Contextual Studies: Audience Theories
9 Nov 2017
So far for Contextual Studies we have looked at;
• Investigating the Creative Media Sector
• Controls & regulations BBFC/Ofcom
• Marketing & Distribution
• New and emerging industries – Transmedia, cross-platform marketing
We now need to look at audience reception theories
WHAT IS AUDIENCE RECEPTION?
•Audiences receive and respond to texts very differently. The different effects
generate varied responses.
•It is a way to characterise and group together different audience (consumer)
•Audience reception = the way we react
FILM CLIP: GET OUT DIR. JORDAN PEELE 2016 US
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
• Addresses todays climate and issues with race
• Symbols of Slavery – Actors, acting, locations and costumes
• The Deer – Omen link to protagonist
• The teacup – hypnotising - suppression
INTERVIEW WITH JORDAN PEELE
ENCODING DECODING THEORY
Stuart Hall, 1973
• Producers encode meaning/ideology into texts, which audiences decode
• Audiences are active in their interpretations and can accept/reject the
• ENCODE : meaning, ideology
• DECODE : ???
ENCODING DECODING THEORY
Preferred Reading – audiences agree and accept what the producers are
• Negotiated Reading – audiences partially agree with the encoded messages
• Oppositional Reading – audiences reject/disagree or decode the text
Age, Gender, Cultural Experiences
AUDIENCE READINGS –
• Intended to encourage audiences to consider race relations issues in the US
Refers back to classics of the horror genre like The Stepford Wives and
• Audiences who enjoy thrillers and horror films will be able to enjoy the film
whilst possibly engaging with some of the deeper issues of the film .
DECONSTRUCTING A FILM
• All scripts contain stories that have been carefully structured
• These stories have a Narrative Form that is specific to film
• Part of this form is defined through the constraints of running length
• A narrative therefore is an account of a series of events that occur in
time and space
• It is the role of the creators of the work to plan how those series of
events will be presented coherently and artistically through sound
Field, Syd The Screenwriters Workbook 2006 Delta Publishing
Narrative Film Structure
Example: The Martian Dir Ridley Scott 2015, USA
Set up: Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is happily working alongside his
teammates on Mars.
Plot Point 1: A dangerous storm rolls in and the team prepares for an
emergency departure, but as they head into the storm, Mark is hit with debris
and he’s thrown away from the crew. They try to locate him, but the storm is
too fierce. Mark’s vital signs flat-line and the captain makes the decision to
save the rest of the crew and leave the planet for home. Mark However is
Confrontation: After a harrowing journey back to base, he realizes the
storm has destroyed many things, including what he needs to contact
NASA. Watney must use his training and ingenuity to survive alone on
Plot Point 2: Watney is doing fine and has successfully built a
greenhouse where he grows the potatoes that will save his life.
Things are really looking up for him until he accidentally blows a hole in
his flourishing nursery. It destroys his crops and all the equipment he
used, cutting his food supply in half. NASA must go on an active rescue
mission in order for Mark to survive.
Resolution: Mark builds a rover to survive the long journey to a landing
site where he’ll be able to launch into space and rendezvous with his
former crewmembers. It seems like everything to succeed is in place: his
former crewmembers have resupplied and returned to Mars, while NASA
has been supporting them from earth. After many difficulties, Watney
reunites with his teammates and escapes the planet.
ONE MIN FILM
Late Dir. Edith Chong Yuen Ping
Task: In Groups write out the story structure/plot of the film
Split into beginning (Act I,middle (Act II) and end (Act III)
• Film stock
• Choice of
• Shot framing
The Dark Night Dir. Christopher Nolan
Task: Watch the clip and write down the shot types you see as you
IN SEMIOTICS WE CAN DEFINE THESE TWO DIFFERENT MEANINGS WITH THE ABOVE
THEORISTS: FERDINAND DE SAUSURRE (1857 -
SWISS LINGUIST & FOUNDER OF SEMIOTICS
Saussure said the sign is the basic unit of meaning and he thought signs
were made up of two parts
SIGNIFIED – The concept or object that is represented
SIGNIFIER – The form of a sign such as words on a page or an image
THEORISTS: CHARLES S PEIRCE 1839-1914)
AMERICAN PHILOSOPHER & FOUNDER OF SEMIOTICS
Peirce said the form a sign takes, its signifier, can be classified as one of
three types an icon, an index, or a symbol.
ICON – AN ICON IS A SIGN WHICH IS LINKED TO ITS OBJECT
E.G A MAP OR A PHOTOGRAPH
INDEX – AN INDEX SUGGESTS ITS OBJECT BY BEING PHYSICALLY
LINKED TO IT, OR AFFECTED BY IT. E.G SMOKE IS AN INDEX OF FIRE
SYMBOL – A SYMBOL HAS NO QUALATATIVE OR PHYSICAL LINK TO
ITS OBJECT E.G. MOST WORDS ARE SYMBOLS
MISE-EN-SCENE (pronounced mee-zon sen)
• In films signs can take many forms. They can be words, sounds, images,
objects, colours etc.
