B y  John Tan   This paper aims to explore the history of radio and television in reference to Paddy Scannell’s not...

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By John Tan 

This paper aims to explore the history of radio and television in reference to Paddy Scannell’s notion of ‘dailiness’.  Scannell’s idea of ‘dailiness’ shares certain similarities with the concept of ‘daily routine’. The author coined the term to describe recurring events that occur due to repetition. This means the “daily service” as Scannell puts it, are performed so naturally due to much practice from the individual. Silverstone (1993) supports Scannell’s notion of dailiness, using the term to cite the influence of broadcast media on the structuring of everyday life (Silverstone, 1993, p.294). The rationale for analysing the history of radio and television is to comprehend how consumers came to experience the two mediums as part of their daily lives. To illustrate this, a detailed analysis will be made on the evolution of the consumption of radio and television in everyday life.

In his book Radio, Television, and Modern Life (1996), Scannell was fascinated with investigating the “nature of everyday existence as being-in-the-world”. His focus was on broadcasting and how it impacts our sense of time. In the journal, the writer analysed the programs of the news channel, BBC. The purpose of doing so was to understand the engagement between the viewer/listener and the broadcaster. More importantly, he was curious to discover the intentions behind the broadcasting and the level of understanding from the audience of those intentions. Through this, he learned that the broadcasters acted upon the concept of the day. This means they structured their programs according to the norms of everyday life (Scannell, 1996, p.145- 150).

According to Scannell, the broadcasting industry started off with the need to please audiences. Thus, the programmes were made solely based on the interest of the audiences. In order to reach the full potential of viewership, the industry had to create a sense of formula. In other words, there was a need for an immersed institutional structure where the effort is focused on making the programs fit into the daily routines of the audiences. This meant that the act of tuning into the programmes should be regarded as unpredictable and as an act of routine without the audience being conscious about it. Here, Scannell demonstrates the relationship between media and dailiness. (Ibid, p.145)

                                               Ryan Reynolds on the Jimmy Fallon Show 

The findings of this study support the belief that the media influences our sense of time. For instance, late night TV shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is aired on a specific time daily. The rationale behind it is to create a sense of routine, to make viewers become accustomed to it. Eventually, this will turn into a habit making the particular media an essential in the user’s daily routine without them even being conscious about it. So much so without it, it creates anxiety since the user doesn’t feel connected (Cuvalo, 2016, p.71). These media rituals, as a result, creates as Scannell puts it ‘‘care-structures’. The term refers to the concerns that pre-occupy one's time and the meaning of ‘my time’, which refers to one’s personal and subjective experience with time. The author claims that various features of media programs assist in expressing our care structures and by doing so, it helps in connecting us to the broader social world. (Scannell, 1996, p.144-145)

Radio

The first journal that reflects this belief is Housewives and the Mass Media (1980) by Dorothy Hobson. In this study, the author studied the role radio had in the lives of housewives. (Hobson, 1980, p.93). After various interviews and observations, Hobson learned that radio was essential to her subjects. The housewives never considered listening to the radio as a hobby. Instead, they deemed it as an integral part of their day. The two mediums worked as a monitor of time for them. Their daily activities were scheduled according to the broadcast. Through consuming the following mediums, it becomes easier for the housewives to battle loneliness and connects with the outside world. (Ibid, p.94) The cause for this occurrence is due to the style of interaction that is used with the audience. The adopted method helped the broadcasters seem ordinary and sociable. (Moores, 2000, p.19).



                                                              The San Vittore Prison 

Nearly 3 decades later, radio shouldered the same responsibility. Following the journal Media, Culture & Society, a social experiment was conducted in the San Vittore prison to report how radio was utilized among the prisoners. According to the journalists, radio fulfilled three important needs. Firstly, the medium worked as a tool of connection. The act of listening to the radio was a form of opportunity for the prisoners to connect with the outside world, even without being physically present. (Bonini & Perrotta, 2007, p.185) Programmes such as newscasts, traffic reports, musical tunes, and phone-in interviews were the popular choice among them. Such programmes consist of an element that ties people together. Its form of continuity and repetition helps broaden boundaries because it sparks wishes, opinions, and testimonies among the prisoners. One was quoted saying;

I’d like to phone and go in, because sometimes they talk about such bullshit, outside people- they don’t realize how important certain small things are. I do realize it. When you reach a certain maturity inside the prison you notice how important small things are. “

Aside from that, the radio worked like a form of connection through working as a connection tissue among the cellmates. For instance, preferences for certain programmes, music genres or radio hosts can affect the relationship between the cellmates. Besides that, they would listen to the radio in groups. Simple music or a music programme that everyone likes was often played in the background. This includes Sundays when nobody works or group dancing during the cell-cleaning time. Here radio is a symptom or a cause of integration. 

