Cultural studies is often referred to by scholars within and outside this field as an “anti-discipline” or “post-discipline.” What do these terms signal about cultural studies as an approach and method for exploring knowledge and assessing truth?
A good deal of cultural studies focus on “how the world is socially constructed and represented to and by us in meaningful ways” (Barker, 2008, p. 7). Since cultural studies is a post-disciplinary field of enquiry, “the boundaries between itself and other subjects” are blurred (Barker, 2008, p. 4). Turner (2003) argued that cultural studies have developed an important theoretical strategy of “reading cultural products, social practices, even institutions, as texts” (p. 71). This approach to cultural representations provides a unique view of society.
Cultural studies approaches and methods often come under attack for their failure to produce or recognize universal truths about meaning making and effective communication. Do some entertainment mediums offer the author more control over the way audiences ultimately decode their texts?
Keeping in mind that all texts such as images, sounds and objects are polysemic, that is, they produce multiple meaning, this provides producers of entertainment media more control over the way audiences decode texts. The flexibility of meaning is important as Hall states in his “Encoding/Decoding” theory, “if no meaning is taken, there can be no consumption” (Hall, 1980, p. 137) but also to avoid open ended meaning, media producers often guide audience decoding by using music to warn of a threat or signs to signal how to view a character. Encoding a message this way sets “some of the limits and parameters within which decodings will operate” (Turner, 2003, p. 75). The participatory culture provides opportunity for the audience to become media producers and consumers contributing to the encoding process.
Barker, C. (2008). Chapter 1: An introduction to cultural studies. In Cultural studies: Theory and practice (pp. 1-38). London: Sage.
Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/Decoding. In M.G. Durham & D.M. Kellner (eds.), Media and cultural studies keyworks (pp. 137-144). West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Turner, G. (2003). Chapter 3. In British Cultural Studies: an introduction (3rd ed., pp.71-108). New York: Routledge.