Audience/Text Relationship & Representations

So how do you link the Big Ideas –


to the ‘trickier’ concepts of how Postmodern media:

  • Challenges the audience/text relationship
  • Plays with the Conventions of Representation/Manipulates Time and Space


Nothing is new, nothing is true, nothing is certain.

Intertextuality (pastiche/parody) - if you don't get the reference - if you are not culturally competent - you don't get the text - an exclusive club. 

Loss of Historical Reality - audiences view the representation more valid than the reality

Self-reflexivity - presenting the pretence and buying into it is usually all that is required - when the pretence is exposed by breaking the 4th wall or showing the text's construction (cameras etc) then that relationship is challenged

Hypereality - the audience are challenged to discern reality from constructed reality (reality TV, social media etc). The Shadows on the wall are reality.

Consumer Culture - the audience becomes consumer - often unwittingly so 'hoodwinked' on the reason for the text

Hegemony - the true purpose of a text is often disguised for other purposes. Ulterior motives - audience/buyer beware!

Grand Narratives/Absolute Truths - what audiences expect is no longer certain - everything is challenged, played with.

Representation/Time and Space

Nothing is new, nothing is true and nothing is certain

Self-reflexivity - time and space is destroyed - time and space is confused.

Intertextuality - copies and references texts from other times, places. Loss of historical reality.

Hypereality - what is reality and what is a representation of reality (social Media/Reality TV). Shadows on the wall.

Grand Narratives/Absolute Truths - challenged, played, subverted - all that we know to be true is no longer true or certain.

Mini-narratives - everyone's truth is valid so everyone's representation is valid.





Postmodern Media – The Big Ideas

As we did for the Media Regulation unit we thought we’d spell out the BIG IDEAS!

Remember that the marking has changed from previous years and whereas once the mark for examples was worth 2/5 of the total mark, now they are only worth 1/5.

This means there is a greater expectation that you can describe the big ideas and explore the consequences of those for audiences, representations and media language.

The Big Ideas for Postmodern Media

  1. There are no new ideas. All art (and media) is simply a copy of a copy of a copy….
  2. The lines between reality and media reality have become blurred and confused.
  3. The postmodern world has lost faith with the big ideas which used to bind our society together.

We will tackle these one at a time and try to weave in the theories which you are expected to use in this essay and also explain how these big ideas can be used to answer the possible essay questions which have and will pop up in your assessments. These are:

  1. Representation &/or Reality
  2. Audience & text relationship
  3. Definition(s) of Postmodern media
  4. Using Postmodern ideas to study texts

The Big Idea Explained:

There are no new ideas. All art (and media) is simply a copy of a copy of a copy….

Jameson describes this in his work ‘Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’. In that book he asserts that all art is either a pastiche or parody of previous art. That it uses self reflexivity to draw attention its own constructed nature. He was scathing in his assertion that this lead to a new kind of depthlessness & superficiality.

He also suggest that culture is now a sort of collective games of Chinese Whispers and that in the constant recycling of old ideas into new forms we have lost our collective understanding of historical reality.

Using this to address the questions in the assessment:

This means that all representations are built on the back of an older text, that no new ideas are being developed or explored. That audiences need a cultural competence of the older texts in order to understand the depth of the allusion and comment it's trying to make, if they don't and believe the copy to be the original idea and may miss intertextual references. A bleak assessment of culture where nothing new will ever be made again!
The lines between reality and media reality have become blurred and confused.

Baudrillard picks up where Jameson leaves off and goes further. He wrote a famous book, ‘Simulation and Simulacra’. In this he suggests that the audience have become so drenched within a media saturated culture that we no longer recognise where reality ends and media representations start! We take our cues for what it means to be ‘normal‘ in relationship, careers and lifestyles… from the media we consume this leads to a us living in a simulation of reality.

Furthermore,  corporate media has one primary function and that is to promote a dominant consumerist ideology.  We (the audience) have become defined by the things we buy and success is defined in simplistic materialistic terms!

We are prisoners in Plato’s cave and believe the shadows on the wall are reality.

Using this to address the questions in the assessment:

The representation is not the reality. The map is not the territory. Audiences take to be 'normal' the experience of the media and so shape their personal identity & social interactions in line with what is represented on screen. Happiness and contentment are only accessible through material consumption. We live in a simulation of reality whereby those who control and can pay for the message to be spread widely get to shape the narrative to suit their agenda.
The postmodern world has lost faith with the big ideas which used to bind our society together.

‘Well it’s my opinion and that’s all that matters,’ is an argument made by many people!

That is an entirely Postmodern position to adopt, where truth is relative and personal experience has primacy.