Last but not least, radio was the only option for connecting with the outside world because it established a sense of contact with the citizens outside. Contrary to the first point, radio here functions by fulfilling the need for intimacy with people outside the bar. The electronic media makes it possible by providing the inmates with an experience through the voices, words, and emotions that are broadcast during the airing of the program. As Thompson (1995) notes, this form of intimacy is different compared to face-face relationships. This kind of intimacy as the author puts it, are referred to as ‘panoptical’. To be more specific, the term is used to describe when someone (the listener) is listening to an unseen, somehow ‘sees’ the other person, be it the speaker, call-in public or a singer- whose details such as personal thoughts and history are revealed without the possibility for the listener to do the same. 

                                                      The San Vittore Prison in 1880 


This scenario proves some truth to Bull (2002)‘s quote that says; “through the power of sound the world become intimate, known and possessed.”

The next role radio had in the lives of the inmates is that it acted as an isolation barrier. In this context, radio assisted in offering the inmates with personal space. On a usual day in the prison, the detainees share a cell with five or six other people. Thus, they are limited to a certain amount of movement and expression. This is because their gestures and words are always monitored. As for their personal thoughts, they are only private if it’s not shared publicly. Hence, for this situation, radio rebuilds the private sphere of the prisoners.

“But the radio here in prison is a very personal thing. There are moments when we all gather and do stuff when the radio can be fine, but mostly you listen to it on your own, just because with the radio it’s a break time, and here there are a few moments you are on your own and can really think for yourself. You can have a break, put the headset on, you get out of the context of the cell.” 

Through their time alone with the radio, they are able to indulge in their personal thoughts. For example, they are given the opportunity to reminisce about their life before prison. Furthermore, the radio is consumed because it became a part of their daily routine. The element of dailiness is seen in this situation. The act of tuning into the radio becomes their daily habit, so much it dictates their concept of time. The prisoners are already conditioned to carry out their daily routine with the radio playing in the background. As an instance, they wake up, shave, wash, get dress, have coffee and fall asleep every day with the radio.

Due to the constraints of the prison, the inmates are bound to experience a sense of boredom. This is due to the repetitive life that is set for them. On a daily basis, they live in the same space and live by appointments. Here, radio is crucial for them because it gives them the opportunity to set their time free. Besides that, it allows them to re-invent their days with new methods every day. As an example, with the presence of radio in their life, they are allowed for a balance between the daily appointments and routines assigned to them. The medium possesses the ability to do so because it dabbles with the aspect of repetition that is present in their lives. It means that the radio is capable of creating a sense of attachment by confirming or molding their preferences and linking itself to habits. 


In the current time, the radio takes a different form. Based on the journal Social and Cultural Practice Using the Music Streaming Provider Spotify by Anbuhl (2018), the music industry has gone through a change in the last couple of years. Unlike its preceding years, the industry has evolved in terms of offering their services. One notable example would be Spotify. (Anbhul, 2018, p. 5) The music streaming company allows for music to be accessible to all its listeners.  Its features provide listeners with the liberty to pick and dictate their own music playlist and even share it with other individuals. Gilmour (online). For this research, ten individuals from the age group of 20 to 30 year old were interviewed. According to the findings, it was evident that listening to Spotify was an integral part of their daily lives. As an illustration, some of the respondents listen to Spotify when they are using the public commute. Here they mostly engage in passive listening mode while observing the environment around them or scrolling through their social media timeline. In addition to that, another participant consumes Spotify in order to block out the noise when he is using public transport. This habit mirrors Bull's belief on “biographic travelling” (Bull, 2005, p.349). 

The next researchers to echo the findings of Anbhul (2018) are Sari Komulainen and Minna Karukka. The following scholars conducted research to investigate the role online music services had in the youths of Finland. The findings of their journal titled ‘Social music services in teenage life – A case study’ showed that the youths consumed the services for an average of 4 to 5 hours. The reason for doing so can be divided into 3 reasons. The first being to discover and listen to new music tunes. Secondly, it’s used during social situations such as listening to themselves or with friends. Finally, it’s used for the purpose of sharing their playlist with their friends. 

