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Critical Review of in a Critical Review of a Book Titled “psychosocial Explorations of Film and Television Viewing: Ordinary Audience

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I would be engaging in a critical review of a book titled “Psychosocial explorations of film and television viewing: ordinary audience “ published by Palgrave Macmillan. Focusing on chapter 6, the author, Dr Jo Whitehouse-Hart (a lecturer in the department of media and communications) explores various psychosocial processes by which television viewing has evolved over the years with the emergence of digital technologies and contributed to psychological conflicts and emotional irregularities. The author draws on notion of television as an evocative transitional object that could be used to manage anxiety but at the same time provoke it. This chapter investigates deeply how television viewing captures a hold on individual day-to-day lives which can psychologically impact on social activities and extended relationships. With the use of psychoanalysis, the author conducted interviews in attempt to explore the personal lives on two single men, Daniel and Chris who both live alone and have similar yet contrasting lifestyles.  The author is able to capture similarities on the influence of continuous television viewing on their emotional well-being and the complex concept on time-passing, while making valuable comparisons prompting an in-depth understanding.  We are able to interpret the complicated processes of how individual link viewing to their self-identity in the virtual world. Both Daniel and Chris provide information on visual texts they psychologically identify with due to their past experiences with television viewing, with this the author is able to engage in a psychoanalysis and identify a clear link between viewing and individual experience. Due to their career natured lifestyles we are also able to examine the consequences of ‘time’ as a psycho- social phenomenon that affects their emotional security leading to anxieties and insecurities. The concept of time shows how ‘free time’ as associated with leisure activities such as viewing can be fearfully deemed as ‘time-waste’ building anxiety towards television viewing.

Dr. Whitehouse-Hart aims to explain how viewing as anxiety provoking can clarify historically specific psychosocial conflicts on identity. She used interviews as a methodological approach in this study in order to obtain qualitative data that would reveal in-depth information she could use to explain the relation between viewers and text psychoanalytically.

Her similarities in age with Daniel made it easy for her to build a connection between them which encouraged Daniel to express himself, disclosing personal information and enabling her to sense hidden emotions such as sadness at the end of their interviews. This emotional interactivity allowed her to acquire true interpretive data. However it is important to take account that it indeed raises ethical concerns on Daniels overall comfort. The researchers intimate presence pressured Daniel to act as a host and forcefully accommodate appropriately e.g. having to bring a lilac mug and decaffeinated coffee. It could also cause Daniel to subconsciously or consciously act in a more convincing way, which could lead to the researcher making false assumptions about his characteristics, weakening the validity of evidence in the study.  

She describes Daniel as ‘lacking a feminine touch’, Daniel also suggests he has never had a life long partner and increasingly sees less and less of his friends but in contrast suggests Daniel is sociable and is going through a self-enforced isolation.  She ignores the Anna Freud’ concept of intellectualization, a process whereby the individual attempts to make sense of himself and everything around him using his egotistical values to try and control feelings of anxiety by connecting with ideas that can be dealt with in consciousness (Walrond-Skinner, 1986). Instead she uses Bauman’s theory of Work and leisure time as a total separation to explain how long hours of work is then seen as “torment” for Daniel and caves the way for ‘non-work’ (leisure time) which Daniel uses entirely for viewing as he is able to manipulate time with the increasing digital technologies enabling more control and choice in television viewing. She also links this expression to Marxist concept on alienation but hardly build on the theory. I would argue that the concept of alienation would be more suited in analyzing Chris’s situation as it centers more on conditions of social class (Ollman, 1971)

She draws on Winnicotts concept of ‘holding’ as a “sense of continuity of being is sustained over time” which talks in-depth about stages in early infancy and the mother forgoing her personal needs to synch with infants rhythms hence providing a setting enabling the child to feel integrated. This concept would have been more useful if there was any evidence given about Daniels early relationship with his mum to give support the Winnicotts claim, but even with the elaborated explanation using Thomas Ogden’s theory pointing out a the importance of infants experiences with ‘surfaces’, ‘sounds’ and ‘shapes’ e.g. the mothers skin and the rhythm of her breathing, there hardly lies a link between these theories and evidence given to us about Daniels Life.

The researcher however managed to suggest that Ogden’s theory suggests an explanation for Daniels tendency to watch flickering lights of the TV in the dark as it serves comfort and forms a ‘holding’ function on Daniel. Hayward however suggests that we often watch films in the dark as it serves a ‘dreamlike’, cinematic experience that begins from the actual social (and then psychic) experience of film going (Ben Calvert, 2002).  This theory can e used to support the evidence that Daniel “gets absorbed” or “lost” in watching television.

  Daniel uses Examples of situations to reveal what sort of impressions colleagues have of him. E.g. he likes making people happy and comes of ‘weird’ for having a strong passion for Twin peaks leading to the assumptions that he is a ‘nice guy’ and somewhat a ‘loser’ between his pears. The author makes a clear connection between his personality and films he tends to watch leading to our understanding of the relationship viewing texts and self-identity.

Chris and Daniel both come from working class backgrounds, live alone and have experienced some sort of social mobility, therefore it was easy to generate similarities from their lifestyles, for e.g. They are both conscious of time-wasting and both experience some sort of anxiety while watching TV, it was also very easy to see clear distinctions as Chris over the years as he upgraded in social class, hence, experiences conflicting engagement in television viewing.



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