(Ross and Nightingale,
2008) believe that the term Audience in media is often referred to as a way of
talking about a group of people or individuals. It is also used to describe
mass quantities of people i.e. the audience for newspaper readings, television
news and the public. Within this essay, I will critically evaluate encoding and
decoding as a model of audience research. I will also explain the strengths and
weaknesses of this model within modern society today.
Encoding and decoding can
be viewed as a type of audience, it was one of the first types of research
conducted on audiences. This approach was created by (Hall,1973) he explains
that 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 message
presented would have more than one possible meaning besides the encoded one;
and last, as messages always have more than one meaning, this could result in
the meaning having more than one interpretation, as different individuals have various
opinions. Hall’s model turned away from semiology through understanding ‘preferred
meanings’ which are encoded into media texts but would only get acknowledged if
they are ‘decoded’ accurately by the audiences.
Moreover, this model was
created to produce a theoretical model for thinking, in the context of how
media messages are created and understood. This model analyses the relationship
between the producer, text and audience. (Hall,1973) goes on to explain how
messages are part of a procedure, ‘encoded’ within texts in the production process
which are then ‘decoded’ in absorption. One may state that media institutions
made up of producers and owners etc. have the power to control and insert their
own agendas and define what parts of media content they would like to present to
the world thus ‘what counts’ and what does not, this is done through the way it
is communicated and enunciated. From this one can infer that audiences
individually or as mass groups make what they can or will of the systems, signs
and 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 is
still very relevant to media. As media institutions continue to present the general
public 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 also
stated that ‘the difference between the cultural frameworks are available to
different individuals’. From this one can infer that individuals from different
social or cultural backgrounds would interpret the same message differently.
i.e. A celebrity would interpret a message about government policy differently
to a politician.
Similarly, an example of why this model is relevant to society
and media today was through (Morley,1990) research on a television program
known as ‘Nationwide’. He presented 29 videos of the program to the individuals
serving as different parts of society, each group then discussed the program
and their interpretations were taken through the context of Hall’s
subcategories of interpretation in relation to media; ‘dominant hegemonic, the
negotiated and the oppositional’. He established, that the audience’s readings
of the media content were not based on social class only, but also to the knowledge
individuals had access to as a product of specific social and professional
positions. (Hall,1973) argues ‘meaning is not fixed’ and therefore even within
media today although one may have access to various platforms of information,
individuals may still have very different interpretations, as their
socio-economic background may influence their way of thinking or allow them to
see information different to other individuals.
this model creates an inability to categorise how new social media would work
with this model. As media has soon advanced since Hall had first created this
model, opinions and thoughts have advanced and altered. Media now has a new
online platform, such as global networking platforms e.g. Facebook, YouTube,
Twitter etc. which has transformed the face of media.
people will interpret ‘preferred meanings’ according to their own beliefs and opinions
in 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 interpretation
depends largely on any given audience however, Hall’s model does not have the
power to control understanding of the preferred message as the
message is never obvious; and the audience is not a ‘passive recipient of
Conversely, (Morley,1990) who was a student of Hall’s argues
that one limitation within Hall’s model and typology, firstly when conducting
his research Morley struggled to classify some of his groups, as a group of
students denied participating within the discussion as they had ‘no interest’
at all. He states that this type of withdrawal is ‘distinct from conscious
opposition and not really accounted for by Hall’.
Similarly (Hodkinson,2017) stated that Hall’s model is
quite ‘inflexible’ to allow a thorough understanding of various audience’s interpretations
to media texts. He goes on to say that, while it has some understanding of
different interpretations, it still remains to concentrate and emphasise on
audiences as either ‘receivers or decoders’ of messages. Thus, one can infer
that with this model one cannot enhance their understanding or knowledge of what
exactly audiences and consumers do with media.
the other hand, one may state that the youths of today acknowledge that they
have a two-way relationship between production and understanding. Thus, Hall effectively
argues an active relationship between the two would intern result in prevailing
and different cultural meanings. Additionally, Hall’s model concentrates on groups
rather than the individuals, which is more beneficial when viewing audiences
due to social class and cultural backgrounds. The analytical and political
groundings of the model have significant relevance as its effectiveness is substantial
to mass media today through enhancing the relationship between audience and
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P. and Wall, T. (2014). Media Studies – Texts, Production and Context.
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K. and Nightingale, V. (2008). Media and audiences. Maidenhead:
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