Television

As for television, the medium was first looked into by Morley “Family Television” in 1986. The author’s intention for this study was to investigate the level of understanding of television materials and how the medium is being used in households. To fulfill his objective, the researcher conducted interview sessions among families in The United Kingdom. This included families from various socioeconomic backgrounds. (Morley, 1986, p.8) The results of this research showed that television worked as a tool to establish a sense of hierarchy in households. One notable example would be the household Family 9 in the study. The mother in the family takes pleasure in watching programs such as Coronation Street and Eastenders. Unfortunately, the power to decide the TV programs is only in her hands when the father is not around. This is because the father possesses the ability to dictate the kind of programs the family views. (Ibid, p.10)

Neighbours (1985)
                                                           The cast of Neighbours 

A few years later, television is experienced in a different manner. In Television Fan Distinctions and Identity: An Analysis of ‘Quality’ Discourses and Threats to ‘Ontological Security’ by Williams (2008), the importance of ontological security was shown in reference to television programs such as Big Brother, Neighbours, and The West Wing. Ontological security was the main factor for the success of the following shows. For ontological security to work, it needs the television programs to be set in a routine and to adhere to a form of scheduling. In this case, shows like Neighbours was screened twice daily on five days of the week, almost a year around. Thus, the show earned an important place in UK broadcasting history because it became the first show to be screened over five days (Cunningham and Jacka, 1996, p.140; Dunleavy, 2005, p.376). During the initial stage, the show attracted audiences that consist of housewives, shift workers, the unemployed and people homesick (Oram, 1988, p. 48). However, due to its consistent screening, the show managed to stay on the air for over twenty years. This is caused due to factors such as longevity and scheduling. The two following factors contributed by allowing fans to be invested in the following characters of the show. Nevertheless, it allows for die-hard fans to display their long-term knowledge of the show. 

“Do you think we actually want the show to fail? Would some of us have sat through this show for upward of 15 years just to want it to fail? The answer is no. Most, if not everyone loves this show. No one wants to see it go but if it keeps going on this course, it will.”

The final journal ‘Dailiness’ in the New Media Environment: Youth Media Practices and the Temporal Structure of Life-World by Cuvalo (2016) exhibits how television is currently being experienced in the present. Considering that there are two types of media now; traditional and new, the theorist discovered that traditional media such as television is used in more conservative places like home. This is because television is only used for the context of relaxation, reflection, or during bonding sessions with family and friends. Just to mention an example, a respondent mentioned that The TV is immediately turned on when the person returns home especially after a difficult and long day.

In conclusion, the above findings of the aforementioned journals prove that radio and television have been an integral part of the human race. This is only going to continue because the findings prove how depended we can be on technology. The act of dailiness is caused due to much repetition and practice. The cause however of the repetition and practice is initiated due to the need for the media to assist in addressing or coping with the challenges that come with the contemporary lives we all live in. 

References

Anbuhl (2018) ‘Social and Cultural Practices around Using the Music Streaming Provider Spotify’

Bonini, T.  & Perrotta, M. (2007) Media, Culture& Society. Sage Publication

Bull, M. (2002) ‘The Seduction of Sound in the Consumer Culture: Investigating Walkman Desires, Journal of Consumer Culture 2(1):81-101

Bull, Michael (2005): No Dead Air! The iPod and the Culture of Mobile Listening. Leisure Studies 24 (4), pp. 343–355. DOI: 10.1080/0261436052000330447.

Cunningham, Stuart and Elizabeth Jacka (1996) Australian Television and International Mediascapes, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cuvalo, A. (2016). ‘Dailiness’ in the New Media Environment: Youth Media Practices and the Temporal Structure of Life-World.  pp. 71, 73

Gilmour, Spotify Features [online] Available from: https://www.dummies.com/social-media/spotify/spotify-features/ [accessed 11/01/2019].

Hobson, D. (1980) ‘Housewives and the Mass Media’, in S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe and P. Wills (eds) Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79, London: Hutchinson
Komulainen, S., Karukka, M., Hakkila, J. (2010) ‘Social music services in teenage life – A case study’ DOI: 10.1145/1952222.1952303

Morley, D. (1986). Family television. pp.1,8,9,10.

