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Analysing media content why


straws: two people)(Eiffel Tower: Paris) Other visual signs: ... concerned with speakers' fact construction and their own positioning in co ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Analysing media content why

Analysing media content why?
  • Media content
  • Constructs versions of reality
  • Selects/frames/combines events
  • Shapes meanings and values
  • Has consequences for practice (e.g. of consumers
    and citizens), as it triggers audience meaning
  • Media content analysis enables us to understand
    these processes.

Case study of how media produce reality"Review
of the Year 1998"
  • Selecting and omitting events
  • Providing the visual and verbal lenses we use to
    make sense of the selected events
  • The mediated version of reality (what happened in
    1998) becomes real in its consequences, through
    the BBCs authoritative agenda-setting in the
    public sphere.
  • (video)

Structuring the truth about 1998the road(s)
(not) taken
  • Not chronology as structuring principle
  • Not nation as structuring principle
  • Metaphor as structuring principle the program as
    "multichannel universe of the digital age"
  • 'themes' dressed up as TV-channels
    (Sports/Medical/Women's/Disaster/etc. Channel.
  • Self-referentiality of the mediaU.S. politics
    not portrayed in its own terms but as 'Dallas'!
  • (distortion or insight?)

Content/textual analysis driven by
  • Critical interest in the media's discursive
    shaping of
  • Social power relations portrayal of social
    conflicts (war, politics, industrial action)
  • Identities and roles portrayal of nation,
    gender, ethnicity, professionals, etc. (KHADER,

Discursive 'bias'?
  • Do news media discourses reflect or distort
    reality? Neither
  • 'Re-presentation' of reality
  • The discursive 'constitution' of reality
  • Reality as (discursive) constraint on discourses
  • Media discourses are constituted by and
    constitutive of social reality
  • Social phenomena are 'italesat' through
    discourses, speaking X into existence
    ('articulation','creating in language')

Media bias can be interesting in practice
  • Glasgow Media Group Bad News (1976)
  • Media portrayal of industrial conflicts
  • Over-emphasis on the motor industry
  • Factually not a truthful representation more
    strikes in other areas
  • Symbolically highlights an important social
    transition from industrial to information society

Quantitative content analysis (briefly)
  • Role complementary to qualitative analysis
  • Purpose to confirm or negate first impressions
    of media content (bias)
  • Method systematic description of characteristics
    of "media discourses through numbers that express
    the frequency and prominence of particular
    textual properties" (Schrøder 2002102)

Content analysis 'classic'
  • "Content analysis is a research technique for
    the objective, systematic, and quantitative
    description of the manifest content of
  • (Berelson, 195218)

Content analysis 'constructionist'
  • "Content analysis is a research technique for
    making replicable and valid inferences from data
    to their context. () Meanings are always
    relative to a communicator".
  • (Krippendorf 1980, 21-22)
  • - Acknowledging the pervasiveness and
    inevitability of interpretation ('inferences')

Content analysis Analytical recipe
  • Choose category
  • Choose important characteristics
  • Define units precisely, count consistently not
    an automatic process
  • Count and calculate
  • 'protagonist'
  • that carry a worldview (geo, gender, arena)
  • 'protagonist' verbal and visual mention.
  • 'politics'? 'gender'? 'entertainment'?
  • Absolute numbers, percentages

Findings the truth about 1998 what is
important to Britain
  • Nation-focused (Brits 3 in 5)
  • Politics dominates (almost 50)
  • Showbizz is prominent (37) Sports more than
  • Science is all but absent (2)
  • Male dominance (75), esp. politics
  • Female dominance in Entertainment (8 of 14)

What the numbers don't show
  • 3rd world represented through crises and natural
  • Politics is often shown through a lens of
    ridicule (Clinton, Duma, lewd British
  • Everyday people victims or perpetrators of
    sensational crime
  • - But Content Analysis can deliver useful
    overview mappings!

Media discourse analysisa recipe derived from
the theory
  • Checklist linguistic features that will
    probably repay close examination (Fowler 1985,
  • Lexical processes (vocabulary), including
    metaphors, which a media text mobilizes
    concerning a given area of experience.
  • Transitivity, the relation between verbs and
    nouns, creates a configuration of the
    participants and processes in a text.

Checklist (cont.)
  • Syntactic transformations passivization and
    nominalization may obscure agency
  • Modality (modal verbs and adverbs), express
    speakers attitudes towards the events described
  • Speech acts and turn-taking, sentence types
    versus communicative functions
  • Implicature and presupposition What can be read
    between the lines, inferring what is really
  • Address and personal reference formality, naming
    conventions, pronouns (inclusive/exclusive 'we')

Analysis of visual features
  • Discourse analytical approaches focused on verbal
    aspects of mediated communication.
  • Visual dimensions given secondary attention.
  • Two main sources of theoretical concepts Barthes
    and Peirce.

