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An ecological psychology approach to the study of audiences
Unformatted Document Text:  ecological theory...5 social classes either subverted the intended reading, or rejected the show entirely, regarding it as meaningless in their lives. The idea from ecological psychology that we should focus our attention on the encounters between persons and environments is reflected in later theories of audience activity, most notably that of Fiske (1989, p.57), who argued that “there is no text, there is no audience, there are only the processes of viewing”. Fiske’s position raises important challenges to the idea that either texts or audiences have fixed qualities, and that the important activity takes place in the encounters between a medium and its users. At the same time, as Costall (1995) points out, such encounters take place within a community that has already invested certain meanings in those media. Therefore, talk about television, and its discernible role in popular culture, adds an extra layer of meaning to the act of viewing. There is a third dichotomy, of considerable importance to media psychology, which an ecological perspective can help resolve. This is the fantasy/reality distinction that has dominated most developmental research on children’s understanding of television (Jaglom & Gardner, 1981; Wright, Huston, Reitz & Piemyat, 1994). According to these theories, young children believe everything they see on television to be “real” until around the ages of 4-5, at which point they reject television as entirely “false”, before settling down to a more balanced perspective whereby a distinction is made between real and fantastic elements of television. This approach has been vigorously challenged by some media scholars (Buckingham, 1996; Hodge & Tripp, 1986; Messenger Davies, 1997), who argue that children as

Authors: Giles, David.
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ecological theory...5
social classes either subverted the intended reading, or rejected the show entirely,
regarding it as meaningless in their lives.
The idea from ecological psychology that we should focus our attention on the
encounters between persons and environments is reflected in later theories of
audience activity, most notably that of Fiske (1989, p.57), who argued that “there is
no text, there is no audience, there are only the processes of viewing”. Fiske’s
position raises important challenges to the idea that either texts or audiences have
fixed qualities, and that the important activity takes place in the encounters between a
medium and its users. At the same time, as Costall (1995) points out, such encounters
take place within a community that has already invested certain meanings in those
media. Therefore, talk about television, and its discernible role in popular culture,
adds an extra layer of meaning to the act of viewing.
There is a third dichotomy, of considerable importance to media psychology, which
an ecological perspective can help resolve. This is the fantasy/reality distinction that
has dominated most developmental research on children’s understanding of television
(Jaglom & Gardner, 1981; Wright, Huston, Reitz & Piemyat, 1994). According to
these theories, young children believe everything they see on television to be “real”
until around the ages of 4-5, at which point they reject television as entirely “false”,
before settling down to a more balanced perspective whereby a distinction is made
between real and fantastic elements of television.
This approach has been vigorously challenged by some media scholars (Buckingham,
1996; Hodge & Tripp, 1986; Messenger Davies, 1997), who argue that children as


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