Moores, S. (2000) Media and Everyday life in Modern Society, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Oram, James (1988) Neighbours: Behind The Scenes, London; Agnus & Robertson.

Scannell, P.(1996) Radio Television, and the Modern World. Oxford & Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing.

Silverstone, R. (1993a) Television and Everyday Life. London: Routledge

Thompson, J.B. (1995) The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media. Cambridge: Polity.

Williams, R. (2008) Television Fan Distinctions and Identity: An Analysis of ‘Quality’ Discourses and Threats to ‘Ontological Security’. U584304



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NBC (Jimmy Fallon) 












By  John Tan   This paper aims to explore the notion of masculinity and femininity in reference to the American Television Series, West...



By John Tan  

This paper aims to explore the notion of masculinity and femininity in reference to the American Television Series, Westworld (2016). The premise of the show revolves around a theme park, called Westworld where humans (guests) are allowed to indulge their human appetite without having any consequences, no matter how moral or corrupt. To fulfill the objective, the creators of park invented hosts (human-like robots) who solely exist for the entertainment of the guests. This means the hosts are programme to not question the nature of their existence/reality. Thus, their characteristics remain constant. The rationale for analysing this TV series is to prove that the concept of masculinity and femininity is a social construct. In order to demonstrate the following point, a detailed analysis will be made on the portrayal of gender in this TV series.

In his book What is Social Construction? (2001), Boghossian defines the term social construct. The author refers the term to an idea or belief that solely exist due to the contingent aspects of our social selves. This means the idea or belief wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t create it and if there was no need for it in the first place. At least not in its present form if we had decided to mold it differently. In contrast to naturally existing objects, they were created without the interference of humankind. As Ian Hacking notes in his monograph, The Social Construction of What? (1999), the talk surrounding social construction isn’t exclusive to worldly items such as things, kinds, and facts but also to our beliefs about them.

The concept of masculinity and femininity, in general, is about the set of attitudes, roles, social norms, and the hierarchy of values that are expected of each male and female in every society. Nevertheless, there are multiple interpretations of it. Il’inykh S.A., (2012: Online). Spence JT (1984) offers two levels of interpretations of masculinity and femininity. The first meaning focuses on the labels used to identify specific objects, events, or qualities that are associated with males or females in a given culture. Whereas, the second definition is used in the context of constructing a fundamental property or aspect of the individual’s self-concept that is not visually obvious. This means masculinity and femininity are referred to as bipolar opposites and these implicit assumptions function to conclude his or her position on the hypothetical masculinity-femininity continuum.




Nick Drydakis, Katerina Sidiropoulou, Swetketu Patnaik et al (2017, pg. 2-3) elaborates on these implicit traits that are assigned to both genders. Masculinity refers to characteristics such as being physically strong, technically competent, ambitious, self-sufficient, authoritative, and in control of your emotions. Conversely, femininity is associated with characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, loyalty, and a caring deposition. These following attributes act as binary opposites, women appear to lack the qualities that men possess and vice versa (Heilman, 2012). For example, men are allowed to be dominant whereas women are encouraged to be submissive. In contrast, women are allowed to be vulnerable but men are not permitted to display weaknesses. (Rudman et al, 2008)




In relation to the chosen television series, Westworld, the thesis statement is reflected when gender normativity is assigned and portrayed by the following characters. In the show, the cyborgs are automatically assigned with a gender in mind and are created to illustrate a specific version of masculinity and femininity. For instance, the character Hector Escaton symbolizes the “ideal” version of masculinity. Following Spence JT’s (1984) interpretation, the usage of labels is demonstrated in the positioning of Hector Escaton. As an example, the character is often dressed in black, seen using a gun, smoking, indulging in alcohol, and is even designed with a scar on his face to prove that he is experienced with physical combats. This all works to prove his masculinity. In terms of his attributes, Hector possesses “masculine” attributes such as being physically strong, technically competent, ambitious, self-sufficient and authoritative. 

However, characters like Lee Sizemore and Felix Lutz indirectly rebuts the notion of masculinity. The two following characters presented qualities that lean towards femininity. Lee Sizemore, the narrative director of Westworld created Hector to embody the person he wished he was. In fact, it was shown several times that Lee remembers Hector’s speech regiment and his way of handling things. Yet, Lee’s personality does not mirror Hector’s characteristics. In the second season, Lee finds himself in many challenging situations yet he is unable to defend himself and only relies on others to rescue him. 

