Chapter Two: Television
From: Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, by John Storey
By: Bridgett Vanderwalker
Storey states that “Television is the popular cultural form of the twenty-first century” (9). Storey divides the chapter into four specific theories of how television functions in cultural studies and their various aspects.
Encoding And Decoding Television Discourse
Storey starts with Hall’s ideas presented in his work ‘Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse.’ First media produces a raw event on television which wants to carry across a dominant viewpoint. The media producers have a certain motive in their work but once it leaves their hands it will be absorbed based on the audiences’ preconceived notions that may be different than was intended. The second process is once the product is produced it can then be process and may produce public discourse. The third process involves decoding the message if it meaningful it will open the “market for more consumption if not consumption will end and so will any discussion. Storey stresses that meanings and messages cannot be transmitted but produced and those messages are based in a certain context and time. Misunderstandings are always possible with the intention of the program because it may be too difficult or too strange to the domestic context of outside the dominant code”(12). When an audience is in concord with the program they are operating within dominate and professional code. A second option for audiences is the ‘negotiated code or position.’ “It accords the privileged position to the dominant definitions of events while reserving the right to make a more negotiated application to ‘local conditions’, to its own corporate positions”(13). The third position Hall indentifies is that of “the oppositional code.” This is where the viewer recognizes the preferred message but chooses an alternative meaning. Hall stages how individuals interpret television programs within a social position.
1. The production of a meaningful message in the TV discourse is always problematic ‘work’. Translation: Any message can be interpret in several ways
2. The message in social communication is always complex in structure and form.
3. Messages encoded one way can always be read in a different way.(14)
Hall makes a good point when he says decoding of messages are not exclusive to what social position one holds. He says it is class plus “particular discourse positions produce specific readings”.(15) Hall goes on to say that not all messages hold the same level and this based on the context one finds themselves.
Morely another theorist says “the domestic context of TV viewing,[ ] is constitutive of its meaning”(18). Morely takes a much more individualistic viewpoint in that it is individuals who interrupt television programs. He makes an excellent point in pointing out that watching television is a social act which promotes social relationships and unites people where otherwise certain social groups would not normally associate with each other. Hobson makes a point to point out that people watch different programs for different reasons. The viewers bring many different ideas and feelings to a program and thus they are able to make their own interpretations. Hobson says: “New contexts will bring about the enactment of new significances; a narrative [in this case a soap opera] seemingly discarded seems suddenly to have a new relevance and a new utility”(21). “Hobson insists that viewers ‘work with the text and add their own experiences and opinions to the stories in the programme’”(22). Hobson also comments on that one storyline may have different meanings it is how the individual interprets it that the text comes alive. Hobson says that a text has a material structure which has a variety of interpretations. Viewers view programs from social and discursive and thus a there are limits to the text. In conclusion a program is a stepping stone for discussion of wider social groups that see generalizations that apply to humanity as a whole.
Television And ‘The Ideology Of Mass Culture’
The Dutch theorist, Ien Ang, states that “realism is an illusion created by the extent to which a text can successfully conceal its constructiveness”(26). Essentially, viewing a program is decoding and constructing meaning by intermingling ourselves in the narrative itself so even the most unrealistic texts can have meaning if the viewer is engaged in the text. As long as a show has cultural or individualistic relevance in the human sphere it can be seen as discussion of human issues. Ang say that while some may like or dislike a show it is based on if they are engaging with the text and whether they see the show as a product of mass media. Ang makes a valid point when she says: “fantasy and fiction does not function in place of, but besides, other dimensions of life (social practice, moral or political consciousness)”(31).
The Two Economies Of Television
John Fishe says that “the power of the audience-as-producers in the cultural economy is considerable”(32). Fishe believes cultural commodities such as television and films revolve around two economies financial and cultural. Financial revolves around exchange value while cultural is concerned with meanings, pleasures, and social identities. If TV producers can’t predict what audiences want they will fail to sell their product. In this viewpoint popular culture is seen as ‘a site of struggle’ where both economic and aesthetic concerns are competing for balance.
1. What American studies have been done recently on the two economies of television where it seems particularly relevant to see the financial side and viewer side and how functions in American society.