A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Methodologies

By Klaus Bruhn Jensen | Go to book overview

4

The production of media fiction

Horace Newcomb and Amanda Lotz
• an outline of the main levels of analysis in production research - from political economy to professional routines
• a description of the diverse sources of evidence and of relevant methods of analysis
• a case study: the production of a cable television series
• a review of findings from the case study in relation to the levels of analysis.

Since the mid-1980s, the most intensively researched topics in media studies have been audiences, their reception and uses of mediated texts. Following the preponderance of prior research that made claims about the meanings of such texts, their ideological significance and their social effectivities, the emphasis on audiences seems both predictable and warranted. One result of this focus, however, is that during the same period far less work has focused on production processes. This also follows, in part, from the presumption that mass-mediated fiction remains, in many cases, a ‘factory product, ’ standardized content emerging from routinized production processes. We suggest, however, that the situation is more complicated than this. Variations within routines, the points of tension engaged in contests between standardization and differentiation, are of equal significance and equally instructive in exploring the significance of media fictions. It is necessary, then, to provide a more thorough and detailed analysis of production practices than the usual generalizations about ‘media factories’ allow.

One approach is outlined in David Bordwell’s concept of ‘historical poetics’ (Bordwell 1989). Under that category, he suggests that it is necessary to explore options open to mediamakers at given points in time and in specific social contexts, attending to industrial, economic, and regulatory factors. While Bordwell tends to focus on those options generating the standardized elements found in much mass-mediated material, we believe it is possible to discover important manipulations of production processes that indicate the ‘relative autonomy’ of individuals, groups, even organizations

within media industries. What this suggests most importantly is that any study of the production of media fiction must recognize multiple types of influence. Factors ranging from policy formation to the application of new technologies may affect the production of any particular media fiction. While research taking account of multiple causal elements usually provides stronger explanations, it often remains the case that specific instances of production studies privilege particular aspects over others. In some cases, this results in reductive assertions about causation or influence, although in most instances it simply means that one factor is taken as dominant, overdetermining all others. These factors and the relations among them may be described as ‘levels of analysis.’

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A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Methodologies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - History 13
  • 2 - The Humanities in Media and Communication Research 15
  • 3 - Media, Culture and Modern Times 40
  • Part II - Systematics 59
  • 4 - The Production of Media Fiction 62
  • 5 - The Production of News 78
  • 6 - The Study of International News 91
  • 7 - Discourses of Fact 98
  • 8 - Mediated Fiction 117
  • 9 - Media Effects 138
  • 10 - Media Reception 156
  • 11 - Contexts, Cultures, and Computers 171
  • 12 - History, Media and Communication 191
  • Part III - Practice 207
  • 13 - The Quantitative Research Process 209
  • 14 - The Qualitative Research Process 235
  • 15 - The Complementarity of Qualitative and Quantitative Methodologies in Media and Communication Research 254
  • 16 - The Social Origins and Uses of Media and Communication Research 273
  • References 294
  • Index 326
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