Audience Reception - The Encoding/decoding Model

The Encoding/decoding Model

Since the early days of cultural studies-oriented interest in processes of audience meaning-making, the scholarly discussion about ‘readings’ has leaned on two sets of polar opposites that have been invoked to explain the differences between the meaning supposedly encoded into and now residing in the media text and the meanings actualized by audiences from that text.

One framework of explanation has attempted to position readings on an ideological scale from ‘dominant’ through ‘negotiated’, to ‘oppositional’, while another has relied on the semiotic notion of ‘polysemy’, frequently without identifying or even mentioning its logical ‘other’: the ‘monosemic’ reading. Often these two frameworks have been used within the same argument, with no attempt made to distinguish ‘polysemic’ from ‘oppositional’ readings: in the literature one often encounters formulations which imply that if a TV programme triggers a diversity of meanings in different audience groups, this programme can then be called ‘polysemic’, and the actualized meanings ‘oppositional’.

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