We live in a pluralist (link to regulation) society, where our personal feeling, ‘lived experience’ and world view are held sacred. This is the consequence of Postmodernism according to Lyotard in his book ‘The Postmodern Condition’. In that report on knowledge he asserts that society (audiences) don’t collectively believe in anything! We all have our own ‘truth’, because Postmodernism has challenged and held up to ridicule all the Grand Narratives that enabled us to have a shared set of cultural and social ideas we all agree on.

Using this to address the questions in the assessment:

The representations in Postmodern Media, in which the grand narratives are held up to ridicule and mockery, some argue, have caused great damage to the fabric of society. Alongside the  democratization of the media we have also been given our own platforms and construct our social groups around the media we consume. This has led to a more divided society in which we are in thrall to consumerist ideals through advertising.

Your Media Assessment Portfolio Explained

Assessment Portfolios

Mark Calculator

You can use this calculator to work out how your marks will convert into a final mark /100.

Please be aware that we cannot discuss unit grades nor overall grades!

grade boundaries in previous years have been:
  • A* = 90 Marks
  • A = 80 Marks
  • B = 70 Marks
  • C = 60 Marks
  • D = 50 Marks


The above boundaries cannot be used as a reliable indicator for this academic year; it is for a rough indication only.


Media Regulation – the big idea – Gatekeeping v Freedom of speech

We noticed that many of you spent too much time, describing in too much detail, the various case studies and examples. You need the bare bones for these as you need to spend the rest of the time, broaching the key contexts and debates in order to maximise your marks.

The key concepts that should be on your radar are:


- A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something, for example via a city gate or bouncer, or more abstractly, controls who is granted access to a category or status.

So in terms of Media Regulation – they are either the officially recognised bodies that regulate the media or the individual groups elected by the Media platform themselves.

  • ASA
  • UK ONLINE HARMS BILL  – to be made law next year
  • THE USERS – you and me
  • REGULATORS ON EACH PLATFORM i.e. The Oversight Board on Facebook
    • but are they “emptying the ocean with an eyedropper”?
  • You and Me – the consumer.

The main debate about Gatekeepers is that:

  • They regulate content and therefore the contributors – they are powerful!
  • The Internet promised to allow free speech and expression – and has now come unstuck because of this – ‘move fast and break things has become move fast and fix things.’
  • Gatekeeping is dependent on many external factors that relate often, to the culture, politics, country, religion where the media is produced – in other words – gatekeeping is culturally reactive.

How do you resolve the ever present argument of:

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.” — Noam Chomsky


  • Freedom of Speech vs Protection from Harm
  • Pluralist vs Moralist
  • Gatekeeping vs Democratisation
  • Media Regulation will never be watertight – it has to react to technological advancements/convergence.
  • Media Regulation changes over time – historically it reacts to technology and cultural zeitgeists.
  • Media Regulation is closely linked to:
      • Moral Panics
  • Media Regulation can be covert, subversive and ‘invisible’ – think of Chinese interference with internet access
  • Media Regulation has to determine the minefield of:
      • Public v. private
  • Postmodern society is built on the foundations of ‘no absolute truths’ and mini- narratives and Regulation contradicts this zeitgeist.
      • Self Regulation
      • Begs the question that perhaps China has got it right – the re-introduction of the absolute truths/the grand narratives through the back door of covert and subversive regulation of its citizens accessing the internet, may in fact make life simpler, safer and easier to navigate?


Media Regulation – The Theory

To achieve a higher grade you need to include reference to a specific theory & associated theorist. Some of these have been listed in previous key term documents and most theories have been taught to you, but not named as such. So essentially this is a question of putting a theory / theorists name next to an idea:

Freedom of Expression

Theorist(s): John Milton (1608-74) and John Locke (1632-1704)

An enlightenment idea, which holds that in order to be truly free in a liberal democracy, the  powerful should be held to account via a free press (The Fourth Estate). This principle was enshrined in The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights in America (1791) and is held to be a fundamental principle of liberal democracies.

Harm Principle

Theorist(s): John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Was also a enlightenment liberal thinker who tried to define the limits on the freedoms of the citizen. He suggested that people should be free in all things, and ‘…that this freedom should only be restricted if their actions may cause harm to others.’ Applying this to freedom of expression, he famously said, “You cannot, without good reason, shout, ‘Fire’ in a public theatre.”

Popper’s Paradox

The Popper Paradox

Karl Popper proposed the following idea, which seems to be a contradiction, but is useful in trying to square the circle of free speech vs protection from harm. He said…

a society cannot be tolerant without limits! If we tolerate the intolerant for too long it is the intolerant who will eventually seize power. So in order to maintain a tolerant, pluralist and multicultural society we must be intolerant of intolerance.

