Media Audiences: Television, Meaning and Emotion

Media Audiences: Television, Meaning and Emotion

Media Audiences: Television, Meaning and Emotion

Media Audiences: Television, Meaning and Emotion

Synopsis

A comprehensive introduction to the study of media audiences as well as new research on viewers' emotional engagement with television texts. The text provides a detailed introduction to the history of audience research and an overview of the various competing theories on audience; a discussion of current debates within television audience research; an examination of the concept of emotion in relation to different aspects of audience research, such as feminist approaches, issues related to genre, and aesthetics;a small scale research project on television and emotion; and workshop exercises, along with film and television references, internet resources, and additional materials to accompany lectures and seminars. The volume is designed to be used as a primary text for courses within media and communication studies and is ideal for a module focusing on television and audience research. Although it is aimed at an undergraduate reader, original research on audience and emotion will be of interest to postgraduate students and researchers.

Excerpt

My interest in television, meaning and emotion began when I was thinking about how emotion could be understood as an aesthetic quality that made for good television (Gorton 2006). Initially this question led me to research within anthropology of the media – in particular to S. Elizabeth Bird's The Audience in Everyday Life: Living in a Media World (2003). Bird's work was influential for many reasons: her conceptualisation of the audience as active and passive enables us to think more practically about the ways people encounter television in their everyday lives; she remind us that ‘The images and messages wash over us, but most leave little trace, unless they resonate, even for a moment, with something in our personal or cultural experience’ (2003: 2). Most of our television watching experience is spent unmarked. However, as Bird points out, there are moments which resonate either with personal or cultural experiences, and which therefore stand out and are imprinted in our memories. One person I interviewed, for instance, vividly remembers the episode of Neighbours when Madge, a long-term character, dies. She describes watching a programme of ‘important moments in television’ and having to turn away from the screen when this moment was aired. She explains, ‘I can't look because it brings back that moment when it actually happened, and I'm like “Oh, Madge is dying all over again, and I don't want to see it”’ (Interview 13/2/8). These moments are familiar to many of us and signal an emotional engagement with television. This book is interested in these moments – how they tell us something about television aesthetics, the audience and the concept of emotion.

This book is also interested in the ‘turning away’ described by the viewer; she had to literally look away from the screen to avoid the emotional moment she experienced years ago. Around the same time I first read Bird's book I attended a talk given by Professor Sara Ahmed. Following her influential work on the concept of emotion in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), Ahmed considered the notion of ‘orientation’ in relation to sexuality, later developed into Queer . . .

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