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The Study Of John Fiske’s Media Culture Theory

Posted on:2016-10-13Degree:DoctorType:Dissertation
Country:ChinaCandidate:X Y ZhangFull Text:PDF
GTID:1108330461984426Subject:Literature and art spread
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John Fiske is an important theorist and activist in the field of media culture in America, his academic books, such as Reading Television, Introduction to communications studies, Television Culture, Understanding Culture, Reading Culture, hold a significant position in the research of media culture. On one hand, the traditional research mode of linear communications is reversed by Fiske that he uses the research method which combined with structuralist semiology and Ethnography Semiology. This method focuses on both the social context and daily life. On the other hand, a concept that media text is a kind of "producer-style text" with ambiguity, openness and intertextuality, is raised by Fiske and he emphasizes that the public should not be treated as alienated, unidirectional "culturally-ignorant" but a group with initiative and creativity. He holds the opinion that cultural economy and financial economy exist not only simultaneously but also independently and in this financial system, the mass, the text, and the pleasant of meaning is the producer, the commodity and the circulation, respectively. A causal relationship is expounded by Fiske that the mass has the bottom-up power of rejection and derives pleasure by this kind of rejection, and then push the media culture to a direction of "micro-politics". Across the entire research paradigms of John Fiske, obviously, he constructs a complete research system about media text, media mass, media finance, and media policy with meaning and happiness as the core, initiatives of the mass as the main thread, and the Semiotics research method as the approach.As a representative of Birmingham School, Fiske’s theory of media culture discards the strong elitism and pessimism of Frankfurt School and pushes the opinion of active mass to the heap. However, Fiske’s research on culture study causes so different evaluations that some people treats him as the first scholar that makes the academics popular and "the Savior of Mass Culture", while the others hold the opinion that he overestimates the power of the mass and treat him as "the optimistic postmodernism theorist" or "populists with no criticism". Under the background of this fierce debate, we have the opportunity to make a thorough analysis and illustration about Fiske’s theory. In the late 1990s, Fiske’s theory was first introduced into China and was focused by academia gradually. Nowadays, along with the awakening of civic consciousness and the popularity of grassroots culture, Fiske’s theory attracts enthusiastic attention again. However, research on Fiske now is scattered and lack of systematical discussion. Furthermore, more attention is paid on the research about mass media rather than his identity as a communication expert. Fiske, in fact, started the first curriculum about communications and culture as a college teacher in England between 1971 and 1981, occupied a prestigious position in Australian Broadcasting Commission between 1985-1988 and served as a professor in University of Wisconsin-Madison, majored in communicative art from 1988 to 2000, the year he retired. Thus, media communications and culture study is a combined topic in Fiske’s research.Fiske studied and worked in many countries such as England, Australian and United States, and affected by Birmingham School during his study in Cambridge University where he was responsible for the editing work for Birmingham School. Because of his complex academic backgrounds and work experiences, he has the ability to merge various kinds of theories into his study and to attain a brand-new perspective. This paper, in which a method combined culture research with communications study, systematically discusses topics in Fiske’s theory such as "the analysis about text and cultural products", "the acceptance of the mass and the use of media culture products" and "the production of the culture and the political economy". At the same time, using comparative analysis method, this paper makes comparison between Fiske’s theory and several theories refered in his study such as Barthes’s semiotics theory, Foucault’s power theory, Bakhtin’s Carnival Theory, de Certeau’s resistant theory so as to restore the practicality to these theories and the cultural applicability of Fiske.This paper includes seven parts:In the Introduction, study cause, research status, research ideas and methods are introduced. Fiske’s media culture theory is chosen as the research object in this paper for three reasons. Firstly, the media culture has a profound effect on cultural production, information exchange and cultural consumption of the mass in the modern society; Secondly, Fiske’s media culture theory holds a significant position in the research of media culture, which has got rid of the Frankfurt school’s pessimism and made the culture research more distinctive. Thirdly, Fiske’s opinions, such as "producer-style text", positive and active public etc., have been well applied in the new media. The study of Fiske’s theory has strong practical significance in the intensified process of media fusion in the present. Nowadays, there are few systematic research on Fiske’s media culture theory. So, in this paper, study methods of communications, text analysis, and comparative analysis are utilized to give a rational and objective evaluation on Fiske’s achievement and contribution, limitation and deficiencies in the research of media culture.In Chapter One, Fiske’s research method towards media culture under the context of Communications is introduced. Communications study is divided into "process" school and "symbol" school by Fiske. In "process" school, communication is considered as the transfer of message, which focuses on messages’encoding, decoding, use of transmission channels, transmission efficiency and precision; differently, communication is thought of as production and transmission of meaning in "symbol" school, the audience’s interpretation of the text is a kind of negotiation towards meaning. Fiske prefers the "symbol" school and inherits the "preference interpretation" theory of Hall, in which the audience can make different interpretation about texts based on their preference. During the research, Fiske combines structuralist semiology with Ethnography Semiology, which thus focuses on both the production of meaning and the significant role of meaning in