Constructing the Child Viewer: A History of the American Discourse on Television and Children, 1950-1980

Constructing the Child Viewer: A History of the American Discourse on Television and Children, 1950-1980

Constructing the Child Viewer: A History of the American Discourse on Television and Children, 1950-1980

Constructing the Child Viewer: A History of the American Discourse on Television and Children, 1950-1980

Synopsis

Beginning from a poststructuralist position, Constructing the Child Viewer examines three decades of U.S. research on television and children. The book concludes that historical concepts of the child television viewer are products of discourse and cannot be taken to reflect objective, scientific truths about the child viewer. Nearly all academic studies published from 1948 to 1979 on the subject are included in this volume. Each receives close textual analysis, making this a useful bibliographic resource and reference book.

Excerpt

This project began as an archeology of knowledge. My initial aim was to search out and document the discursive constructions of the child in the U.S. research literature on tv and children. From the onset of this project, it became clear that I had underestimated the enormity of the task. Following Michel Foucault's methodological template, outlined in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972), I recognized early on that a comprehensive archeology was impossible. That is, within the generic conventions and constraints of writing an academic book, it is impossible to account for all the textual sites upon which tv and the child were mapped over a 40-year period. Hence, I decided to exclude a range of texts such as federal reports, school curricular documents, teachers' professional journals, and the wide range of popular cultural texts wherein strictly academic knowledges are transformed into publicly accessible and "commonsense" knowledges. My first move, then, was to concentrate on the purely "scientific" domain of knowledge production about tv and children. But even narrowing my research to scholarly texts turned out to be a much larger task than I had anticipated.

The genealogical aspect of a Foucauldian archeology calls for a historical trace of discursive (re)configurations. I was thus compelled to outline how the child was conceptualized in relation to the cinema, radio, and comics in order to then map possible continuities, discontinuities, or transformations of prior discourses. As I began to investigate those scientific knowledges established about the child and mass media in the pre-TV era, I quickly encountered a relatively large volume of research on the cinema, radio, and comic books. For purposes of textual economy, these three distinct discourses had to be . . .

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