Co-Producing and Co-Performing Attractive Rural Living in Popular Media

Article excerpt

Abstract: Rural migration is important in any process of rural economic development. The attraction of immigrants to rural places in Sweden are part of trends that involve a specific set of discursive elements that are being co-produced and co-performed by actors represented in magazines and reality series with a rural theme. The aim of this article is to analyse how discourses on attractive living in rural places are co-performed and co-produced in one Swedish lifestyle magazine about country living and in one British reality show, Country Living (Lantliv), and Escape to the Country (Comeford, 2002; Edensor, 2006; Gustafsson, 2008; Jonasson & Scherle, 2012; Normann & Ramirez, 1993; Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004; Ramirez, 1999; Sventelius, 2009, 2010; Wikström, 1996; Woods, 2010). These co-produced performances use existing social and geographical structures, such as gender, entrepreneurship and nature-culture categories, and at the same time actors are trying to balance them in such ways that they co-perform an attractive living in the countryside.

Keywords: counter-urban migration, rural representations, popular media, ruralities, entrepreneurship, attractive living

Popular magazines are important as sources for critical investigation of influential representations regarding rural living (Baylina & Berg, 2010). It is often believed that the relation between media producers and media consumers is characterised by a one-sided influence, which in turn configures to the contents of the magazine and of products related to rural living (Baylina & Berg, 2010; Berg & Forsberg, 2003; Halfacree & Boyle, 1998; Munkejord, 2006; Van Dam, Heins, & Elbersen, 2002). From that viewpoint, representations of the rural in mass media focus on structural impacts on rural areas in terms of power relations that acknowledge a vulnerability concerning rural places, for instance as manifested in terms of differences in gender, resources, or just consumer preferences (Baylina & Berg, 2010; Holloway, 2007; Holloway & Valentine, 2000; Phillips, Fish, & Agg, 2001; Stenbacka, 2011).

Edensor (2006) and Woods (2010) suggest that rural performances should be more centrally positioned in rural studies. Performance might be broadly used encompassing staged events as well as everyday practices by different actors on events such as village greens, farm-life centres, heritage attractions, grouse moors, mountains, longdistance footpaths and farmyards, and in rural spaces identified as 'wilderness'. It is suggested here that popular media is included in staged events where 'attractive living' is a theme. As such, performances of ruralities are co-productive and co- performed and that particular view changes the role of what is thought of as passive consumers, and they become more active and collaborative than acknowledged before.

The aim of this study is to analyse the coperformance of geographical images of attractive living in rural areas through two different life style media: The magazine Country Living (Lantliv) in Sweden (Sventelius, 2009, 2010) and the reality series, Escape to the Country, in Britain (Comeford, 2002) by focusing on collaborative and co-productive aspects of attractive rural places (Gustafsson, 2008; Jonasson & Scherle, 2012; Normann & Ramirez, 1993; Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004; Ramirez, 1999; Wikström, 1996). Focusing on questions involving the key theme 'attractive living in the countryside' thus becomes a matter of asking: What visual images, together with key words and arguments, mean in relation to attractive living and how are these images of an attractive living being coproduced and co-performed? Entrepreneurship is one important theme in the Swedish magazine Country Living, where attractive rural places are co-produced with small business entrepreneurs who use cooperative strategies and make use of networks for adverting (Allen & Dillman, 1994; Shields, 2005). …

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