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An ecological psychology approach to the study of audiences
Unformatted Document Text:  ecological theory...14 general. I have made some tentative suggestions in this paper as to the application of ecological theory for investigating children’s interactions with media, and their understanding of television. The questions that have occupied most developmental psychology studies of media concern the corrupting influence of media violence and the educational influence of prosocial media (Giles, 2002b). Clearly an ecological perspective would shed much light on these matters, particularly if we can harness this model in tackling the problematic fantasy/reality dualism that permeates the literature on children and media. In adulthood, the most difficult questions relating to audience activity concern the relationships between media users and media figures – particularly when those figures are fictional (i.e., second- or even third-order parasocial). With other parasocial relationships, such as intense attachments to celebrities, it may be useful to consider the relationship as a narrative construction, as an example of the continuous interaction between media and audiences, and the influence of media throughout the lifespan. It may be necessary at some point to arrive at a definition of the audience/media encounter; for example, does a soap fan writing a letter to a TV studio constitute an encounter? One possibility is to distinguish off-line from on-line encounters, so that letter-writing to a celebrity is defined as an off-line media encounter, while viewing a television show, or (in a very literal sense) surfing the Web, are defined as on-line encounters. As much as anything, the ecological approach has the potential for bringing culture to the forefront of our understanding of the social world. Much of what I have said about media could be applied to culture in general, from the affordances available in

Authors: Giles, David.
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ecological theory...14
general. I have made some tentative suggestions in this paper as to the application of
ecological theory for investigating children’s interactions with media, and their
understanding of television. The questions that have occupied most developmental
psychology studies of media concern the corrupting influence of media violence and
the educational influence of prosocial media (Giles, 2002b). Clearly an ecological
perspective would shed much light on these matters, particularly if we can harness
this model in tackling the problematic fantasy/reality dualism that permeates the
literature on children and media.
In adulthood, the most difficult questions relating to audience activity concern the
relationships between media users and media figures – particularly when those figures
are fictional (i.e., second- or even third-order parasocial). With other parasocial
relationships, such as intense attachments to celebrities, it may be useful to consider
the relationship as a narrative construction, as an example of the continuous
interaction between media and audiences, and the influence of media throughout the
lifespan. It may be necessary at some point to arrive at a definition of the
audience/media encounter; for example, does a soap fan writing a letter to a TV studio
constitute an encounter? One possibility is to distinguish off-line from on-line
encounters, so that letter-writing to a celebrity is defined as an off-line media
encounter, while viewing a television show, or (in a very literal sense) surfing the
Web, are defined as on-line encounters.
As much as anything, the ecological approach has the potential for bringing culture to
the forefront of our understanding of the social world. Much of what I have said about
media could be applied to culture in general, from the affordances available in


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