In the last century television, film and video came to dominate the mass mediated world and increasingly continues to do so today with an abundance of entertainment being brought into the homes of millions of people globally provided by the culture industry. A popular and traditional view of mass media audiences sees them as passive 'culture dopes', a phrase used by Stuart Hall (Notes on Deconstructing 'the Popular' 1981) describing the audience as passive consumers of whatever media is placed in front of them. Although not supported by Hall, this was the opinion taken by Adorno and Horkheimer in the mid 1940's who took a pessimist view of the culture industries believing that ordinary people are unable to resist the power of the mass media.
[...] Jenkins (1992) quotes the term "textual poaching" taken from the work of de Certeau (1984) which can be applied to the work of fan fiction which fills the gaps, and explains fan writing "as a strategy for appropriating materials produced by the dominant culture industry and reworking them into terms which better serve subordinate or sub cultural interests". Jenkins uses the example of Star Trek fan fiction which is for the most part written by women for women to read, with the focus being directed more on the relationships of the characters than on the adventure and technological aspects which men fans tend to be more active in (Jancovich and Lyons 2003). [...]
[...] On the other hand, in the case of consumers who find semiotic and enunciative meaning in a mass circulated text, and where it must be argued that the majority of people are situated, it is more likely that the audience may be passive cultural dopes on the basis that they define their social identity and find community from what the media places in front of them. Therefore, it would appear that when considering the audience there needs to be a distinction made between the majority of people who consume mass culture and the minority who produce their own culture within the 'shadow cultural economy'. [...]
[...] Bibliographical References: Adorno and Horkheimer 'The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception' at http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/adorno.htm (accessed 2 February 2004) Fiske, J., (1987) re-situating the popular in the people' at http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.ac/ReadingRoom/ 1.2 /Fiske.html (accessed 2 February 2004) Harris, C., in Hazlett, S., (2000) 'Filling in the Gaps: Fans and Fan Fiction on the Internet' at http://writersu.com/WU/modules.php?name=New&file=article&sid=46 (accessed 7 February 2004) Copyright ebay member karl242424 Papamichael, C., (date unknown) 'Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability' at www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/closeup/harrypotter.shtml (accessed 8 February 2004) Barbas, S., (2001) Movie Crazy. [...]
[...] On this basis Fiske refutes the idea that all consumers are cultural dopes because their activity by definition means they are not passive. According to Fiske (1992), even without coming under the banner of fandom the audience will find personal significance in a given text, referring to this as "semiotic productivity" to describe how an individual will make a meaning out of what they are consuming. For example female audiences may feel empowered by the portrayal of assertive and confident women characters in the media, as in the case of the 'Prime Suspect' series depicting a woman in charge of criminal investigations who whilst being a strong woman is also humanized by showing that she makes mistakes that cost dearly in terms of her own peace of mind. [...]
[...] John Fiske (1987) in re-situating the popular in the people' (http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.ac/ReadingRoom/ 1.2 /Fiske.html) states that this approach to the audience is "theoretically sterile", believing that "people are not a passive, helpless mass incapable of discrimination and thus at the economic, cultural and political mercy of the barons of industry", and so taking a stance opposite to that of Adorno and Horkheimer. In his article 'The Cultural Economy of Fandom' (The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media 1992) Fiske differentiates between those that are consumers of mass media and those that make up the realm of fandom on the basis that fans take from mass culture "certain performers, narratives or genres" and rework into "intensely pleasurable, intensely signifying popular culture that is both similar to, yet significantly different from, the culture of more 'normal' popular audiences". [...]
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