Genre and Audiences

Lesson 1 Aims: ‡Recap Genre Theories ‡Watch and Analyse remaining Videos

Recapping The Thriller Genre
The concept of genre offers the possibility of recognizing similarities even in the midst of great diversity.¶ (Shepherd & Watters, 1998)

³a loose category or classification of media products. Classification into one genre or another is governed by codes and conventions, and each has its own more or less obvious iconography (a set of visual representations in a media text that, taken together, indicate its genre). The codes and conventions of a genre refer both to cultural signals contained in the text and to the ways in which the text¶s content is presented´

Altman (1999)
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Genres are defined by producers Easily recognizable by audiences Texts in a genre contain key characteristics Genres are not particularly located in history Genres are ideological

How are genres ideological?

The Ideological Approach Defines genres as µthe generalized, identifiable structures through which Hollywood¶s rhetoric flows [«] Hollywood uses Genre as a tool for stamping beliefs and values onto audiences.¶ ALTMAN OTHER Critics and Theorists who like this approach are Cahiers Du Cinema Critics (France) and the Frankfurt School (Germany)

Yes this is a Thriller film because I am the one producing it. What ever messages I want in the film will go in the film

The Ritual Approach Attributes ultimate authorship to the audience ie the people watching it are the ones who decide what genre it is based on their previous experiences. This approach sees Hollywood as responding to societal pressure and thus expressing audience desires. Critics and theorists who like this position are: John Cawelti, Leo Braudy, Frank McConnel, Micheal Wood, Will Wright and Tom Schatz


‡ Semantic- Like ingredients or building blocks- helps us to identify the genre. ‡ As Altman states the primary, linguistic elements of which all texts are made ‡ Synactic- Like recipes or architectural structures- helps us to explore meanings and values. As Altman states - The secondary textual meanings that are constructed[ ] between primary elements. ‡ The semantic approach stresses the genres building blocks while the syntactic view privileges the structures into which they are arranged

A Semantic view would look at each of these lego blocks as being important

I could put my semantics together in this way
The syntactic meaning would be- this as a small house

Or I could put my semantics together in this way:
The syntactic meaning would bethis as a scooter

‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ The Ideological Approach The Ritual Approach SEMANTIC genre readings SYNTACTIC genre readings

Looking at the questions bellow come up with an exam style question about genre.

What would be the key points you would write about?

At the most basic level, audiences are vital in communication. It is for the audience that the media are constructing and conveying information, and, if it were not for the audiences, the media would not exist. (Hanes)

Lesson Objectives
‡ To learn 6 different audience theories ‡ To explore how you might apply audience theories to your media texts in the exams ‡ To understand the changing role of the audience

Does a media text have any meaning without an audience?
Texts need audiences in order to realise their potential for meaning. So a text does not have a single meaning but rather a range of possibilities which are defined by both the text and by its audiences. The meaning is not in the text, but in the reading. (Hart 1991, 60)

‡ Audiences are not blank sheets of paper on which media messages can be written; members of an audience will have prior attitudes and beliefs which will determine how effective media messages are. (Abercrombie 1996)

A middle aged mother Someone with strict religious beliefs An elderly lady You

How are the audience and the media represented in this song? Where do these ideas come from?

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy- Television the drug of a nation

Mass Media

Mass Audience


If you look at the early history off the media, it is fairly easy to see where the idea of a mass audience came from. Within less than a hundred years photography, Film, radio and television were all invented. Each one of them allowed works of art or pieces of entertainment that might once have been restricted to the number of people who could fit into an art gallery or a theatre to be transmitted in exactly the same form to enormous numbers of people in different parts of the world. It can be very easy, living in this media saturated world to forget how strange this might once have seemed. These media quickly became extremely popular and at the same time there was an important difference between them and older forms of entertainment. Whereas in the past, many forms of entertainment were only available to those who could afford them, now suddenly films and radio particularly were available to all. Early media theorists struggled to understand this and found it easiest to compare the media audiences with the kinds of crowds they were used to from the world before the media- they came up with the ideas of the mass audience. (Steve Barker)

‡ Atomized audiences (Baker) ‡ People watch the media alone

Mainstream or Niche?