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As for the latter, his character earns the audiences’ sympathy because he shows a lot of passiveness. For illustration, he doesn’t stand up for himself when he is faced with mockery and insults, and only appears to submit to them. Also, he doesn’t question instructions and only abides by them. In addition to the aforementioned characters, the character evolution of Dolores also earns the thesis statement some truth. The narrative that was assigned to the main character, Dolores Abernathy is conventional as it mirrors the traditional characteristics that are expected of a white female. During the genesis of the show, Dolores portrayed stereotypical feminine traits. As an example, Dolores was emphatic, sensitive, loyal, passive, naïve, and had a caring and gentle deposition.

Here Dolores not only uploads the values of regular femininity but also white femininity. In this context, I refer white femininity to the attributes that revolve around the all-American girlhood ideal. In Forever Adolescence: Taylor Swift, Eroticized Innocence, and Performing Normativity, Valerie Pollock (2014) explores the myth of the all-American girlhood, noting that it directly connects to the beliefs of what is expected of a white female. White femininity is tied to the beliefs in “appropriate” whiteness, uploading passivity, purity, sexual innocence and heterosexuality. 

Nonetheless, as the show progressed, Dolores begins questioning and understanding the nature of her existence. Leading her to come upon a realization; 

“Those are all just roles you forced me to play. Under all these lives I’ve lived something else has been growing. I’ve evolved into something new. And now I have one last role to play. Myself.”  

Image result for dorothy westworld season 2

In the ending of season 1 and the entirety of season 2, Dolores challenges the script that was assigned to her by creating a whole new persona for herself. She begins adopting stereotypical masculinity traits into her system. For example, Dolores became physically strong, ambitious, self-sufficient, authoritative and in control of her emotions and thoughts.

Aside from the hosts, the performance of gender normativity is also explored with the guests. At the beginning of the series, it was stated that the purpose of the park is for self-identification and exploration. This means the guests are allowed to be any version of themselves without having any consequences. A prime example would be the character Willaim. The character first arrives at the park reluctantly with his brother-in-law. Initially, the character showed a personality that leans towards a 'feminine' temperament. 

However, over the course of time, William experienced a change in nature. To give an example, William initially struggled to stand up to his brother-in-law and his slurs. But the more roles he played in the park, the more he realized that his brother-in-law is a “weakling”. Due to this, he finally stood up to him and this won him the family power struggle. This victory eventually led him to develop an interest in the narratives that are offered in the park. Nonetheless, it was later revealed that his wife Juliet committed suicide. To cope with the grief, William made frequent visits to Westworld in hopes of finding fulfillment again. In more specificity, William spent 30 years finding for the “maze” as he believes that the true mystery of the park resides there. 

In conclusion, the character evolution and portrayal of these following characters prove that the concept of masculinity and femininity is a social construct. Their transformation and depiction act an indication to prove that no individual regardless of their gender is one dimensional as the notion of masculinity and femininity expects males and females to be. Hence, if cyborgs are even able to question and challenge the qualities expected of them, what else us humans?

References

Boghossian, Paul (2001) What is Social Construction? Times Literary Supplement.

Drydakis, N., Sidiropoulou, K., Patnaik, S., Selmanovic, S., Bozani, V. (2017) ‘Masculinity vs Feminine Personality Traits and Women’s Employment Outcomes in Britain: A Field Experiment’, p.2-3

Hacking, Ian (1999) The Social Construction of What? Cambridge. Harvard University Press.

Heilman, M.E. (2012) Gender Stereotypes and Workplace Bias. Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol.32, p.113-135.

Il’inykh S.A. (2012) Masculinity and femininity: interpretation in terms of the gender theory [online] Available from: https://research-journal.org/en/2012-en/issue-october-2012/masculinity-and-femininity-interpretation-in-terms-of-the-gender-theory/ [accessed 30/11/2018]

Pollock, V. (2014) ’Forever Adolescence: Taylor Swift, Eroticized Innocence, and Performing Normativity’, p.42-45

Rudman, L.A and Phelan, J.E. (2008) Backlash Effects for Disconfirming Gender Stereotypes in Organizations. In A.P. Brief, and B.M. Staw, (Eds.), Research in Organizational Behaviour (4:61-79). New York, Elsevier.

Spence, JT (1984) ‘Gender identity and its implications for the concepts of masculinity and femininity’, Nebr Symp Motiv. 1984; 32:59-95


Westworld (2016-2018). HBO Entertainment. 








