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Media Audiences - Reception Theory

Lecture 2 for GCU Media Audiences Module

Catriona Miller

on 9 December 2015

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Transcript of Media Audiences - Reception Theory

Media Audiences
Audience Reception Theory

“The history of reception studies begins at the moment speakers attempted to figure out what listeners might understand about messages.” (Staiger, 2005, p.1)
Today we'll consider:
A tiny bit of history
The Hypodermic Needle model
The Uses and Gratification Model
Encoding/Decoding Model
Ethnography Approach
In the late 4th Century BCE Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and teacher, wrote down his thoughts on what made for effective, persuasive communication with an audience.
Pathos – i.e. emotion
Ethos – credibility and the moral competence of the speaker.
Logos – a good structure.
Pathos – the crowd are sobbing so he's doing something right.
Ethos – credibility and the moral competence of the speaker. Obama is himself of African-American origin and he's an educated man.
Logos – a good structure. It builds up, uses repetition and the rule of three to finish.
1 - The 'Hypodermic Needle'
This model works on the assumption that audiences uncritically absorb media messages and act upon them.

“Adorno’s work exemplifies the notion of the media as a powerful agent of control and the audience as a passive receiver.” (Gorton, 2009,p.14)
Eating Behaviours and Attitudes following prolonged exposure to television among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls’: British Journal of Psychiatry, 2002, Volume 180, pp509-514
In 1995 41.3% had a TV in the home, in 1998 70.8% did.
In 1995, 12.7% had a EAT-26 score over 20. In 1998 that had gone up to 29.2% (Eating Attitudes Test with 26 questions - there are other tests with more questions i.e. EAT-40.)
In 1995, none of the girls ‘induced vomiting to control weight’ in 1998 it was 11.3%.
But ...
It's a small sample size.
No baseline date on general dieting habits in 1995.
Percentage increases look large but it is only an additional 11 girls, which is quite a small increase if the western media is as powerful as it is claimed.
Hard to know about the impact of westernisation and television on Fijian culture in general.
2 - Uses & Gratification
Researchers sought to understand the ‘impulses of audience motivation’ i.e. what GRATIFICATION did they get for their USE of the media. (Basically that audiences use the media, rather than being used by the media!)
Some examples of 'impulses of motivation' might be:
Surveillance – sought from the news, information about party policies and other issues of the day.
Diversion – the relief from boredom and the constraints of daily routines derived from chat shows, music, comedy… etc.
Personal Identity functions – standing for ways of using media materials to give added salience [relevance] to something important in the audience member’s own life or situation. This could be in the form of inspiration to resolve a dilemma; advice, support, confirmation of own opinions.
Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others, Gina Masullo Che, Computers in Human Behavior Volume 27, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 755-762
The author argues that Twitter allows people to gratify their intrinsic need to form relationships with other people through the habitual process of using Twitter by sending tweets and direct messages, retweeting, following people, and gaining followers. Gratification of the need to connect with others through the process of using Twitter is a para-social gratification where people form ritualized social relationships through media use
3 - Encoding/Decoding
Media texts were designed, constructed, ENCODED in certain ways, but it didn’t GUARANTEE that the audience would understand, received DECODE what was intended, because the audience did have some free will of their own.
Dominant-Hegemonic Position or the Preferred Meaning–
where the viewer accepts the encoded meaning – takes a news story straight.
– ‘a mixture of adaptive and oppositional elements’; the dominant meaning is understood but the viewer may decides it’s not applicable to them.
– dominant reading is rejected in favour of another not intended. Someone viewing a news story might ‘read’ every mention of ‘the national interest’ as ‘class interest’.
Casablanca (Dir:Michael Curtiz, 1942)
4 - Ethnographic Approach
Encoded as a classic heterosexual
Or is it?! No guarantee that is how it will be DECODED.
An approach influenced by Anthropology – observing the way of life of a foreign culture in its natural environment – “the researcher goes to the place where the action is happening and lives with that culture for an extended period of time.” (Fourie, 2001, p.266)

An ethnographic approach uses direct observation, with focus groups, interviews and questionnaires to supplement that observation.
Lakshmi Srinivas: The active audience: spectatorship, social relations and the experience of cinema in India: Media, Culture & Society, 2002, Vol 24: 155-173
The films themselves are structured to take account of a ‘distracted’, boisterous audience. If they don’t like what’s on, they chat to their pals, make a phone call, catch up on the cricket scores, tuck into a picnic, or shout at the screen, give the characters advice, predict what they’re going to say next. Or they get up, move around. These are all acceptable. Socializing in the theatre with friends and family takes priority over seeing the film.
Aristotle & Obama (2008)
Hypodermic Needle??
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