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“Textual Analysis Is Limited When It Comes To Studying The Relationship Between Media Industries, Governments And Consumers. Other Approaches To The Media Are Also Necessary.”

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Advertisements are all around us. In our daily routines we are constantly dealing with advertisements whether we are conscious about it or not. As an audience, we are interacting with advertisements via the media in some form or another. One particular example is television commercials. But to understand the affects advertisements have on society as a whole, researchers have adopted two different methodologies with two different approaches; Textual Analysis and Critical Political Economy.

Textual analysis is an approach which focuses more on the text. It deals with how interpretation of the text works; how audience members come to understand the text and how meaning is made. McKee (2001, p.140), suggests texts can be in any form, for instance radio programmes, television programmes, films, newspapers, magazines etc, and if we want to understand the role that the media play in our lives and precisely how its messages participate in the cultural construction of our view of the world then we have to understand what meanings audiences are making of the different variety of texts.

As soon as we describe a programme, magazine or book as a �text’, we are implying a certain approach to it, and a certain way of making sense of it, including the fact that we do not think it has a single correct interpretation. We know that every television programme, film or magazine article can be interpreted in many different ways by viewers. For instance �wipe off 5’ commercials by TAC (Transport accident commission), viewed by different groups of people would interpret the commercial differently. Some audiences may find the adoption of �shock tactics’ inappropriate as the images are too graphical, others may think the commercial is great because it depicts reality and creates awareness for drivers at all ages. These are only a few interpretations conducted within my family and there may be a vast majority of people that have different views to what has been said. But the important thing is to understand that none of these interpretations is �correct’, they are all feasible interpretations of the same text. Because there is no simple single correct interpretation of reality, it becomes very important to understand how media texts might be used in order to make sense of the world we live in.

When interpreting different commercials, there is no way that we can attempt to understand how the text might be interpreted without identifying the given context. Taking the вЂ?Sprite Zero’ commercial for example, there are literally hundreds of things that you could say about that text. You could be discussing the actors, the lighting, the setting, what they are doing, the clothing, and the digital effects (basketball court turning into swimming pool)…There is literally no way to discuss and identify all likely interpretations of the text but given a specific context we are able to “make a educated guess of the likely interpretation of the text” McKee (2001, p. 140).

McKee (2001, p.145), defines context as “a series of intertexts, related texts”.

By identifying the context, we establish useful information which structures the way we interpret the text. Along with context, McKee (2001, p.146), suggests three ways to understand any element of a text “The rest of the text, The Genre of the text and the wider public context in which a text is circulated”.

Semiotics at its essence is the study of how meaning is made. It describes how culture and language work together to produce meaning systematically. According to Turner (1997, p.311), all meaning producing activities are gathered under the one conceptual framework known as “signification”. Semiotics analyses signification by reducing all communication practices to their most basic unit: “the sign”.

Signs are assumed to be composed of two parts: the signifier and the signified. The signifier is the physical form of the sign for instance the written word, the photograph, the sound. The signified is the mental concept referred to by the signifier. Both the signifier and signified are culturally generated. For instance an advertisement for a Red 360 Modena Ferrari, the image of the car carries culturally encoded connotations of a fast car. This relationship is a constructed one rather than a natural one and it will change, for instance when the colour red is used in relation to a sports car, it tends to connote a fast car which traces back to the history of the Ferrari.

Signs are then selected and combined with other signs in ways that are similar to the construction of sentences in any language. This is accomplished through the selection of specific words and joining it all to produce a coherent message. Take for example the new commercial of the Toyota Hilux AUV (Action Utility vehicle). Advertisers typically deploy a signifier already conventionally attached to a mental concept they wish to attach to their product as a means of providing their product with that meaning. So the manufactures of the вЂ?Hilux’ in Australia ran a series of television commercials featuring a particular theme: Power. The arrangement of signifiers within the image, places great emphasis on the environment in which the vehicle is depicted in; CBD, suburban area, rural area. There is no obvious connection with the theme, but the vehicle is pictured travelling through the different locations forcing its way through anything that stood in its way accompanied by the sound track of “Black Betty” by Spiderbait. The process of semiotics means that we stitch the signs together connecting the vehicle to the theme depicted. The result, for Toyota, is the products incorporation into an idea of the all purpose utility vehicle that is suitable to be driven anywhere which commands power at the same time. As a consequence of advertising like this and similar ones by rival companies such as Ford and Holden, Utes’ are now not only seen as a utility vehicle but one that is suitable to be used at other times.

“Critical Political Economy”, on the other hand, takes a different approach in comparison to Textual Analysis. Critical Political Economy is a hybridisation of Political Economy and Cultural Studies. Traditionally, the Political Economy methodology is more focused and concerned with the industry rather than audiences. Unlike Textual Analysis, Political Economy does not pursue the mechanics of meaning making; instead it takes account of the real relations of power at work in the media and the effects it has on the production

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