Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Key Concepts

Audience - all those who consume or interact with media products. A target audience may be identified as either mass (or mainstream) or niche and the product may be marketed to reach that audience; alternatively an audience may be constructed (e.g. a BBC 2 Comedy Zone audience, a Guardian reader, an American indie-film fan). Various demographic models exist, either by social or economic status (ABC1 etc. or the more recent 1a, b, c etc.), by lifestyle ("aspirer", "seeker" etc.) or media consumption references.Students should also be encouraged to examine the audience's complex and dynamic relationship with media products, rather than seeing the audience as a passive and homogeneous entity. They should also have explored the "pleasures", or uses and gratifications, the audience has from a text and the various functions it performs for them, as well as its effectiveness or impact (emotional, visual, ideological etc.). Particular audiences might have their own dominant/hegemonic, negotiated or oppositional readings. They might not accept the producer's preferred meaning. The nature of the meanings, interpretations and functions of a particular text in relationship to different audiences should be examined.
Key theories to explore include Blumier and Katz, Richard Dyer, Abraham Maslow and Stuart Hall

Ideology - often referred to as the system of ideas, values and beliefs which an individual, group or society holds to be true or important; these are shared by a culture or society about how that society should function. That which is seen to be shared, or perpetuated, by the most influential social agents (the churches, the law, education, government, the media etc.) may be described as dominant ideology. For example, ideas about such topics as work ("It is important to have a job"), money ("It is important to save money, buy insurance or a pension"), relationships ("Children should have parents, a man and a woman, who are married"), gender ("Women are naturally better at raising children") are all ideological viewpoints and correspond to a particular power relationship, political perspective or agenda that has developed over time. A common focus for ideological debate is the ways in which people are represented. However, study should focus on other less tangible or obvious values behind the images, such as materialism, celebrity, consumerism and patriotism, for example, which may be indirectly expressed. Ideas that are different from these may be called, oppositional, alternative, subversive, subordinate or counter to dominant ideology. The process by which dominant ideology is maintained is called hegemony. There are various schools of ideological theory, however, the most important point for you to grasp and explore (rather than quote academics without understanding) is that all media texts, and audiences, bear evidence of ideologies of one kind or another, whether directly or indirectly.
Key theories to explore include Marxism/Frankfurt school (the Effects Model), Feminist theory (Laura Mulvey) and Stuart Hall

Representation - the process of making meaning in still or moving images and words/sounds. In its simplest form, it means to present/show someone or something. However, as a concept for debate, it is used to describe the process by which an image etc. may be used to represent/stand for someone or something, for example a place or an idea. Inherent in this second definition is the notion that there may be a responsibility on the part of the producer for any representation, with regard to accuracy, "truth" and the viewpoints and opinions that such a representation may perpetuate. Therefore, debates commonly focus on the nature, positive or negative, radical or reactionary, of representation of minorities (according to race, sexuality, disability) and how they might not be beneficially served, politically or ideologically, by stereotypes/archetypes. These minorities may also be referred to as belonging to social groups (to include gender, social class, nationality, regionality, age, sexuality etc.). The concept of representation is not, however, exclusively related to that of social or cultural minorities. Study of the concept of representation should be linked to ideology and should examine the history of the construction of particular stereotypes and its purposes, the processes of representation and its effects. The concept is a complex and dynamic one and you should avoid simplistic and stereotypical responses, which solely see representation as a negative process.
Key theories to explore include Daniel Chandler's CAGE theory, Barthes and Strauss's Semiology (and the others above!)

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