enigma is then resolved at the end as Jack dies and Wendyand Danny escape unharmed.
BarthesBarthes describes narrative as a series of codes that are read and interpreted by the audience
Action Code: Barthes’ 5 Codessomething the audience knows and doesnt need explaining e.g. someone beingwheeled out on a stretcher tells us they are going to hospitalEnigma Code:something hidden from the audience (creates intrigue)Semic Code:something that the audience recognize through connotationsSymbolic Code:Something that symbolizes a more abstract concept e.g. a darker than usual room ofa murder scene could symbolize the depth of darkness and depravityCultural Code:Something that is read with understanding due to cultural awareness (e.g. youthculture use certain words that are understood by that culture)
TODOROV Todorov describes narrative as going from equilibrium to disequilibrium back to an altered equilibriumStandard 3-pointnarrative. More detailed 5-•Beginning point narrative•Middle•End
TODOROVEquilibrium: (sets the scene)Everyday LifeDisruption: (complication)Something happens to alter the equilibriumConflict: (climax)Trying to solve the problem (seek resolution)Resolution:Problem is sortedNew Equilibrium: (satisfactory end)Back to normal (but never the same)- a new normal
LEVI-STRAUSS Levi-Strauss describes narrative as created by constant conflict of binary oppositesLove – HateBlack – WhiteMan – NatureLight – Darkness “Star Wars”Peace – WarProtagonist –Antagonist “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”Movement – Stillness “Avatar”Civilized – Savage “District 9”Young – Old “Once Upon a Time in the West”Control – Panic “Slumdog Millionaire”Strong – WeakMan – Woman “Apocalypse Now”Wealth – Poverty “Sherlock Holmes”Mankind – Aliens “Vertigo”Humans – TechnologyIgnorance - Wisdom
Complex narrative structureToday’s narratives have become increasingly complex asproducers know that audiences have a greater sense of medialiteracy when it comes to making meaning of the text and readingthe signs. There are often numerous plot twists and surprises thatkeep the audience intrigued with carefully spun storylines.Films such as “Memento” (Nolan,2000) which weaves the story inreverse gives the audience a similar experience to the protagonistwho has short term memory loss, as they try and fit the cluestogether 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 itNow test your knowledge: http://quizlet.com/4162490/narrative-theorists-flash-cards/Restricted Narrative: The information that is withheld from the
Genre TheoryDaniel Chandler: Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the notionthat they constitute particular conventions of content (such as themes or settings -iconography) and/or form (including structure and style) which are shared by thetexts 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 Overlook Hotel This convention is emphasised in the film’s climax when Jack pursues his wife into a bathroom where she cannotescape. Pursuit of an innocent victim asanother 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 Structure and Style (plot info/props/characters...) (camerawork and editing)
Traditional Genre TheoristsRick Altman argues that genres are usually defined in terms of medialanguage (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 contractbetween creator and reader so as to make certain expectations operative,allowing compliance and deviation from the accepted modes ofintelligibility. Acts of communication are rendered intelligible only withinthe 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
Tom Ryall (1978) – Genre provides a framework of structuring rules, in the shape ofpatterns/forms/styles/structures, which act as a form of ‘supervision’ over the work of productionof 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 andmeanings 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 economicrisks of industrial film production by providing cognitive collateral against innovation anddifference. Dial M For Murder Cape Fear Vertigo
It is easy to underplay the differences within a genre. Steve Neale declares thatgenres are instances of repetition and difference (Neale 1980, 48). He adds thatdifference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre: mere repetition wouldnot attract an audience.Memento is a conventional thriller interms of plot – Protagonist seeks revengeagainst his wife’s murderer. Yet thenarrative style creates the genericdivergence in being told backwardsTexts often exhibit the conventions of more than one genre. John Hartley notesthat the same text can belong to different genres in different countries or times(OSullivan et al. 1994). E.g. Alien as bearing the iconography of a Science Fictionfilm (setting, props, characters), but the stylistic approach of a Horror – Extremeclose-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 regardedas fixed forms, but contemporary theory emphasizes that both their formsand functions are dynamic. David Buckingham argues that genre is not...simply "given" by the culture: rather, it is in a constant process ofnegotiation and change (Buckingham 1993).Buckingham’s argument therefore would compare nicely to Steve Nealeto add a further theoretical approach to your responseFatal Attraction Casino Royale
Contemporary Genre TheoristsDaniel Chandler: Every genre positions those who participate in a text of thatkind: as interviewer or interviewee, as listener or storyteller, as a reader or awriter, as a person interested in political matters, as someone to be instructed oras someone who instructs; each of these positionings implies differentpossibilities for response and for action. Each written text provides a readingposition for readers, a position constructed by the writer for the ideal reader ofthe text. (Kress 1988,)Thus, embedded within texts are assumptions about the ideal reader, includingtheir attitudes towards the subject matter and often their class, age, gender andethnicity.David Buckingham
Genre and AudienceUses 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 becauseof 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 featurewhich 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 theinevitable provides the additional pleasure of prolonged anticipation (Knight 1994).
•Steve Neale argues that pleasure is derived from repetition and difference (Neale1980); there would be no pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure fromobserving how the conventions of the genre are manipulated (Abercrombie 1996). Wemay also enjoy the stretching of a genre in new directions and the consequent shiftingof our expectations.•Other pleasures can be derived from sharing our experience of a genre with otherswithin an interpretive community which can be characterized by its familiarity withcertain genres (Daniel Chandler).
Neale (1980)- much of the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “differencein repetition” – i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those elementsmight be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that unfamiliar elementsmight be introducedNicholas Abercrombie (1996) – The boundaries between genres are shifting andbecoming more permeable.
Can Genre be defined by audience? Is it a question of filmcomprehension?Neale (1990) – Genre is constituted by “specific systems of expectations andhypothesis which spectators bring with them to the cinema and which interactwith the films themselves during the course of the viewing process.”
• To the producers of films, genre is a template for what they make.• To the distributor/promoter, genre provides assumptions about who the audience is and how to market the films for that specific audience.• 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.• 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.
• 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.• 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 markoff genres from other sorts of groupings in ways that all experts or ordinary film-goers would find acceptable
PROBLEMS WITH GENRE CLASSIFICATIONTheorist and Critic Rick Altman (1999) came up with a list of points he found problematicwith 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.
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