A Cultural Approach to Communica0on CLA1201 SemA 2012 Department of Media and Communica0on City University of Hong Kong Recap of Last Week’s Lecture •? We discussed the psychological e? ects of media on the audience •? The media e? ects research tradi0on draws from psychology and sociology •? It is generally quan0ta0ve (i. e. , using numbers and formulas to represent knowledge) and scien0? c (i. e. , lab experiments. ) •? But there are some limita0ons to this approach.
Cri0que of the “E? ect Approach” •? The “effect approach” (or scienti? c approach) of communication research” –? Reduces “cultural questions” to measurable and veri? ble categories ” –? Depends on “rigidly objectivity”” –? Serves advertisers and media organizations primarily” –? Narrowly focuses on audience individual behavior, ignoring questions like “where are media industries taking us” ” –? Refuses to place the research in a broader social and historical context” •? Instead, historical and cultural approaches should be used to focus on the long-range effect of mass media.
” Di? erent Methods: Cultural Studies vs.
E? ect Studies •? The “cultural approach” often uses methods such as audience ethnography and textual analysis, which has previously been used primarily in humanities (e. . literary studies). ” •? The “effect approach”, or generally understood as the “communication studies”, uses methods such as survey research, content analysis and experiments. ” Origin of the Cultural Approach •? Originated in Europe, where an interpretive approach (as in literary criticism) is preferred to a scienti? c approach. ” •? In? uenced by Marxism: mass media operate primarily to justify and support the existing power at the expense of ordinary people ” –? Old-fashioned Marxists believed people were oppressed by those who owned the means of production, or the base.
Neo-Marxists believe people are oppressed by those who control the culture, or the superstructure. ” •? Its goal is to bring about change in government media policies or even fundamental change in media and cultural systems. ” ” The Frankfurt School •? It emerged in the United States in 1930s when a group of scholars escaped to US from Nazi Germany, where Hitler effectively used mass media to control the minds of the public. ” The Frankfurt School (Cont. ) •? These scholars analyzed products of mass culture within the context of cultural industries and focused on features of” –?
Commodi? cation” –? Standardization ” –? Massi? cation ” •? They believe cultural industries provide legitimation for capitalism and serve to integrate individuals into mass culture through “false consciousness”. ” Frankfurt School scholars were the ?rst to: •? Comment on the role of “cultural industries” in the functioning of modern societies” –? Agents of socialization (positively presenting social norms)” –? Mediators of political reality” –? Maintaining the status quo and legitimating dominant power” •? Systematically analyze and criticize mass-mediated culture” But…
Its distinction between high and low culture, and preference for high culture over low culture shows an elitist bias. ” –? Seeing mass culture as monolithic, duping a mass of consumers” –? An idealistic view of “authentic art”” Adorno and Horkheimer The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, Walter Benjamin BBC Modern Masters Series: Andy Warhol Nor does the distinction recognize that audience may be active, may have their own reading of a text or even become a producer” ” Or give adequate attention to the actual production process of media and their interaction with other social institutions. Bri0sh Cultural Studies:1960s and onwards •? “The Birmingham School” arose in 1960s when political upheaval swept through Britain. ” –? A class-based system and widespread inequality” –? Mass media tried to integrate the working classes” –? In? ow of ethnic population from diverse backgrounds ” –? Americanization of pop culture” –? Feminist movement and Civil Rights movement” Characteris0cs of Bri0sh Cultural Studies •? Like the Frankfurt School, British cultural scholars believe mass media may further the will of the dominant class and may oppress subordinate class, gender, race, and ethnic strata. ” •?
