Television Studies: An Overview (Discussion)

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Mass-comm methods vs. television-studies methods

To understand the difference between empirical and critical methods, we need to look at their basic principles and presumptions. The class will be divided into mass-comm researchers and television-studies theorists for this first exercise.

Mass Comm Research Television Studies

Group 6
Explain presumptions 1-2 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Group 1
Explain presumptions 3-4 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Group 2
Explain presumptions 5-6 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Group 3
Explain point-by-point how the TS method differs from presumptions 1-2 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Group 4
Explain point-by-point how the TS method differs from presumptions 3-4 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Group 5
Explain point-by-point how the TS method differs from presumptions 5-6 of the MC method. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Mass Communication Research's Presumptions:

  1. Knowledge about an object of study—a particular phenomenon—exists within that object itself; the researcher “uncovers” it through experimentation and informed observation.
  2. As a corollary to presumption #1, the researcher is objective; he or she does not fabricate data, or take a biased attitude toward them, but, rather, merely finds them in the object under study.
  3. Experiments should be replicable.
  4. An object of study will be understood if enough facts about it can be gathered or its fundamental essence discerned.
  5. Research results should be quantifiable; that is, they should be measured and expressed in numbers and formulas (this is true of much, but not all, empirical research).
  6. Theory is used to generate hypotheses or speculate about facts generated through empirical research. Also, facts or data may themselves inspire theoretical developments.

Television Studies' Presumptions:

  1. Knowledge about an object of study—its meaning—is not solely within it, waiting to be discovered. Rather, meaning is generated through the researchers’ interpretive interaction with phenomena.
  2. Critical researchers do not lay claims to objectivity.
  3. Since critical approaches rely upon opinion, they are not replicable.
  4. Critical researchers do not collect facts for their own sake. Facts are only useful to the extent that they advance interpretation.
  5. Critical research results are messy, ephemeral, and occasionally contradictory. Consequently, they do not lend themselves to being expressed in (reduced to) numbers.
  6. Theory is used to speculate about the object of study and provides the basis for the evaluation of the critical work by other scholars. In a sense, the act of criticism is the process of putting theory to work, of applied theory.

Criteria for evaluating critical work

All groups will discuss Vande Berg, Wenner and Gronbeck's criteria for evaluating critical work--looking at one specific criterion. Apply your criterion to Kristen Warner, "'Who Gon Check Me Boo': Reality TV as a Haven For Black Women’s Affect," Flow (August 18, 2011). How well does this essay fit your criterion?

Groups 6 & 2

  1. Explain what Vande Berg, Wenner and Gronbeck mean by internal consistency.

Group 3

  1. Explain what Vande Berg, Wenner and Gronbeck mean by evidence.

Group 4

  1. Explain what Vande Berg, Wenner and Gronbeck mean by cultural, critical, theoretical and practical significance.

Groups 5 & 1

  1. Explain what Vande Berg, Wenner and Gronbeck mean by reasonableness for a critical interpretation.

Design your own research project

All Groups: Design a research project based on either the mass-comm (Groups 1, 2, 3) or TV-studies (groups 4, 5, 6) approach. Use South Park, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones as the subject of your analysis. How would you approach the program? What sort of research questions might you ask? What would be the point of your analysis?

Bibliography

  1. Butler, Jeremy G. Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture. NY: Routledge, 2018.