Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World
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Living Room Wars brings together Ien Ang's recent writings on television audiences, and , in response to recent criticisms of cultural studies, argues that it is possible to study audience pleasures and popular television in a way that is not naively populist. Ang examines how the makers and marketers of television attempt to mould their audience and looks at the often unexpected ways in which the viewers actively engage with the programmes they watch.
Living Room Wars highlights the inherent contradictions of a `politics of pleasure' of television consumption: Ang moves beyond the trditional forcus on textual meanings to explore the structural and historical representations fo television audiences as an integral part of modern culture. Her wide-ranging and illuminating discussion takes in the battle between television and its audiences; the politics of empirical audience research; new technologies and the tactics of television consumption; ethnography and radical contextualism in audience studies; television fiction and women's fantasy; feminist desire and female pleasure in media consumption, and the transnational media system.
informants were extracted from their natural viewing environment and interviewed in groups that were put together according to socio-economic criteria. In a looser sense, however, the use of the term ‘ethnographic’ can be justified here in so far as the approach is aimed at getting a thorough insight into the ‘lived experience’ of media consumption. For a further discussion, see chapter 4. 2 It should be stressed, however, that the ‘critical’ tradition is not a monolithic whole: there is not one
to a rather humble site of discursive knowledge: media audiences. In this Introduction, I will indicate how the postmodern—as a historical trend and as a mode of knowing—has impacted on (our understanding of) media audiences, especially television audiences. At the same time, I will also suggest how a critical theoretical and analytical engagement with audiences— which, as I have argued elsewhere (Ang 1991) and throughout the essays to follow, necessarily involves a deconstruction of the very
analysis of spectatorship, conceived as a set of subject positions constructed in and through texts, and the analysis of social audiences, understood as the empirical social subjects actually engaged in watching television, filmgoing, reading novels and magazines, and so on. Janice Radway (1984) has been one of the first to recognize the pitfalls of textual reductionism. In her well-known study Reading the Romance, she claims that ‘the analytic focus must shift from the text itself, taken in
America, the popular is often nostalgically equated with the indigenous, and this in turn with the primitive and the backward, the disappearing ‘authentic popular’ untouched by the forces of modernity. From this perspective, the unruly, crime-ridden, poverty-stricken culture of the urban popular, concentrated in the favelas, the barrios, and other slums, but diffusing its subversions from there right into the hearts of the modern city centres, could only be conceived of as contamination of
confirm Turner’s selfproclaimed ambition, in the name of world peace and harmony, to turn the world instantly into one big global audience. As Australian cultural critic McKenzie Wark has observed: The whole thing about the media vector is that its tendency is toward implicating the entire globe. Its historic tendency is toward making any and every point a possible connection—everyone and everything is a potential object and/or subject of a mediated relation, realized instantly. In the Gulf War,