• Considering all the elements of a film can help us look for the signs more
• MISE-EN-SCENE Means ‘placing on stage or in the scene’
• The idea that every element in a film has been put there for a reason
MISE-EN-SCENE (pronounced mee-zon sen)
Includes a consideration of:
Dir: Ridley Scott 1982
Task: Write down the symbolic elements you see in the clip that form part of the mise-en-
• Roland Barthes Elements of Semiology London: Jonathan Cape 1967
• David Chandler Semiotics the Basics Routledge 2002
• Charles S Pierce The Philosophical writings of Pierce 1982
The use of semiotic theory can be a powerful tool to help you analyse
and consider the deeper meaning of films
Key vocabulary to remember:
FIND YOUR OWN FILM SCENE, SUMMARISE YOUR
THOUGHT ABOUT THE MISE-EN-SCENE AND USE OF
SYMBOLISM, SIGNS AND SIGNIFIERS
WRITE A DEFINITION OF SEMIOTICS
POST THIS ON YOUR BLOG UNDER CONTEXTUAL STUDIES
How we 're-present' a person, place or thing
Do we show the subject in a positive or a negative
Love Thy Neighbour 1970s sitcom
Modern Family is a commercially and critically successful
American sit com, told from the perspective of an unseen
The program proposes to present an honest perspective of family
Watch the following clips and analysis of 'Modern Family'
Identify the stereotypes represented in the programme
What stereotypes did you identify?
Sitcoms in particular aim for a broad audience. They perhaps feel they
have to appeal and reinforce perspectives and stereotypes that are
ingrained within audiences to become a hit show.
Modern Family was initially seen as a progressive show.
Do you still think it is? Can you name a more progressive show?
How do we break the cycle of negative or incorrect representation?
Interview from the
In small groups of 3 or 4: (YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES)
Appoint a writer in your group to write the group's thoughts...
You're directing a short film. The story synopsis goes something like this:
An elderly lady is pushed to the ground by a mugger and her handbag is stolen. In
the handbag was a large amount of money with which she was going to pay some
She is slightly injured in the incident and has to go to hospital, where her
minister visits her.
The local wealthy landowner, Lord Ambrose, hears about her plight. He comes to
visit her too and offers to pay her bills.
What does each of the characters look like in your film?
How does each one talk?
What are their values/personalities/characteristic traits?
How will each character be represented in your film?
How did you 're-present’ each character?
KEY AREAS OF
BBC Production Guidelines:
Look at the BBC editorial guidelines and guidance and see what
advice you can find about how people, places, things are
represented in BBC content
1.2.5 Harm and Offence
‘We aim to reflect the world as it is, including all aspects of the human
experience and the realities of the natural world. But we balance our right
to broadcast innovative and challenging content with our responsibility to
protect the vulnerable from harm and avoid unjustifiable offence. We will
be sensitive to, and keep in touch with, generally accepted standards as
well as our audiences' expectations of our content, particularly in relation
to the protection of children’.
OTHER THEORIES TO EXPLORE
There are three theories of audience that we can apply to help us come to a
better understanding about the relationship between films and audience.
1. The Effects Model or the Hypodermic
2. The Uses and Gratifications Model
3. Reception Theory
THE EFFECTS MODEL
• The consumption of media texts has an effect or influence upon the
• It is normally considered that this effect is negative
• Audiences are passive and powerless to prevent the influence
• The power lies with the message of the text
THE HYPODERMIC MODEL
• Here, the messages in media texts are injected into the audience by the
powerful, syringe-like, Media
• The audience is powerless to resist
• Therefore, the media works like a drug and the audience is drugged,
addicted, doped or duped
Produce a 250 word rationale’ on a creative media product or products you
intend to research further for example a genre of film; television; books;
newspapers or other justifying relevant reception analysis approaches to
content and audience to explain and analyse the particular audiences your
product appeals to and why.
Think of this as an essay plan
Due 21st November
HOW TO COMPLETE THE ASSIGNMENT
• Choose a Media Sector (Film, TV Documentary, Journalism etc)
• Choose a genre within that sector (Youth documentaries, social issue
films, Documentary series)
• Complete at least two case studies on relevant products from your genre
• Consider how products within that genre have been influenced by
• How are films within this genre distributed in consideration of their key
• You could consider certification as part of your process
• Choose an audience theory approach to research (semiotics, genre,
representation etc) and apply it to your case studies
• Research reviews of your media product/s
• Use valid reference resources (books, online journals, film websites)
Bennett, P., Hickman,A. and Wall, P. (2007) Film Studies: The Essential
Resource, Routledge, London and New York
Block, Bruce (2007) The Visual Story Focal Press
Bordwell, David and Thompson, Kristin (2012) Film Art: An
Introduction McGraw Hill