‡ No longer such a distinction between people who 'produce' media and people who 'use' media. (David Gauntlet) Watch the two video clips and make note on the changing role of the audience.

Your Task- 15 Minutes
‡ Work alone/ in pairs ‡ Research on the internet for 10 mins (if you need to) ‡ Summarise your theory

‡ After 20 minutes we will go THEORY SPEED DATING!! You will have 3 minutes to present your theory to someone else then they will have 3 minutes to present you. When the timer goes you move on to the next theory.

‡ 1. The Hypodermic Needle Model
Dating from the 1920s, this theory was the first attempt to explain how mass audiences might react to mass media. It is a crude model and suggests that audiences passively receive the information transmitted via a media text, without any attempt on their part to process or challenge the data. Don't forget that this theory was developed in an age when the mass media were still fairly new - radio and cinema were less than two decades old. Governments had just discovered the power of advertising to communicate a message, and produced propaganda to try and sway populaces to their way of thinking. This was particularly rampant in Europe during the First World War (look at some posters here) and its aftermath. Basically, the Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that the information from a text passes into the mass consciouness of the audience unmediated, ie the experience, intelligence and opinion of an individual are not relevant to the reception of the text. This theory suggests that, as an audience, we are manipulated by the creators of media texts, and that our behaviour and thinking might be easily changed by media-makers. It assumes that the audience are passive and heterogenous. This theory is still quoted during moral panics by parents, politicians and pressure groups, and is used to explain why certain groups in society should not be exposed to certain media texts (comics in the 1950s, rap music in the 2000s), for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent behaviour and will then act them out themselves. ‡ ‡ The effects/hypodermic model The original model for audience was the effects/hypodermic model which stressed the effects of the mass media on their audiences. This model owes much to the supposed power of the mass media - in particular film - to inject their audiences with ideas and meanings. Such was the thinking behind much of the Nazi propaganda that was evident in Triumph of the Will and similar films. It is worth noting that totalitarian states and dictatorships are similar in their desire to have complete control over the media, usually in the belief that strict regulation of the media will help in controlling entire populations. The effects model has several variants and despite the fact that it is an outdated model it continues to exert influence in present debates about censorship and control in the media.


Two-Step Flow
‡ The Hypodermic model quickly proved too clumsy for media researchers seeking to more precisely explain the relationship between audience and text. As the mass media became an essential part of life in societies around the world and did NOT reduce populations to a mass of unthinking drones, a more sophisticated explanation was sought. Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet analysed the voters' decision-making processes during a 1940 presidential election campaign and published their results in a paper called The People's Choice. Their findings suggested that the information does not flow directly from the text into the minds of its audience unmediated but is filtered through "opinion leaders" who then communicate it to their less active associates, over whom they have influence. The audience then mediate the information received directly from the media with the ideas and thoughts expressed by the opinion leaders, thus being influenced not by a direct process, but by a two step flow. This diminished the power of the media in the eyes of researchers, and caused them to conclude that social factors were also important in the way in which audiences interpreted texts. This is sometimes referred to as the limited effects paradigm.

Uses & Gratifications
During the 1960s, as the first generation to grow up with television became grown ups, it became increasingly apparent to media theorists that audiences made choices about what they did when consuming texts. Far from being a passive mass, audiences were made up of individuals who actively consumed texts for different reasons and in different ways. Researchers Blulmer and Katz expanded this theory and published their own in 1974, stating that individuals might choose and use a text for the following purposes (ie uses and gratifications): * Diversion - escape from everyday problems and routine. * Personal Relationships - using the media for emotional and other interaction, eg) substituting soap operas for family life * Personal Identity - finding yourself reflected in texts, learning behaviour and values from texts * Surveillance - Information which could be useful for living eg) weather reports, financial news, holiday bargains Since then, the list of Uses and Gratifications has been extended, particularly as new media forms have come along (eg video games, the internet)