society. In this case, a new way of communications research has been opened up.In Chapter Two, the features of Fiske’s "productive text" is illustrated. The text is defined as the potential meaning by Fiske which can be explained differently by different audiences. A real text can be made when two essential conditions are satisfied. The first one is that it can produce the meaning and happiness, and the second one is that it can be integrated with the social life of the mass and be explained by the mass. Fiske demonstrats the popular media---Television with the theory of Ethnography Semiology and structuralist semiology, in which the TV text is considered as a kind of "producer text" including three features. The first one is openness which means that it can be explained in different ways; the second one is ambiguity, for the text is a place for the struggle of meanings, and the meaning of the text matches with the audience’s interpretation constantly; the third one is correlation which means that the understanding of the text is related to the audience’s life experience, social status and some other factors. In addition, the opinion of media text acceptance based on the "Intertextuality" is also mentioned, in which a text is associated with the society and its potential meaning can be activated only when it enters into the audience’s daily life and is interpreted by them.In Chapter Three, Fiske’s opinion of initiative mass is introduced. Frankfurt school’s opinion of treating the mass as the "cultural idiot" is rejected by Fiske. He holds the opinion that the mass is not a passive group without discriminability but a group of active actors in economy, culture and politics of the industrial society. In Fiske’s opinion, a yield full of struggle exists between the mass and the text. Interpretation to the text doesn’t mean the mass’s initiative has submitted to the power of the text ideology but the text’s active movement to the mass after the discovery of its meaning. Fiske learns from de Certeau’s resistant theory, in which the struggle relationship between the audience and the domination in the media culture is described with everyday-used terms such as "strategy", "tactic" and "Guerilla". However, for some scholars, the so-called "resistance" theory does not mean the "resistance" of binary opposition. Thus, the audience does not always explain the text atypically as Fiske said. Moreover, a special group called "Mass Culture Fans" is also illustrated in this chapter. Fiske believes that "Mass Culture Fans" is a group of excessive readers whose favorites are the extremely popular texts. In his view, the mass culture fans have the characteristics of discernment and segmentation, productivity and participation, cultural capital accumulation. With the development of media culture as well as the intensifying media convergence, they have become an important cultural representation and social phenomenon of current society.The Forth Chapter elaborates Fiske’s "two kinds of economy" theory. According to the Cultural Industry theory, the development of industrial society makes the general public succumbed to the absolute power of capitalism, and the culture industry eliminates distinctive character by means of mass production of homogeneous product, which makes conformity between macro and micro, universality and particularity. Fiske subverts this view, believing that all the goods in mass consumption society have both practical value and cultural value. Cultural product circulates both in financial economy and cultural economy, which are two different but coexisting economic systems, And what circulates in cultural economy is the popularization of connotative meaning and the pleasant sensation. So the choice of cultural product turns into a consumer’s choice for meaning, happiness and social identity.In Chapter Five, the media theory towards media’s politics is illustrated. In Fiske’s opinion, the mass media is the culture of the subordinated classes in the capitalism system, constructed by the meaning formed in the mass’s micro-experience about the social experiences and social relationship by the "bottom-up" power. The meaning must be resistant and the happiness of this meaning is generated from resisting, evading and offending the dominator. The mass evades and resists the rules of the power bloc in two ways. One way is to construct the symbolic power of meaning, happiness and social identity, and the other way is constructing the social power for social financial system. When resisting against the discipline and the control, the bottom-up pleasure can be derived that appears in avoidance and productivity. Avoidance, as one form of pleasure, is derived by human bodies and tends to cause offense and slander. Productivity, as the other form, is generated in the resistence against the power of hegemony when the mass interprets the mass culture and resist against the hegemonic power with the social identification and social relationship as the core. Just as Fiske says, the closer the culture to the macro level, the more similar, centralized and reactionary it is; the closer the culture to the micro level, the more heterogeneous and diversified it is. Therefore, there exists the probability that the heterogeneous media culture at the micro level can be unscrambled and gradually tends to the "micro-political" level.The Conclusion illustrates the meaning and limitation of Fiske’s theory. Fiske opens up an innovative way of studying semiotic communications, and his media culture theory opens a new vision by subverting the elitism and pessimism of Frankfurt School, pushing the opinion of active mass to the heap. However, too much attention has been paid to the mass that leads to his tendency towards populism. He treated semiotic as a substitute of sociology and omitted the role of political economy in media culture research. Furthermore, the misuses and over-reading appear in Fiske’s theory such as his unilaterally treating de Certeau’s resistance theory as a dualistic of mainstream culture, and his exaggerating the mass’s power from "ubiquitous" to "omnipotent" when quoting Foucault’s theory. As a result, his excessive favor of "semiotic democracy" only transforms into an utopian illusion. However, the rapid development of media, especially the rising of new media, offers the mass with a broader platform to make their own voice. Reviewing Fiske’s theory completely can be not only forward-looking, but also helpful for us to understand and develop our media better.
Keywords/Search Tags:John Fiske, Media culture, People, Productive text, Two economies
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