• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

`It's easy to be snobbish about media culture; the great merit of Roger Silverstone's book is to make the reader understand just how important that culture is' - Richard Sennett, New York University `A remarkable book which argues for a new paradigm for the study of the media' - Daniel Dayan, Centre National de la Recherche `A persuasive and sophisticated discussion of the role of the media in modern life at the threshold of the twenty-first century' - Ellen Seiter, University of California `A very important book, one that moves media theory and argument on at long last. This is an attempt to get people to think differently about the media - not ju

Dimensions of Experience
Dimensions of experience

The new, now classic, question asked by those working on media research in the 1950s and 1960s was not ‘ask what the media do to us’, but ‘ask what we do with our media’. This is my question now, though it has to be reframed. In this section I intend to enquire more deeply into the ways in which media texts, the technologies that deliver them and our own responses to what we see, hear and with which we interact, themselves interact. What are the mechanisms of engagement? How are we to understand the social and cultural dimensions of mediation as they emerge at the point of connection with our media? What aspects of experience intersect with the images, voices and sounds that comprise our media environment?

In the intertwining of media's meanings with our own, we are neither free nor in chains. Nor do we anymore engage, even if we ever did, with the products of the media in a rational or functional way. The spaces we live in, in our inner as well as our outer worlds, are complicated by the lives we lead and the press of media on our minds and souls. Boundaries are there to be broken. Sounds to be remastered. Images to be refashioned. But meanings are there to be fixed, accepted, owned, if only for the moment. The press of information, its noise, its intrusion. The endless demands to choose, to decipher, to discriminate. What do we do with our media and how do we do it? How do we manage?

The study of the media involves enquiry into the social psychology and sociology of the viewing experience and the experience of viewing, which is not the same thing. It requires an investigation into the spaces that form around and beyond the interface: eyeball, ear-drum, screen and speaker. These spaces are discursive. Within them meanings are made and rejected. The presumption is that, in some sense, the television viewer or radio listener (and not just the newspaper reader) is active; that viewing and listening and reading require some degree of commitment, some kind of choices, some type of consequence. The presumption is that we come to our media as sentient beings (notwithstanding the empty cans of lager cluttered around the settee after a night in front of the box). And the presumption is that the meanings we make that involve our media, that may require or depend upon them, are meanings like any other and the product of our capacity, as social beings, to be in the world.

In this section I explore some ways of thinking about this problem of meaning-making and experience. The exploration involves an enquiry into the different kinds of relationships we have with our media. It involves an understanding of both media and their audiences as players, representing one to the other, making claims and counter-claims, asking each other questions, sharing a context for action in which both, in different degrees, in different ways and at different times, are agents. This context for action is associated with rhetoric's commonplace, and poetic's mimesis. It is where media meet everyday life.

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