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 Solid Granite

Once you begin your media course and have been introduced to some common terminology, exploration of media forms and given insight into the structure of your GCSE or A-level, you will begin to explore the key concepts in media.  Any media text is made up of GRANITE.  Confused?

  • Okay, Every media text belongs to a Genre or group (a horror film, dance track, teen magazine)
  • Within that text, a person, place or object is being Represented in some way, shape or form.
  • The Audience for that media text will make sense of it using their personal and shared experiences.
  • The text also contains a Narrative, be it a photograph of war or some bad gangsta lyrics about pimping your uncle
  • The text didn't evolve from bacteria, it was constructed by a media Institution for financial purposes and has elements of their Ideology embedded within the text.
  • It was produced using some Technology, be it DTP (Desk Top Publishing software) or hardware
  • The Evidence is the product itself which you can then reference against other Experiences you've had with similar Media
  • Get it?!

The concepts are explored below in more detail, with links to other pages and pdf files where appropriate.

simples meerkat


Videos/presentations on the media key concepts:

Genre: (above) comical look at the evolving number of genres available in film, where you will study genre more frequently.  Genres are defined by filmmakers and undestood by audiences through shared conventions and codes.  The above video pokes fun at the fact that many of the studio films produced these days are formulaic and lack originality. 

Genre is often defined by a repertoire of elements or generic features that allow audiences to categorise the text.


Genre - Repertoire of Elements
Generic Feature Explanation Link to other Key Concepts
Characterisation This is when stock characters are present in a media text (we sometimes call them stereotypes), this can also refer to stars/actors who play a particular type of role (ie, Bruce Willis - action/thriller), personal qualities of main characters (this can include motivations, goals and behaviours) Representation and Narrative
Setting (Diegesis) The geographical (place) and historical (context) of the text might help identify genre. Representation (cultural ref)
Expectations Audiences will have an understanding of similar/comparable texts to help identify the genre.  Previous knowledge of the genre also allows audiences to predict narrative patterns.  Can also link to intertextuality. Audience
Story Often predictable plot lines and narrative structures allow us to identify genre.  This can include situations (disruptions), conflicts (recognition) and resolutions (new equillibrium). See Syd Field. Narrative
Themes The way in which ideas are explored, ideology is presented and subject matter dealt with.  Different genres will deal with these in different ways.  Narrative
 Mise-en-scene (iconography)  A range of props/stock images and symbols which have fixed connotations with a certain type of genre (think Western - desert, hats, guns, tumbleweed, Clint Eastwood, cigars, horses, etc.)  Media Language
Production techniques  Creative use of camera techniques, lighting and sound (think auteristic elements for directors who produce certain types of film); can also be linked to editing and use of colour.  Media Language

Parody, or spoof, films are a good starting point when examining genre as the most obvious codes and conventions of a particular genre are amplified and made glaringly obvious.  Genre, French for type, is easily identifiable by audiences who have expectations about what a particular film will contain.  We call these generic codes and conventions.  But films are also a good at illustrating how genres can evolve into hybrids - ie, an action-comedy (Rush Hour or Another 48 hours).


Representation: (above) Stuart Hall rolls up his sleeves whilst some annoying blue screen jizz plays on in the background (look at related videos when it finishes - much simpler).  He talks about the process of encoding and decoding, stating that audience experiences determine how a media text is read, as well as examining the context and expectations of the media text in question.  Search 'audience reception theory' and 'dominant, negotiated and oppositional readings'.

To introduce representation, consider examining the following images to start.  Once you've explored and discussed this concept in more detail, you will understand how meaning is negotiated by the audience in a process of mediation.  A producer constructs a media text for consumption.  Within the text are a bundle of ideas, codes, messages and meanings waiting to be decoded.  The way in which the messages are decoded depends on several factors and beliefs held by the audience. 

reception model

The producer will have a particular hope for how the text will be received by audiences.  This is known as the dominant or preferred reading of a text.  Put simply, the audience will look at the text without interference and totally accept the meaning created.  There are other factors, however, to consider; this can be best described as noise.  If we consider noise as personal beliefs/ideals, language and visual/audio noise then this can affect an audience's reading of a text.  Imagine, you're watching a sitcom and all of a sudden, as the one liner is delivered, your signal experiences interference and you miss the line - this can lead to you not understanding the full message or joke, so your interpretation of the text is altered (but this is not the only way meaning is lost).  The canned laughter may cause you to smile and laugh because you accept that it a comedy and a convention of your experience, but meaning has been altered; imagine that you heard the joke clearly but didn't find it funny because of your religion or own personal ideology, or the joke is delivered by someone that you really can't stand (for all you Russel Brand fans), then part of the meaning is lost. 

Really, the list could go on, but the intended meaning is not going to be fully accepted, therefore there is a process of negotiation by the audience with some ideas cleanly extracted, and others dismissed.  This negotiated reading is probably the most common, especially in such an information rich age where people have multiple perceptions of reality and personal experiences.  Now go one step further and imagine that the audience totally rejects the idea/message, perhaps the text is shown in a foreign country or to a culture with completely conflicting beliefs.   Imagine that the joke accidently incites hatred and creates disgust amongst viewers.  Not possible, you're thinking, but this kind of thing happens all the time.  One of the best examples is the cartoons of a Dutch artist about the prophet Mohammad.  Culturally, within Holland, many who held patriotic beliefs and subscribed to the ideology of the newspaper they appeared in may have accepted the cartoon as amusing satire.  However, those of the Islamic faith were outraged and protests occurred across the globe.  Whilst the producer of the text must have known that his views might offend, the context of comic strip in a newspaper had the opposite affect - we can call this an oppositional reading. 

The other meaning, less popular but nonetheless very likely in terms of cultural ideology, is known as aberrant reading, where the audience decodes a completely different view or idea that was originally intended.  You can debate whether the prophet comic strip incident is an example of this, but is probably best seen in auditioning on reality TV shows where the judges and audiences are laughing at a contestant who clearly believes that their singing/act conforms to a shared ideology.

Audience: All media texts are directed towards an audience, so understanding audience theory is essential before beginning any Media Studies tasks.  There are many ways to categorize an audience, but before we look at phrases like demographics and social class, lets consider the main theories about audience reception. see Critical concepts.  There are several audience theories, including: the effects theory, uses and gratification, the two-step flow model and hyperdermic syringe model.

Narrative: If the word Todorov and Propp don't ring any bells, then don't worry.  Narrative pdf Through studying folklore and narratives, theorists came up with many ways to interpret texts and explain their functions, including Barthes and Levi-Strauss.  Essentially, narrative is examining the story and organisation of a media text. You will become familiar with  Barthes' enigma codes, be an expert at highlighting binary opposition in films like Blade Runner and The Terminator, quote Vladimir Propp whilst watching Star Wars and cursing Syd Field after watching a really unoriginal Hollywood blockbuster.

Ideology refers to the set of values, beliefs and ideas held by an Institution, organisation or audience.  The way that a text is produced and interpreted is therefore heavily influenced by the producer of the text and can affect the way in which it is read (see Hall in representation above).  Therefore, remember that most media texts are produced for profit and entertainment.  Condider ideology and hegemony when you examine news programmes and think about how Institutions care more about branding and recognition rather than audience pleasures and satisfactions.

Technology has changed the way that we consume traditional media products and it is worth examining the new technologies page for ideas and inspirataion.  TV is now being produced in HD and films are experimenting with new technologies all the time, driving industries forward.  Audiences also drive demand for new technologies, and this illustrates the reliance upon audience and producer co-working together to satisfy demands.

tags: media theory, key media conepts



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