By John Tan  The concept of marriage has long been criticized by feminists for its history with women's rights. Historically, th...



The concept of marriage has long been criticized by feminists for its history with women's rights. Historically, the idea of marriage has been a fundamental site of women’s oppression, with women having limited rights. Fortunately, with the birth of feminism, the institution of marriage has evolved into a more progressive concept.

How?

Well, this essay will look into the effects that feminism had on the institution of marriage. More specifically, this paper will highlight the differences in the practices within a marriage before and after feminism was introduced.

As we are all familiar with, feminism in the general sense promotes gender equality. The movement was a result of gender inequality which was very much present in the 19th and 20th century. However, the social effort was first executed in Britain in 1866. It was birthed due to the fact that women were working full-time occupations during the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, they were disregarded of their social and political rights. 

Women at that time realized their voices were not being heard. They were not being represented in the parliament and were not allowed to vote. The reason for this occurrence was because men, in general, was taking the lead, be it politically or socially. Whereas, women were expected to stay home and fulfill their duties such as fostering their children and doing house chores like cleaning, cooking and washing clothes. 

Nonetheless, the success of the social campaign managed to bring forth change.

In this day and age, men and women are no longer tied down to stereotypical gender roles that were practiced in the past. Both genders are now allowed to switch roles. For instance, a husband’s role is no longer limited to just being the breadwinner of the family. Men are now allowed to be “stay-at-home-dads”. 

This means men are now given the opportunity to get to know and love their young. Likewise, it is now acceptable for a wife of a family to have a career outside their homes. Due to this, wives are now capable of earning higher salaries than their spouses, even being able to own properties under their own name.

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                                                                                      "We can do it!" J. Howard Miller 


Sadly, this privilege comes with challenges.

Husbands and wives now faced the difficulty to balance the demands of a family and a career. Thankfully, families today are now presented with an opportunity for the distribution of work within a marriage. This flexibility allows freedom for the husband and wife to be partners in economic and marriage growth. Both get to make the best decisions for their family without needing to conform to traditional and outmoded roles.

This would not have been possible without feminism. 

Following Fraser (2013)’s argument in her book Fortunes of Feminism, the second wave of feminism;

“Erupted on the world stage, the advanced capitalist states of the Western Europe and North America were still enjoying the unprecedented wave of prosperity that followed World War II”

During this timewomen were fighting for a wider range of issues. The problems were regarding family, sexuality, reproductive rights, and work. Betty Friedan’s 1963 publication, The Feminine Mystique, was an essential part of this movement. It sparked reactions because of the realism it contained. The book spoke of the issue of a housewife that was bored and had a lack of fulfillment in her life. 

This time, the success of this social movement brought a change in the workforce. Laws were specifically created to ban employment discrimination. In addition, women were also given the rights to maternity leaves, access to childcare centers that enable them to work, tax deductions for child-care expenses, equal and unsegregated education, and equal job-training opportunities for poor women. Adding to that, laws relating to women's rights to divorce, abortion and contraception were legalized. 

Thus, women, these days are able to divorce their spouses according to their will and abort their baby if they do not have any future plans for it. Also, corporate companies are now required to give maternity leaves to their female workers when they are pregnant.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that feminism has impacted and transformed the lives of many women, particularly in the aspect of their marriage. Therefore, it is fair to end by stating that the feminist movement in the past has positively affected society today by helping it be a progressive one like it is today. 





By  John Tan   The Nationwide Audience (1980) by Professor David Morley is a research project that focuses on studying the encoding/de...


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By John Tan 

The Nationwide Audience (1980) by Professor David Morley is a research project that focuses on studying the encoding/decoding model theory devised by Stuart Hall. (2005, p. 69)  Whereas Ien Ang’s study, Watching Dallas Soap Opera and the Melodramic (1985) analyses the reception of the popular soap opera, Dallas to understand the politics of pleasure. (2007, p. 2). The rationality behind choosing these two research is due to its relevance to this day. However, since both studies were conducted at different times, this essay will explore the similarities and differences found in both studies in the aspect of the methodologies, theories, and findings. Ultimately, a verdict will be made to conclude which study provides the most valuable finding.  

