media culture

Conceptualising the Audience

New media and photography theory – Week 6 2013

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Week six consisted of critiquing the common-sense approach to the audience. The audience is defined by Long and Wall as “an anonymous and variable collective of individuals addressed (as a group of individuals) by the organs of ‘mass’ media communication” (Long and Wall 2012:488). This week moved beyond the original ideas of audience and into the ideas of the audience being a product of the media (Long and Wall 2012:275).

A realisation that became apparent during the lecture was that without the audience, there would be no media and without the media there would be no profit. The more there is of media, in a variety of outlets and forms, the more competition. This adds pressure to the producers to attract more audiences using a variety of methods to continue to make the profit that they need.

Long describes how we are not always aware of being part of an audience, no matter how many millions of consumers are also sharing the same experience at the same time. (Long and Wall, 2012:279) Whilst Mattelart describes it from the perspective of producers “each media institution has its own specific way of positioning the viewer, regulating certain aspects of the production of meaning and production of emotional responses, and so forth”.(Mattelart, A 1992:82) Audience unawareness and power or manipulation by the producer implies in this case the vulnerability and passivity of consumers. I wonder how many people notice the ‘how are you feeling today John?’ question that appears in the box before you write a status on Facebook. Again this first person text positions its audience into feeling unique and influences them in some cases to carry out the producer’s desired response of a status and therefore, more time spent on Facebook.

That however, is not comparable to the possible media effects and influence from propaganda. It is an active manipulation of ideas, information and aims to inject its desired effects into its audience by restricting and misinforming them of other options. (Long and Wall 2012:286) Mattelart discusses the role of active minorities in manipulation of inert societies and discusses The Frankfurt School in their belief in the omnipotence of the mass media (Mattelart, A 1992:73). Nazi Germany used it to achieve large influence in world war two. However, the same concepts –if not slightly subtler- are still being used today in the likes of President Obama’s political campaign.

My two readings have altered my view on possible media power. I want to research further into modern day examples of moral panics created by new media. Fast paced and immediacy of the new media industry can create news before it has even been officially reported by the press and therefore the effects on the audience can be elevated.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Mattelart, A and Mattelart, M. (1992). New paradigms: The procedures of consumption. In: Translation by Cohen, J and Urquidi, M. Series editor: Bolton, R Rethinking media theory: Signposts and new directions. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p72-86.

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Representation, Discourse and Power

New media and photography theory- Week 5 2013

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This week’s lecture explored the subject of Discourse, a polysemantic term which has been defined in the core text book as “discourses are practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault in Long, P 2012:489). We discussed that discourse is closely linked to representation and aims to analyse texts within their surrounding factors, social and cultural.

In the lecture, we studied how discourse analysis has developed through various channels, leading to it becoming a term with many meanings and definitions. It is a method of helping us as media scholars to analyse the reasons for the production of a certain text.

A key theorist who is mentioned in both of my readings for this week is Foucault. His view is that we can only understand the meaning of something if we have knowledge of it (Hall, S in Wetherell 2001:73) Smith and Bell explore a similar angle of a products meaning by suggesting that a media product can only be analysed successfully if its social context is taken into account. In photography, a still image capturing only part of a scene or event can be analysed using discourse to fully understand its meaning.

Smith and Bell believe that what we read, see and hear should not be taken for granted (Smith and Bell 2007:81). Both of the readings link discourse directly to power and that discourses can be a misleading representation. When presented with an image, we are immediately confronted with our own responses. This leads me on to Stuart Hall’s encoding and decoding model (Hall in Smith and Bell 2007:82) To understand the image properly, we have to consider the social context of the shot, production and processing of the image, the text itself and then how we might interpret it ourselves in our context. Discourse are then, as Hall defines “a subject-position, from which they all make sense”(Hall S in Wetherell 2001:80)

These readings have made me think about the ways in which I consume and respond to images without any knowledge or context to apply to them. For a suggested research method, I would do a discourse analysis of a poster image by Nazi propaganda. Things to consider would be the power relationships between me – the audience-, the context of the era of the image, my own personal feelings and my context as an adult from the 21st century. This will help to prove a greater understanding of the photograph.

References:

Smith,P & Bell,A. (2007). Unravelling the web of discourse analysis. In: Eoin Devereux Media Studies, Key Issues and Debates. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p79-100.

Hall, S. (2001). Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse. In: Wetherell, M Discourse, Theory and Practice. A reader. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p72-82.