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MDSA01H3 (310)
Chapter 10


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University of Toronto Scarborough
Media Studies
Michael Petit

CHAPTER 10 – RECEPTION ANALYSIS  What is the role of the actual audience in the process of meaning-making in the media?  Reception Scholars o Seek to understand the personal meanings that individuals make of mass media texts in relation to their lived social systems and experiences o Interview consumers o Observe the environment where the consumers consume the media o Unique perspective on the power of audiences in shaping the media landscape o Instead of looking at how media content of production practices influence helpless media consumers, Reception analysis supports the notion of an “active” audience constantly reformulating the meanings of a media text  Reception theory: Stresses audience interpretation as the primary site of meaning-making o Meaning in fluid and communication is imperfect within this perspective and negotiation between media producers and consumers constantly skews the “true” meaning of media texts o Media owners have the economic power to craft media texts with particular messages, but it is audiences who determine what a text ultimately signifies or how it actually functions in their own lives Classic Audience Studies and Media Effects Research  Traditional approaches to understanding the audience are largely social scientific and concentrate on measuring the effects of media messages on mass consumers Summary of Previous Approaches  Hypodermic Needle Approach o Saw the audience as mindless vessels ready to receive media messages o Outlined how the mass media injected particular meanings into consumers o Media messages signified whatever media producers intended them to mean and the audience had no say in that meaning o Weaknesses  Messages do not mean the same thing for everyone  Audience does not passively absorb any and all media messages  “two-step flow” model o more nuanced version of the hypodermic needle approach o Certain individuals in the audience attended more carefully to media than others o Mass media messages would influence these individuals who would in turn pass on the information to secondary audiences o Recognized more activity on part of the audience, but still supported the notion that the meaning of media messages were clear and definite, which was a problem  Cultivation analysis o Individuals who watch a lot of television are hyperconscious to issues of danger and violence in their everyday lives  Distorted view of reality  Believed that violence is more prevalent in society than actual statistics report o Widespread effect  Theory of Media-Agenda Setting o Popular media outlets tell the American public what to think about and how to think about it: they set the national agenda and fuel public concern  Uses and Gratifications Theory o First to begin thinking of audiences as empowered to select their access to specific media and to use that media within the ranges of possibility o Individuals consciously consumer media texts for their own ends, purposefully reworking textual meaning in order to integrate et the text into their own daily life o Instead of passively absorbing given meanings, audiences are selective in which media they consumer and how they choose to use it  Escapism  Information  Interpersonal relationships o Too optimistic about the audience o Historical development of Reception theory  Reception Theory o While consciousness may be a factor for some individual consumers, audience members as a whole can refashion dominant media meanings without being completely aware of the process Encoding/Decoding: Stuart Hall  Stuart Hall: ideological critiques within the field of British Cultural studies  The model emphasizes production, negotiation, and reception of ideological messages between classes reflects this background  Media institutions and owners engineer media texts with particular messages  Active audiences of various classes can consumer and rework these hegemonic or dominant meanings  Outlines all of the possible ways in which the intended meaning of a text can be potentially rewords in the hands of an active audience  There is no intelligible discourse without the operation of a code o Code: A set of rules that govern the use of visual and linguistic signs within a culture  Popular Codes: Morse code, pig Latin  Can disguise a message by translating it according to particular rules o Any image or word we can comprehend is the result of a code  Codes are never neutral, they represent meanings but do not actually have their own meanings  Encoding: the process of creating a meaningful message according to a particular code  Decoding: the process of using a code to decipher a message and formulate a meaning  Hall’s model: the codes of encoding and decoding may not be perfectly symmetrical  Encoding side: how dominant ideologies come to exist in mass-mediated texts o Codes used are hegemonic ideologies o Resulting meaning: “preferred reading”/desired interpretation of the text  Preferred: this particular understanding which in turn will support media industries  Think of what the text means on a thematic or cultural level  Decoding side: Shows how audiences can actually interpret or read media texts according to three possible codes or positions o Dominant  Employs a code identical to the industry code and understands the text according to its preferred meaning  Decode the meaning of the text as intended by media producers, and unconsciously or consciously accept it as true  Perfectly transparent communication  Rare o Oppositional  Does not mean “misunderstanding”  Recognize the preferred reading and dominant code, but reject them in favour of a completely different code  Rare o Negotiated  Applies to a majority of consumers  Decode part of the text according to the industry code, and part of it with an alternative code  Mesh preferred reading with their personal perspectives and interpretations and therefore the meaning they produce only partially represent the preferred meaning.  Accepts the large-scale meanings while assigning personal meanings  Hybrid meaning
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