Methodology

As mentioned above, Morley’s project intends to study the encoding/decoding model theory developed by Hall, which explores the ways how definitions of media texts can change according to their circumstances of production and consumption. (2005, p. 69). Thus, Morley conducted a study at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham which consists of two stages. The first stage involved Morley analysing Nationwide’s (a popular BBC news programme) method of approaching its audience and its forms of textual organization. The second stage involved him exploring how individuals from different social backgrounds interpret a programmed material. (2005, p. 69) Morley’s main concern for this study was “with the extent to which individual interpretation of programmes could be shown to vary according to socio-cultural background” (1981, p 56).

Therefore, Morley gathered 29 small groups of individuals from various social backgrounds, ranging from students, bankers to print management trainees and grouped them according to their socio-background. He also interviewed them regarding their interpretation of two Nationwide’s programme that was shown to them. The interview lasted for 30 minutes and their responses were then transcribed to act as the basic data for the analysis. (2005, p 84). 

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                                         The cast of the popular show opera, Dallas 


Ang, on the other hand, was interested in understanding the fascination people had with popular soap opera, Dallas. She was also interested in intervening in the then debate about the ‘cultural imperialism’ of American television shows as well as take a stand against the often denigrating views of popular cultures and its users. (2007, p 2-4) Hence, Ang carried out the research by initiating a survey, placing an advertisement in a Dutch women’s magazine, Viva asking readers to answer the following question:

“I like watching Dallas, but often get odd reactions to it. Would anyone like to write and tell me why you like watching it too, or dislike it? I would like to assimilate these reactions in my university thesis.” In return, Ang received 42 replies that included responses from 3 men and 39 women. (1985, p 10) 

The similarities are obvious in both studies. Both studies focus on popular culture and are political. In Nationwide, Morley broadcast two programmes from BBC (a popular news programme) while in Watching Dallas, Ang analyses the popular soap opera, Dallas. In spite of the programme creators’ self- belittling comments, Morley still chose Nationwide as his research focus because he believed that it plays an important ideological role in the process of communication. (2005, p. 75) Whereas, Ang chose Watching Dallas due to its popularity, issues regarding pleasure and vicissitudes, its relations with ideology and cultural politics. (1985, viii) Both are deemed political because the responses regarding the texts shown are influenced by factors such as ethnicity, gender, political views and working class. The response pattern varies based on the factors mentioned. For instance, in Nationwide, Bank Managers who were white males and had predominantly ‘traditional’ conservative political views, hardly commented on the programme’s content.

They found it transparent and uncontroversial as if they shared the assumptions of Nationwide. (2005, p. 104) In contrast to the Black Further Education Students from inner city working- class, found no sense of identification with the programme. Instead rejected the ‘descriptions’ of their life portrayed by Nationwide. The idea of family life is inappropriate to them as that offered in a ‘Peter and Jane’ reading scheme. (2005, p. 107) While in Watching Dallas, the factor of gender plays a role in determining their responses. Even though most of the subjects were females, Ang highlights that most females loved the show due to its intense plot. (2007, p.5)

As for the differences, Morley reached out to his subjects directly by interviewing and observing them. Whereas Ang, used a local magazine as a medium to reach her subjects. Besides that, Morley worked with groups rather than individuals because he believed “much individually based interview research is flawed by a focus on individuals as social atoms divorced from their social context”. (1980, p. 33) Ang worked with individuals on a more personal and interactive (dialogic) approach, in tune with ethnographic work. 

Theories

According to Moores (2005, p. 109), Morley utilized Stuart Hall’s points on as the premise for the project. This means the premises on which this approach is based are:

(a)   The same event can be encoded in more than one way
(b)   The message always contains more than one potential ‘reading’. Messages propose and prefer certain readings over others, but they can never become wholly closed around one reading: they remain polysemic.
(c)    Understanding the message is also a problematic practice, however transparent and ‘natural’ it may seem. Messages encoded one way can always be read in a different way

In addition to that, Morley expanded Frank Parkin’s theory on how members of a different social class within a society inhabit a different ‘meaning-systems’ or ideological frameworks. (Parkin, 1971) Parkin categories are:

1.      The dominant value system
“The social source of which is the major institutional order; this is a moral framework which promotes the endorsement of existing inequality, in deferential terms”

2.      The subordinate value system
“The social source or generating milieu of which is the local working-class community; this framework promotes accommodative responses to the facts of inequality and low status”

3.      The radical value-system
The radical value-system, the source of which is the mass political party based on the working class; this framework promotes an oppositional interpretation of class inequalities.”