Barthes's concepts(not specific to visual signs)
  • Denotation the innocent, factual meanings
    available to any observer irrespective of
    cultural background. Ex. photo of a car.
  • Connotationthe meanings that a specific culture
    assign to the denotative message (not personal
    associations). Ex. Car as 'freedom'.
  • Heuristic value for practical analysis, but not
    much beyond the commonsensical.
  • Theoretically dubious non-cultural vs.
    Culturally invested meanings

Peirce's concepts(not specific to visual signs)
  • Based on the relation between signs and the
    objects they refer to ('reference')
  • Symbol purely governed by convention (words,
  • Icon related to referent through similarity
    (map, photograph)
  • Index related to referent by existential or
    physical 'connection' (smoke/fire)

Peirce (cont.)
  • Not 3 kinds of sign, but 3 dimensions of any sign
    (in principle)
  • Photo of The White House
  • Iconic represents a building in Washington.
  • Indexical represents the government of the
    United States.
  • Symbolic represents the values conventionally
    associated with the United States
    (freedomdemocracy, coercive global policeman).

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Cossack Vodka ad
  • Visual metaphor is iconic the visual sign is
    similar to (ex. straws snake tongue)
  • Visual metonymy is indexical the visual sign
    points to (ex. straws two people)(Eiffel Tower
  • Other visual signs
  • snake index/metonym of Fall of Man (part of
    story) icon/metaphor of phallus symbol of
    deceit. Erotic.
  • bottle icon/metaphor of phallus. Erotic.
  • Straws icon/metaphor of vagina. Erotic.
  • Drink (yellow) icon/metaphor of snake (yellow)

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Exercise discourse and visual analysis
  • The BP ad, "Oil companies tend to invite
  • What corporate image is BP trying to construct
    with this ad?
  • Look at the verbal aspects, including choice of
    words (especially wordplay), use of pronouns
    (especially 'we' and 'our'), and the use of
    verbal tenses (past, present, future).
  • Look at the photo(s) and its use of visual
    metaphor and metonomy.

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  • Two ads from 2007, The Danish Health Board's
    alcohol information ad, and the job advertisement
    from Maersk contractors
  • Look particularly at their visual
    characteristics, in the form of visual metaphor
    and metonomy, but also take a look at the way
    language is designed to create resonance in the

The Speedbandits campaign
  • A campaign video from 2006, by the Danish Road
    Safety Council. Look particularly at the video's
    use of narrative genre and intertextuality.

Interpretative repertoiresa concept from
discursive psychology
  • Point of departure the situational contexts of
    language use
  • Aim to account for the dialogical
    micro-mechanics of everyday life and social
    institutions (nationalism how we speak the
    nation into existence).
  • concerned with speakers fact construction and
    their own positioning in co-constructing social
  • their attempts to establish their own versions
    or accounts of social events as true and factual

  • When staking a claim for their own version,
    communicators, draw on interpretive
  • frameworks of understanding regarded as a
    practical resource, rather than an end product.
  • "By interpretative repertoires we mean broadly
    discernible clusters of terms, descriptions and
    figures of speech often assembled around
    metaphors or vivid images. In more structuralist
    language we can talk of these things as systems
    of signification and as the building blocks used
    for manufacturing versions of actions, self and
    social structures in talk. (Potter Wetherell
    1996 89)

Study of discourse and racism in New Zealand2
repertoires about Maoris
  • Culture-as-Heritage
  • - frames culture, almost in biological terms, as
    an endangered species, something to be preserved
    and treasured
  • Culture-as-Therapy
  • - conceives culture in psychological terms as a
    need, particularly for young Maoris, who need to
    rediscover their cultural roots to become
    whole again.

Coexistence of repertoires
  • the repertoires are not mutually exclusive.
  • may coexist in an individuals discourse about
  • serving different rhetorical purposes in
    different situational circumstances
  • interpretive repertoires are neither personal nor
    socially specific attitudes, as in much social
    psychology and survey research, but
  • the concrete linguistic manifestation and
    exercise of communicative practices of

Analytical usefulness of interpretive repertoires
Research design The news/democracy nexus
  • 1. Acquisition of
  • Democratic prerequisites

Media discourses about politics Discourse
Citizens' discourses about politics Focus group
2. Definitional power over 'politics'
Six interpretive repertoires about 'politics'
  • The party political game - parliamentary
    democracy in action Politics is represented here
    from a positive perspective as party political
    negotiations with the government as the leading
    force. Politicians are represented as dynamic and
    full of initiative.
  • The party political game - the other side of the
    coin political negotiations are represented as a
    democratically suspect game where horsetrading
    and even mafia-like methods are in use.
  • Populism Politicians are shown as detached,
    arrogant and ignorant representatives of 'the
    system' and therefore as the cause of problems,
    while citizens are positioned as 'experts of
    everyday life' who have privileged knowledge
    based on their everyday experiences

  • 4. Grassroots movements Grassroots organisations
    are presented as actors on the subpolitical scene
    in opposition to, and in cooperation with, the
    parliamentary system.
  • 5. Politics of everyday life Everyday life is
    "politicised" through the attribution of
    transport problems to the individual consumer's
    failure to participate in environmentally
    responsible activities. The lack of participation
    is attributed to constraints on action, which
    emanate from everyday life.
  • 6. Meta-discourse on politics. A reflexive
    detached stance is taken to the political field,
    with an analytical and critical focus on the
    dynamics of politics. The political system is
    evaluated from an outside position.
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