Moralists and Pluralists

Moralists hold that collectively defined rules should regulate and limit media consumption available to the public, especially to protect vulnerable groups.

Pluralists believe in self regulation.

Mark Kermode & Owen Jones assert that people should be given the tools to regulate their own media  consumption. The most obvious being, the power switch or block button.

If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!

Reception Theory

The Byron Report (2008)

Was an attempt by Professor Tanya Byron to regulate video games and the internet in the wake of moral panics about the negative impact of media on young people.

The Bryon report addressed attempted to address the issue of regulating global media. It requested that multinational media companies apply a code of conduct and make themselves open to independent scrutiny of their practices. The recommendations in the Byron report, to date, have only been partially implemented.

The Bryon Report presupposes that the media can influence people in a negative way, especially through copycatting negative behaviors. In this sense they take seriously the Hypodermic Syringe Theory of audience which says that ideas, attitude and beliefs (ideologies) can be ‘injected’ into us through the media we consume.

Barker and Petley (2000)

Suggested in their book ‘Ill Effects’ rejects the ideas proposed by The Hypodermic Syringe theory and built of the ideas of Blumler & Katz , who proposed the Uses and Gratification model of The Active Audience, which suggests that the audience actively seek information to fulfill their need for information and entertainment and their use of media in social interactions and in shaping their personal identity.

Stuart Hall also builds on these ideas with his suggestions of preferred, negotiated & oppositional readings of the media. He also suggests that the influence of media consumptions is also influenced by other factors such as:

  • Situated Culture
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Cultural Competences

Cognitive Biases (overlap for psychologist and sociologists)

This suggests that human beings are seeking simplified representations of the world which fit our existing knowledge and personal ideologies.

  • Anchoring Bias, proposes we are give more weight to the first arguments / ideas we encounter
  • Confirmation Bias, proposes that we accept ideas and arguments that support what we already believe to be true and fit our existing world view.

This can lead to a lack in critical thinking and make people more susceptible to conspiracy theories and cancel culture.

Even hotter off the press

Mark Zuckerberg is now agreeing to tighter regulation of the internet with the caveat that if really offensive, harmful, extreme content does get past their moderators or algorithms (their own gatekeepers), they, the Tech Giants, should still not be prosecuted. Read the full article by clicking on the headline.

Zuckerberg suggests ‘thoughtful reform’ of Section 230 – big tech’s liability shield – and says platforms should have to prove they have systems in place to identify and remove unlawful content

  • In testimony prepared for a congressional hearing on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg laid out steps for ‘thoughtful reform’ for the Section 230 law
  • He acknowledged calls from lawmakers for changes to the law, which gives companies like Facebook immunity from liability over content posted by users 
  • He said companies should follow best practices for removing damaging material from platforms and demonstrate they have systems in place for identifying it
  • But he said that online services still shouldn’t be held liable for ‘if a particular piece of content evades its detection’
  • Zuckerberg argued that it wasn’t feasible for platforms like Facebook because it has billions of posts per day

Trump, having been banned from Twitter, is going to set up his OWN MEDIA PLATFORM – in light of his banning and the right wing TV channel FOX NEWS even criticizing his recent behaviour. With all his money, he can go somewhere else and create his own media platforms. So will Media ever be regulated with moneyed men in suits being able to ‘rule the roost’?

Read the full article here:

Former Cabinet Minister, Dr Liam Fox has come out to defend free speech on line and protect those who are bullied on line as a result of the J K Rowling recent row. There are some really good phrases and quotes you can use in this article.

Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) | Twitter

He says it would be dangerous to allow a situation to take hold in which ‘newspapers are operating under much stricter laws than their digital counterparts’.

And he will also call on the Government to tackle the social media giants over the ease with which people can use anonymous accounts to pump out messages that would otherwise be illegal.

Dr Fox describes free speech as a ‘basic human right’, adding: ‘Freedom of expression, especially a free press, is a means of underpinning other human rights through the ability to expose abuses and persecution.’ But he points out it has always had some limits, such as incitement to crime and libel.

Read the full article here:

Did you know that in the 1930’s when King Edward VIII was wanting to marry a previously twice divorced American heiress, Mrs Simpson, the newsagents were required to cut out any images of her and articles about her from any imported American newspapers?  The British Press had a gentleman’s agreement with the Monarchy to avoid any ‘gossip’ stories about the Royal Family but of course, the American Press did not. In the end the story got so big, when he abdicated that the previous gentlemen’s agreement was shelved.  A form of Royal regulation existed – a great example of regulation being impacted by the cultural, political and religious zeitgeist of the time.  The Royal Family today though are seen as ‘fair game’ for whatever the press want to publish about them.

How Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson spoke of his 1936 abdication in 1970 interview | Daily Mail Online