MEP 203 CONTEMPORARY MEDIA THEORY 9. CONSUMERISM AND EVERYDAY LIFE
Consumerism – theoretical ideas • Media literacy • Merger between consumption and production • Consumer ‘tactics’ • Cultural empowerment • Symbolic creativity / DIY cultures • Habitus theory / field theory
Children’s media literacy (Buckingham 1992) • Respondents (7-12) were sceptical about the intentions of advertisers • They categorised TV programmes according to formal, not generic features • Research showed “the complex ways in which children actively make meaning and pleasure from television” (p. vii).
Consumer/producer merger • Marxist theory of “almighty production” (Adorno 1991) is now out-dated • Consumer culture, the consumer industry – advertising, PR, marketing, direct mail, etc. • Consumer sovereignty eg. film ‘on-demand’ • “Consumption is not the end of a process, but the beginning of another, and thus itself a form of production” (MacKay 1997)
De Certeau’s (1984) ‘tactics’ • Encoding is seen as a process of consumption, NOT production • Tactics – consumers make their own meanings from products and create personal uses for them • Speed reading – texts as read • Other egs – tax evasion, smuggling, ‘bunking off’ work, etc.
Empowerment (Fiske 1989) • Practices, NOT structures • Consumers can radically reinterpret media texts for subversive pleasures • Commodity appropriation e.g. torn (or faded) jeans, Grolsh bottle stops • Guerrilla warfare between producers and elusive consumers
Symbolic creativity (Willis 1990) • DIY cultures - “the hardware and software of consumption have become the instruments and the raw materials of a kind of cultural production” (p. 77) • Home taping – now LEGAL • Mixing – ?? • MP3 file-sharing – mostly ILLEGAL
Some criticisms of consumerism • Consumerist theories stress the power of audiences to oppose producer intentions • Contemporary media developments can be understand in terms of consumerism • HOWEVER, do consumerist theories go too far and ignore media power? • Accusations of populism (McGuigan 1992) • Freedom and choice – how much?
Habitus theory (Bourdieu 1984) • Taste is not about personal choice, it is socially and economically structured • Habitus: an invisible system that classifies consumer tastes for music, food, etc. • The habitus is a structured and a structuring principle – we partly make, partly are made by our habituses • Cultural capital (education/knowledge) and economic capital (wealth) are closely linked
Field theory (Bourdieu 1996) • Field: the site of struggle and possibilities practised in various arenas of cultural production • EG – the journalistic field restrains innovative voices, novel approaches to news-telling, etc. due to preconceptions of the market, regulatory restrictions, etc. • In turn, consumers only see a narrow, mainstream political view of the world