(Ross and Nightingale,2008) believe that the term Audience in media is often referred to as a way oftalking about a group of people or individuals. It is also used to describemass quantities of people i.e.
the audience for newspaper readings, televisionnews and the public. Within this essay, I will critically evaluate encoding anddecoding as a model of audience research. I will also explain the strengths andweaknesses of this model within modern society today. Encoding and decoding canbe viewed as a type of audience, it was one of the first types of researchconducted on audiences. This approach was created by (Hall,1973) he explainsthat this model had three sections: firstly, that the same event could be ‘encoded’by this he means it can be expressed in more than one manor; secondly, the messagepresented would have more than one possible meaning besides the encoded one;and last, as messages always have more than one meaning, this could result inthe meaning having more than one interpretation, as different individuals have variousopinions. Hall’s model turned away from semiology through understanding ‘preferredmeanings’ which are encoded into media texts but would only get acknowledged ifthey are ‘decoded’ accurately by the audiences.
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Moreover, this model wascreated to produce a theoretical model for thinking, in the context of howmedia messages are created and understood. This model analyses the relationshipbetween the producer, text and audience. (Hall,1973) goes on to explain howmessages are part of a procedure, ‘encoded’ within texts in the production processwhich are then ‘decoded’ in absorption. One may state that media institutionsmade up of producers and owners etc. have the power to control and insert theirown agendas and define what parts of media content they would like to present tothe world thus ‘what counts’ and what does not, this is done through the way itis communicated and enunciated.
From this one can infer that audiencesindividually or as mass groups make what they can or will of the systems, signsand meanings that they are situated with.Hall was a neo-Marxist theorist,he argues that encoded meanings have an ‘ideological order imprinted on them’therefore they are likely to emphasize on their hegemonic ideas. (Hodkinson,2017). Furthermore, Hall’s model of encoding and decoding isstill very relevant to media. As media institutions continue to present the generalpublic with encodings leaving it up to them to decode and interpret. (Hall,1973)argues that audience’s responses are based on their socio-economic background.(Morley,1992) agreed with Hall’s theory of encoding and decoding, he alsostated that ‘the difference between the cultural frameworks are available todifferent individuals’.
From this one can infer that individuals from differentsocial or cultural backgrounds would interpret the same message differently.i.e. A celebrity would interpret a message about government policy differentlyto a politician. Similarly, an example of why this model is relevant to societyand media today was through (Morley,1990) research on a television programknown as ‘Nationwide’. He presented 29 videos of the program to the individualsserving as different parts of society, each group then discussed the programand their interpretations were taken through the context of Hall’ssubcategories of interpretation in relation to media; ‘dominant hegemonic, thenegotiated and the oppositional’. He established, that the audience’s readingsof the media content were not based on social class only, but also to the knowledgeindividuals had access to as a product of specific social and professionalpositions. (Hall,1973) argues ‘meaning is not fixed’ and therefore even withinmedia today although one may have access to various platforms of information,individuals may still have very different interpretations, as theirsocio-economic background may influence their way of thinking or allow them tosee information different to other individuals.
However,this model creates an inability to categorise how new social media would workwith this model. As media has soon advanced since Hall had first created thismodel, opinions and thoughts have advanced and altered. Media now has a newonline platform, such as global networking platforms e.g. Facebook, YouTube,Twitter etc.
which has transformed the face of media. Moreover,people will interpret ‘preferred meanings’ according to their own beliefs and opinionsin comparison to the producer of that message to illustrate (Hodkinson,2017). Therefore,one may state that one cannot ensure just how individuals will interpret texts,considering their position. (Ross and Nightingale, 2008) stated that interpretationdepends largely on any given audience however, Hall’s model does not have thepower to control understanding of the preferred message as themessage is never obvious; and the audience is not a ‘passive recipient ofmeaning. Conversely, (Morley,1990) who was a student of Hall’s arguesthat one limitation within Hall’s model and typology, firstly when conductinghis research Morley struggled to classify some of his groups, as a group ofstudents denied participating within the discussion as they had ‘no interest’at all.
He states that this type of withdrawal is ‘distinct from consciousopposition and not really accounted for by Hall’. Similarly (Hodkinson,2017) stated that Hall’s model isquite ‘inflexible’ to allow a thorough understanding of various audience’s interpretationsto media texts. He goes on to say that, while it has some understanding ofdifferent interpretations, it still remains to concentrate and emphasise onaudiences as either ‘receivers or decoders’ of messages. Thus, one can inferthat with this model one cannot enhance their understanding or knowledge of whatexactly audiences and consumers do with media. Onthe other hand, one may state that the youths of today acknowledge that theyhave a two-way relationship between production and understanding.
Thus, Hall effectivelyargues an active relationship between the two would intern result in prevailingand different cultural meanings. Additionally, Hall’s model concentrates on groupsrather than the individuals, which is more beneficial when viewing audiencesdue to social class and cultural backgrounds. The analytical and politicalgroundings of the model have significant relevance as its effectiveness is substantialto mass media today through enhancing the relationship between audience andmedia.
Bibliography Gillespie,M. (2005). Media audiences.
Maidenhead (UK): Open University Press,pp.32,40-45. Hodkinson,P. (2017). Media, culture and society. 2nd ed. pp.
78,85-88. Long,P. and Wall, T. (2014).
Media Studies – Texts, Production and Context.Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, pp.226,246-248. Ross,K.
and Nightingale, V. (2008). Media and audiences. Maidenhead:Open University Press, pp.4,36-39.