1980 – Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall’s Encoding / Decoding Theory suggests that those who receive communication (he calls them the audience) derive their own meaning representations.
Listeners/viewers/audiences actively read representations and don’t just accept them passively.
They interpret according to their own cultural background and experiences.
Hall suggested that representations are actively read in three main ways.
- A dominant or preferred reading of a text or representation is the way that its creators want an audience to understand and respond to it.
- An oppositional reading of the text is when an audience completely rejects the message.
- A negotiated reading is when the audience interprets the text in their own unique way, which might not be the way its producer intended.
Decoding traffic lights (small group discussion 1)
We’ve already talked about how red, amber and green lights are coded (encoded) on the basis of traffic management.
Now let’s decode them on the basis of Stuart Hall’s theory (note there may not be a strictly correct or incorrect set of answers, but varying interpretations).
- What might a dominant/preferred reading of traffic lights look like (how might we explain it)?
- What might an oppositional reading of traffic lights look like (how might we explain it)?
- What might a negotiated reading of traffic lights look like (how might we explain it)?
Decoding Blackness, Whiteness and “Yellowness” (small group discussion 2)
Have a look at the traditional Anglophone and contemporary Western coding of Blackness involving the signified concept “Black People”.
- Can you use the organizing principle of difference to make (to construct) traditional and contemporary Anglophone [American] meanings for “whiteness”?
2.a Here is what your class (and the other sophomores) thought the colour yellow represents in Anglophone culture:
yellow people sunshine seashore aging hazard/warning.
What kinds of encoding use the word yellow to represent these meanings?
2b. Try to imagine how Anglo-Americans traditionally (18/19thC) understood “Yellow” as a term for Chinese and other Asian peoples (for example, Japanese, Filipino …).
3. OK, working as a class group. Let’s use Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding theory to talk about the traditional Anglophone representations of Blackness involving Black People.
a. The dominant interpretation = ?
b. The oppositional interpretation = ?
c. The negotiated interpretation = ?
3. Now, work in your small groups to use Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model to decode traditional Anglophone representations of Whiteness and Yellowness.
Note: we could do a similar exercise decoding rural/urban people in China.
Homework: Watch one or/both of the following movies (please ensure you have watched one of them by class next week)