Encoding/Decoding – its application to the real world.
1) Crit of Linear comms models
2) Crit of Althusserian Marxism that portrays the audience as passive
1 entails a particular crit of the
Thus concentration on message exchange.
It assumes symmetry from producer to consumer; from sender to receiver as an even neutral process ideally without bias. As if there is one long open channel extending from the sender to the receiver.
If this were the case then how would we explain bias, power, censorship?
Hall wants us to understand that social and cultural structures in every day life have their own internal ways of operating – their conditions of existence. Their ways of being and doing.
But each of these is not ultimately to be understood as separate from the others – they are to be grasped as a totality:
Hall is rather weak on this but he means that the producers do not ‘CAUSE’ (make) the audience to magically understand the meaning of a programme.
All moments of Hall’s circuit are linked holistically with each other such that why producers produce is that there is ongoing expectation and demand for programmes from the audience given that TV is part of an everyday culture.
Further, what is in the programme is a reflection and recognition of shared meanings between producers and consumers PRIOR to the making of the programme.
I would not talk to you if I thought you could not understand what I was going to say. Thus what I say is shaped by my sense of the world of your social, cultural and linguistic understanding. And this precedes and determines my programme making.
Thus the meaning of Hall’s word TOTALITY – everything is essentially connected to everything else in the producer/consumer circuit AS A WHOLE.
As such producers are dependent upon the consumers/audience. What the producer understands about the audiences tastes will motivate programme proposals AND will lead to one form of encoding – what gets shown and said IN the programme.
Thus viewers’ sense of what is suitable for childrens progs will set the limits of what the producers can say and show. And the shared awareness of these limits comes through a broad common culture.
This is a kind of viewers indirect feedback mechanism.
But of course the producers have their separate world of expertise and internal culture through which they know how to make programmes AND they are in turn shaped in what they do by the wider culture of the organisation for whom they work – does it support a particular political party or moral viewpoint. Does it need to make profits? And most broadly, is it part of a social, political or moral climate where only certain kinds of material is acceptable.
In other words: what are the conventions and norms under which the producers work and how are these encoded into programme making?
The product is a semiotic one of aural and visual elements which most importantly function at the connotative level on the assumption that the audience will grasp the meaning of an arrangement of signs: snow plus girl in jumper means it is cold weather..and so forth.
Big twinkling hot summer sun plus sweater and coat on child means child is a bit dippy or the parent is!
So producer and consumer meet at the semiotic level.
The aim of popular TV is to make meanings unproblematic and thus to elicit a preferred reading where the consumer understand and accepts exactly the meanings the producer intended.
Hall tends to assume that TV production is largely ideological work shaping the audience if it can.
But in the 70s when Hall was writing BBC produced a lot of radical dramas that completely disrupted the idea of setting up preferred readings according to the dominant culture in society and within the establishment eg. The Wednesday play.