Interpretive viewers and structured programs: the implicit representation of soap opera characters
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AbstractViewers' interpretations of television programs must mediate the effects of viewing. These interpretations result from the constructive application of everyday social knowledge to a structured text. They thus depend on the relative power of cognitions and programs to determine the nature of the interpretations. The present research investigates regular viewers' representations of soap opera characters to discover (a) the nature of these representations, (b) the extent to which they reflect the application of social knowledge, and (c) the extent to which they reflect the structure of the program. Studies 1 and 2 indicated that character representations are a constructive integration of program information and viewers' knowledge about other people. The characters in Coronation Street were represented according to three major themes: morality/power, gender (matriarchal), and approach to life (modern/traditional). There were few differences according to the age or sex of viewers. Study 3 pursued the finding that viewers appeared to ignore the role of social class in the program. Together, the results support both the active “role of the viewer” and the guiding role of the structure of the program in the construction of meaning. Issues concerning the analysis of television programs, the nature of social knowledge, and the relation between character and narrative were also addressed.
Livingstone, Sonia (1989) Interpretive viewers and structured programs: the implicit representation of soap opera characters. Communication Research, 16 (1). pp. 25-57. ISSN 0093-6502