His purpose of using this theory was to explain how members of different class decode media messages. Hence, he expanded this theory and applied it in the aspect of audience research by outlining three hypo ethical positions that the readers will occupy which are Dominant, Negotiated and Oppositional reading. (2005, p. 86)

1.      Dominant reading
The reader fully accepts the decoded meaning of the text.

2.      Negotiated reading
The reader shares the programme’s code and broadly accepts the preferred reading but modifies it according to their interests/position.

3.      Oppositional reading
The reader objects the preferred reading and offers an alternate interpretation.

Gilroy (2015) pointed out that Ang also used Hall’s points on the Encoding/Decoding model into her project. Since Ang thought the notion that audiences are active and are able to construct different meanings from soap operas has since been understood, she focused on investigating precisely how audiences make sense of the soap operas they were watching, in which contexts, and with what kinds of social and cultural implications. (2007, p. 4-5) Henceforward, Ang starts the research with a sense of association with her subjects and an openness to what loving or hating Dallas meant to them. 

Findings

By the end of Morley’s research, he learned that decoding cannot be reduced to social determinism. He figured that it was too simplistic to describe the audience’s response to media within the prescribed categories of dominant, negotiated and oppositional readings. This is because even within the same readings, there were differences in interpreting contexts and materials.  Therefore, he concludes by stating the need to expand Parkin’s schema of meaning-systems to develop a more refined model of the audience before it can provide a solid framework for accommodating all the related sub-divisions and differentiation within the basic code patterns.  (2005, p. 110)

Ang, on the other hand, discovered the pleasures viewers obtained while/after watching Dallas. She asserted that despite its unrealistic nature, viewers had a ‘more or less unique relationship to the programme’. One type of viewer loved the show due to its emotional realism which articulated concerns and emotional states experienced by them, albeit in a melodramatic form. Another type of viewer reported they gained pleasure from an ironic viewing of the programme, distancing themselves from the text and any supposed ideological content. (2007, p. 5)  

Conclusion

Ang’s Watching Dallas played a crucial role in feminism by portraying women at that time in a better light as women who enjoyed the show were ridiculed as stupid masses and feminised. As a result of this, most of the women felt guilty of their own viewing pleasure and had an uneasy awareness that in the dominant social hierarchy of value theirs was a lowly pleasure. Hence, Ang’s findings criticised the ideological work of distinction that supported this social hierarchy by emphasising the multiplicity of methods in which the show was given meaning by different viewers. (2007, p. 4)

Having said that, it is fair to conclude this essay by acknowledging Morley’s Nationwide research as a better study as it offers a more valuable finding that applies to both genders and individuals of all ages. This is because Morley’s findings helped paved the way forward for qualitative audience research by introducing a new approach, audience ethnography that seeks to “study media and audience relationship within an integrative framework of discourses through which media and audiences are formed.”

It employs the method of ‘interpretative content analysis’ which is carried out by reader-response theories within cultural studies traditions and then compares it with the empirical data regarding the audiences which are done through in-depth interviews and participants observations. Eventually, this approach helped prompt the feminist movement because many of these studies focused on women’s readings of popular texts as their object of study. Media texts that were considered less of worth for example romance novels (Radway, 1987), teen magazines (McRobbie, 1982) and soap operas (Modleski, 1984; Geraghty, 1991) were then taken seriously within an academic study. The focus of these studies was not about the content but about how and why the audience read it. (Brooker and Jermyn, 2003, p. 213).



References

Ang, Ien (1985) Watching Dallas Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination. London and New York.

Ang, Ien (2007) Television Fictions Around the World: Melodrama and Irony in Global Perspective. University of Western Sydney

CHAPTER-II Media Studies and Audience Research: A Review [Online] Available from: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/26088/10/10_chapter%202.pdf

Chapter 3: Understanding Audiences [Online] Available from http://www.artlab.org.uk/fatimah-awan-04.pdf [accessed 23/11/2017]

Gilroy, Amanda (2015) Watching Dallas again 1: Doing retro audience research. University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

Moores, S. (2005) Media/Theory: Thinking about Media and Communications. Milton: Taylor & Francis. 

Morley, David (2005) Television, Audiences and Cultural Studies. London Routledge

Morley, David (1980): The 'Nationwide' Audience: Structure and Decoding. London: BFI

Morley, D. (1981) Interpreting Television. In Popular Culture and Everyday Life, Milton Keynes: Open University Press