Reception Theory/ Active audience
Extending the concept of an active audience still further, in the 1980s and 1990s a lot of work was done on the way individuals received and interpreted a text, and how their individual circumstances (gender, class, age, ethnicity) affected their reading. This work was based on Stuart Hall's encoding/decoding model of the relationship between text and audience the text is encoded by the producer, and decoded by the reader, and there may be major differences between two different readings of the same code. However, by using recognised codes and conventions, and by drawing upon audience expectations relating to aspects such as genre and use of stars, the producers can position the audience and thus create a certain amount of agreement on what the code means. This is known as a preferred reading.
‡ More recent developments still, suggest that there is a decoding process going on among the active audience who are not simply using the media for gratification purposes. Morley's view of dominant, negotiated and oppositional readings of texts is a semiological approach because it recognises the importance of the analysis of signs, particularly visual signs, that shape so much of modern media output. In this model, at its simplest level, the audience accept or agree with the encoded meanings, they accept and refine parts of the text's meanings or they are aware of the dominant meaning of the text but reject it for cultural, political or ideological reasons.

Mode of address
‡ Still in line with the active audience idea is the concept of mode of address. This refers to the way that a text speaks to us in a style that encourages us to identify with the text because it is 'our' kind of text. For example Friends is intended for a young audience because of the way it uses music and the opening credits to develop a sense of fun, energy and enthusiasm that the perceived audience can identify with. This does not mean that other groups are excluded, merely that the dominant mode of address is targetted at the young. Mode of address can even be applied to entire outputs, as in the case of Channel Four which works hard to form a style of address aimed at an audience which is informed, articulate and in some ways a specialised one. Newspapers, too, often construct their presentation to reflect what they imagine is the identity of their typical readers. Compare The Sun and The Guardian in this context.

Ethnographic model
‡ ‡ ‡ The latest research into audience has resulted in an ethnographic model, which means that the researcher enters into the culture of the group and uses questions and interviews to try to understand media engagement from the perspective of the group. What seems to be emerging from this work is a) the focus on the domestic context of reception of media texts b) the element of cultural competence, and finally c) technologies. The first of these stresses the fact that engagement with the media is often structured by the domestic environment because of the domestication of entertainment and leisure. It appears that the home is not a free space and there are issues about finance for purchase of media goods, control of the remote, the gendered nature of watching TV and the 'flow' of TV that fits alongside or within a set of domestic relationships. So TV viewing may not be the concentrated, analytical business that some theorists suggest. The second area is best understood in terms of texts that can be identified as belonging to a genre that has gender appeal. For example, soaps are usually seen to have a strong female bias in viewing audience. There is a selection of competencies that are brought to such texts so knowing about cliffhangers, the role of the matriarch or the fluid nature of character relationships simply adds to the pleasures associated with the text. Think about the texts that you enjoy and even though you know how a text will be shaped or how it will end these are not barriers to your enjoyment of that text. Competencies even include the very expectations that you have for the text. The male preference for news and more factual forms can be seen as a feature of cultural competence because men occupy more public space than domestic space and therefore feel the need to be aware of the public worlds reflected in such texts. The third area identified relates to the way we engage with the hardware in order to enjoy the output of the media. There seems to be a strong gender divide here with computers and complex technology fitting into the category of 'boys¶ toys'. If present trends in technology continue then there is a real danger that just as our society is dividing along lines of information-rich and information-poor then there will be a further demarcation along gender lines. This explains why schools and TV programmes need to present positive gender representations and good practice that supports females and technological expertise. You will note that many of the lifestyle programmes that are on TV use females in less traditional roles as a way of redressing the balance. Overall the shift in the models for audience has gone from mass audience to individual viewer with stress on the active audience rather than the passive model. The level of activity in the implied audience is related to the uses, pleasures, cultural competence, situation and available technology for the particular audience.





Looking at the questions bellow come up with an exam style question about audiences.

What would be the key points you would write about?

Audiences Revision
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Ethnographic Model Hypodermic/ Effects model Mode of address Uses and Gratifications Two Step Flow

Your Task- 20 Minutes
‡ Work alone/ in pairs ‡ Research on the internet for 10 mins (if you need to) ‡ Create an A4 sheet. Present the theory in an interesting memorable way which would be helpful to revise from i.e. using a drawing/ using a rhyme etc. Include the names of at least one theorist. ‡ Extension task- Write about how you could use this audience theory in your exam relating it back to your practical texts.