Co-Producing and Co-Performing Attractive Rural Living in Popular Media
Jonasson, Mikael, Rural Society
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). The focus on co-production and co-performance runs as a theme throughout both the British reality series and Country Living. These two types of popular media could be said to be part of a similar social, cultural and political sphere and are therefore more similar than independent as far as reflecting the collaborative phenomenon, although there are also differences regarding several components and relations. Co-performing attractive rural places are thus deliberate with an awareness of its consequences (Edensor, 2006; Heley, 2010).
Theoretical frameworks: Idealised visions of ruralities
This article has a theoretical framework informed by social, cultural and economic approaches in rural and consumption studies. The focus is on the representation of everyday discourses from popular media (Jones, 1995). Discourses were defined by (Potter & Wetherell, 1987, p. 7) as, 'all forms of spoken interaction, formal and informal, and written texts of all kinds', including 'signs, symbols and practices through which we make our world(s) meaningful to ourselves and others' (Gregory, 1994).
From a discursive perspective, there is not one single rurality. …