Audience theory


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Audience theory

  1. 1. Brandon Fry Audience TheoryThe Hypodermic ModelDating from the 1920s, this theory was the first attempt to explain how mass audiences might react to massmedia. It suggests that audiences passively receive the information transmitted via a media text, without anyattempt on their part to process or challenge the data.The Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that the information from a text passes into the mass consciousnessof the audience unmediated, ie the experience, intelligence and opinion of an individual are not relevant tothe reception of the text. This theory suggests that, as an audience, we are manipulated by the creators ofmedia texts, and that our behaviour and thinking might be easily changed by media-makers.Task 1: Can you think of examples, from history as well as in more recent times, where this theory could beapplied?Programmes such as x factor and big brother are good examples of hypodermic model.Two Step Flow TheoryThis theory, written by Katz and Lazarsfeld in the1950s, asserts that information from the mediamoves in two distinct stages. First, individuals (opinion leaders) who pay close attention to the massmedia and its messages receive the information. Opinion leaders pass on their own interpretations in
  2. 2. Brandon Fryaddition to the actual media content, to their followers.Task 2: Give examples of who opinion leaders, in society, might be….Society leaders could be your parents who give you a influence of their own opinion. Also thegovernment and their views as there level in society will influence everyone who watches tv.Uses and GratificationsResearchers Blumler and Katz expanded this theory and published their own in 1974, stating thatindividuals might choose and use a text for the following purposes, or uses and gratifications:• Diversion - escape from everyday problems and routine.• Personal Relationships - using the media for emotional and other interaction, eg; substituting soap operas for family life• Personal Identity - finding yourself reflected in texts, learning behaviour and values from texts• Surveillance - Information which could be useful for living eg; weather reports, financial news, holiday bargainsTask 3: Give examples below of how each of these might relate to your own experiences of media texts:• Diversion People use facebook to escape from everyday problems to relax and have a look what other people are presently doing. Also they can feel better by looking to see if other people put their problems on facebook which could be similar problems to you.• Personal Relationships The use of facebook is sometimes to makes friends with people and meet new people. However it can also be used to keep in touch or find childhood friends if you are an adult• Personal Identity On facebook this is the ‘profile’ area where you can customize your own profile with your own status’, information, profile pictures and picture albums.• Surveillance Advertisements are used on facebook which will pay them to put them on the side of the homepage for example.
  3. 3. Brandon FryEncoding and Decoding (Hall)The cultural theorist Stuart Hallwrote the encoding/decoding model in the 1970s. In this model therelationship between text and audience focuses on reception theory, where there is scope for"negotiation" and "opposition" on the part of theaudience when viewing a media text. The audienceinterprets the meanings of the media text based on their individual cultural background and lifeexperiences. Hall’s encoding and decoding model argued that meaning is not simply fixed or determined by the sender the message is never transparent the audience is not a passive recipient of meaning. In essence, the meaning of a text is not inherent within the text itself, but is created within therelationship between the text and the reader, or the producer and audience. This is therefore the exactopposite to the outdated Hypodermic model.However, by using recognised codes and conventions, and by drawing upon audience expectationsrelating to aspects such as genre and use of stars, the producers of a media text can position theaudience and thus create a certain amount of agreement on what the code means. This is known as apreferred reading. Encoding................the text is encoded by the producer Decoding................and decoded by the audienceTherefore 3 different readings can then be decoded by the audience Preferred Negotiated OppositionalAudience positioning within a conventional narrative, in relation to Hall’s Encoding/decodingmodelIn a conventional fictional narrative the audience is likely to be positioned to take a particularviewpoint. For example, they may be positioned:  to share the pov with the protagonist ,or  to be given an omniscient viewpoint by which they can see the threats and dangers to be faced by the protagonist. In these instances the audience is likely to adopt a preferred reading of the text.However, audiences may make a negotiated or oppositional reading, perhaps because theyrecognise and oppose the gaze employed in the film.For example:  a feminist response to a male gaze, or  an oppositional response to the ideology represented in the film, eg an audience which objects to the cultural or ethnic stereotyping in a number of US financed action films.
  4. 4. Brandon FryTask 4: Write down from your own experiences of media texts, where you have taken a:Preferred reading- magazine with favourite artists on the front page.Negotiated reading- however cabin in the woods becomes clear when looking into depth at the film as it isclever with the approaches it takes.Oppositional reading- media like cabin in the woods applies this as you do not understand the film.To help you, think first of reasons why you have enjoyed a particular text thoroughly from the outset, oneswhere you have spent time deciding upon your opinion and ones that you have clearly disliked from theoutset.Task 5:Now watch Lovefield again and fill in the sheet on narrative conventions, (available under‘Narrative’ on Moodle) paying attention to how the audience is positioned.What is your reading of the text?