Different from the Frankfurt School, they argue audience can resist and struggle against domination. ” –? Media texts do not have “transparent” meaning. Texts have different layers of sign systems that audience may interpret differently from media producers. ” –? Audience is no longer passive. Audience with different social and political orientations decode messages differently. ” •? Removing “high vs. low” cultural distinction and embracing popular cultural forms like television and pop music. ” ” From Week 2 Slides: How are meanings created and Shared? “Elephant” The Triangle of Meaning ” c-o-w” (Signifier) a farm animal (Signified) he animal itself (R) The Triangle of Meaning” 1.? Signi? er: the sign/word/picture itself ” “e. g. , “c-o-w”” 1.? Referent: the object or external reality being referred to, e. g. , the physical cow in the farm” 2.? Signi? ed: the conventional meaning, ” ” “e. g. a farm animal, produces milk, etc. ” “
“The process of interaction among these 3 elements so as to create meanings is called signi? cation. ” Encoding/Decoding Model (Stuart Hall) ” •? Dominant Reading” •? Negotiated Reading” •? Oppositional Reading” http://users. aber. ac. uk/dgc/Documents/S4B/sem08c. html” ? ?? Financial Times China: Financial Times China: ? Grass Mud Horse”: Internet resistance art wiki-entry: · Green Dam Girl ? (Song of Grass Mud Horse) What Is “Worth” Studying? •? Previously studies in humanities focused on highly regarded works of art such as poems, painting and ? lms. ” •? Now cultural scholars turn to less elite forms of culture: fashion, tabloid magazines, pop icons, rock music, hiphop, soap operas, TV dramas, shopping malls, advertising, reality TV, professional wrestling, etc. ” •? Scholars try to make sense of the “taken-for-granted” everyday life and media culture, which they believe can provide insight into broader meanings of society. Textual Analysis •? Highlights the interpretation of cultural messages (books, movies, TV programs)” •? Instead of looking for replicability and objectivity of data, textual analysis looks for meanings in rituals and narratives. ” •? TV: The Most Popular Art (Horace Newcomb)! –? why certain TV programs and formats became popular (e. g. comedies, westerns, mysteries, soap operas, news, sports)” –? “The task for the study of popular art is to ? nd a technique through which many different qualities of the work – aesthetic, social, psychological – may be explored”. (Newcomb, 1974)” Audience Studies •?
Focuses on how people use and interpret text (cultural content)” •? It differs from textual analysis in that the subject of study is now “audience” instead of “text”. It explores audience? relation to the text. ” •? It often combines audience ethnography with some form of textual analysis as methods. ” Assessing Cultural Studies •? While cultural studies avoid cutting up the culture into high and low, popular and elite, and manage to bring race, gender, and class issues into research focus;” •? They suffer from too narrow a focus on cultural text and audience reception, overlooking the production process and the arger political-economic context of media production. ” •? The celebration of audience freedom in interpreting texts may be carried to far, to the point as if audience alone may produce meaning. ” Some related schools of thoughts or tradi0ons within “cultural studies” ? Communication as Rituals? /Construction of Reality ? A ritual view of communication is directed not toward the extension of messages in space for the purpose of control, but toward the maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs. (James Carey, 1975, p. 18). “
” Communication as Rituals? Construction of Reality? ” Communication is a process of creating culture ” •? “Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed” (James Carey, 1975). ” ” The Lippmann-? Dewey Debate Walter Lippmann John Dewey Produc0on of Culture Studies how economic and other factors in? uence the way culture is produced, ? nding out rules and routines that govern cultural production (see more in Lecture Two)” Entertainment Production News Production Poli0cal Economy Studies •? Political economy studies examine interconnections among economic interests, political power, and how that power is used. •? Major concerns include:” –? Increasing concentration of ownership: control of media by fewer and fewer organizations” –? Catering to “what the public want” rather than “what they need”; the bottom-line is money rather than democratic expressions” Ownership and Concentration ” •? Horizontal integration” •? Vertical integration” •? Internationalization” •? Multi-sector and multimedia integration” Sing Tao Group To summarize, we looked at •? Dominant schools in cultural studies” –? Frankfurt School (originated in USA)” –? Birmingham School (originated in Britain)” •?
Changing interest ” –? A macro-level analysis of popular culture encompassing political economy, texts, and audience, sustained by a “high culture vs. low culture” divide (Frankfurt School) ” –? Studying more diverse forms of popular culture; subcultures; as well as issues of identity politics (Birmingham School and onwards)” •? Major approaches ” –? Audience studies (Audience engagement with texts)” –? Textural analysis” •? Related schools in cultural studies” –? Communication as rituals (construction of reality)” –? Production of Culture” –? Political Economy “