All entries for Tuesday 10 January 2006

January 10, 2006

Rationale of audience studies

Lies in Radway's manifesto towards her sophisticated designed ethnographic projects for investigating popular culture tribes. At least, this is the first time I got so much touched and made my mind up – 'yeh, this study makes sense.'

In her paper titled ‘Reception Study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects’ she rationalised a core purpose of doing research in fields of popular culture: articulating the production of subjectivity. Popular cultures, in her eyes, are the remains of sites where the individual is to distinguish from the dominant culture institutionalised self. From the very first instance we were taught to confine our play space to a bounded space by our parents, the line of social productive time and personal time (maybe what we’d like to call wasteheads time ;)) was drawn. The borderline is strengthened in the school demarcation of classroom and playground, and in sequence, scaled to the leisure spaces we then automatically define as private and non-serious throughout the adulthood. For Radway, the hypothesis of the studies on those sphere is that these are ‘of empowerment where individuals experience pleasure and affective intensity and therefore construct themselves as knowing, powerful subjects’. In other words, these are places where people stop being societal productive as only a part of the collective whole and think, with the remaining part of self (if there is such a thing), 'what’s the meaning of life to me', and exactly where the core of subjectivity is produced. Thus she suggested that ethnography is the very suitable way to investigate such articulation where dominate culture of the superstructure is interacted, negotiated, and resisted hence consequently make meaning in personal lives. The validity of ethnography here is due to its flexible departure of conducting in the discourse, well not even discourse, the whole context of particular politically bounded/regionalised collectives; its processing of observing the subjectivities of such collectives as it flows; its premise of not to base the research fundamentals on any particular disciplinary circuit; and its requirement to the researchers of not being high up the sky but to be an objective part of the observed groups. Ethnography is a research method originated in anthropology where it was presented as ‘a written account of a lengthy social interaction between a scholar and a distant culture.’ It has been so far widely applied to almost all social studies disciplines. In media studies, it is especially widely conducted in audience research. In some cases, it was also carried out with production groups to examine in the face where the legitimated culture has its subjectivities derived. (I think it’s a research carried out by Roger Silverstone with a BBC science programme production group, can’t remember the name now.)

Radway, Janice. (1988) ‘Reception Study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects’ in Cultural Studies. 2 (3)


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