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An ecological psychology approach to the study of audiences
Unformatted Document Text:  ecological theory...12 This last point is illustrated in two remarkable analyses by Emmison and Goldman (1996, 1997) of the long-running British series The Sooty Show. The authors, linguistic anthropologists, focused on the interaction between the puppets and human presenter, during which a variety of difficult tasks are accomplished (for one thing, neither of the two lead characters are able to speak, yet are constituted as competent communicators). They argued that very young children were able to understand and enjoy The Sooty Show despite having to perform a complex series of transformations (glove puppets as animals as children performing adult roles, and so on). The key to children’s understanding here appears to reside with the familiarity of the narrative: in most storylines, the puppets are linguistically constituted as children, the presenter as a parent. Typically, the puppets are engaged in a task supervised by the presenter; the task goes wrong (usually as a result of the puppets’ mischief), and the presenter ends up on the receiving end – for example, a cookery session results in his being covered in food. The point that Emmison and Goldman make here is that the narrative is instantly recognisable by children (certainly those from a Western cultural background) regarding the relative status of adults and children, the kind of interaction adults and children engage in, the kind of rules governing that interaction, and the likely outcome of infringements of those rules. As with so much children’s entertainment, the chief source of pleasure lies in adults (or authority figures) being thwarted by “naughty” childish antics. While it is so often argued that understanding television requires a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, in productions like The Sooty Show, “fantasy” elements (such as glove puppets moving and communicating) are overridden by the narrative. This means that the only thing children need to

Authors: Giles, David.
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ecological theory...12
This last point is illustrated in two remarkable analyses by Emmison and Goldman
(1996, 1997) of the long-running British series The Sooty Show. The authors,
linguistic anthropologists, focused on the interaction between the puppets and human
presenter, during which a variety of difficult tasks are accomplished (for one thing,
neither of the two lead characters are able to speak, yet are constituted as competent
communicators). They argued that very young children were able to understand and
enjoy The Sooty Show despite having to perform a complex series of transformations
(glove puppets as animals as children performing adult roles, and so on). The key to
children’s understanding here appears to reside with the familiarity of the narrative: in
most storylines, the puppets are linguistically constituted as children, the presenter as
a parent. Typically, the puppets are engaged in a task supervised by the presenter; the
task goes wrong (usually as a result of the puppets’ mischief), and the presenter ends
up on the receiving end – for example, a cookery session results in his being covered
in food.
The point that Emmison and Goldman make here is that the narrative is instantly
recognisable by children (certainly those from a Western cultural background)
regarding the relative status of adults and children, the kind of interaction adults and
children engage in, the kind of rules governing that interaction, and the likely
outcome of infringements of those rules. As with so much children’s entertainment,
the chief source of pleasure lies in adults (or authority figures) being thwarted by
“naughty” childish antics. While it is so often argued that understanding television
requires a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, in productions like The Sooty
Show, “fantasy” elements (such as glove puppets moving and communicating) are
overridden by the narrative. This means that the only thing children need to


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