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Reflection Point 2.1

Stuart Hall 1932 – 2014, Jamaican, cultural theorist and sociologist. lived in the UK from 1951, Known as the ‘Godfather of multiculturalism’. Professor of Sociology at the Open University between 1979 – 1997. His writing on race, gender sexuality and identity was considered groundbreaking, with a far reaching impact and descried as, “a spellbinding orator”.

I was unable to find a copy of Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse. (1974) by Stuart Hall on-line but in my search I found this useful explanation to what the underlining message was. (

Stuart Hall’s ideas:

  • People interpret media texts in different ways, depending on their cultural background, economic standings and personal experiences.
  • The audience members can play an active role in decoding the messages of the text and are capable of changing these messages themselves.
  • DOMINANT: (The intended and wanted response) Seen as the hegemonic response, people share the code and preferred reading.
  • NEGOTIATED: (The second best but still the acceptable wanted response) They accept what the text is saying and adapt it according to their social background.
  • OPPOSITIONAL: (The unwanted response) When they understand the text, but reject the message, they come from an oppositional position.

EXAMPLE In his 1980 article “Encoding / Decoding” cultural theorist Stuart Hall defines communication in terms of code. For example, in a spoken conversation between Alice and Bob, Alice encodes her framework of knowledge into the communicable medium of speech. Assuming Bob can hear the sounds and understand the spoken language, he then decodes the sounds into a framework of knowledge.

The idea of DOMINANT, NEGOTIATED and OPPOSITIONAL in practice.

  • A dramatic scene from a teenage horror movie trailer depicting the moment where trainers are found in the hedges may signify that a teenage person is missing and that there is danger in the woods.
  • This is an example of meaning coded in the mise-en-scene.
  • However depending on their backgrounds, the audience will have their own readings into this dramatic scene. OUR TRAILER IS CONSTRUCTED FROM A TEENAGE PERSPECTIVE, so:
  • TEENAGERS: Might see this as a very real threat on themselves (This would be DOMINANT)
  • OLD PEOPLE: Might see this as a hysterical, exaggerated portrayal of teenagers being removed from society (OPPOSITIONAL).
  • MIDDLE CLASS: May see this as a very real threat, but also the removal of teenagers/putting them back in their place (NEGOTIATED).

Stephan Bull (2010) page 70, writes, that in the 1960’s French Situationist theorist Guy Debord agued that contemporary society was dominated by spectacular images of entertainment and capitalist products that distracted people from the real world, transforming the into numbed consumers.….However, Stuart Hall has argued that images are not always consumed so passively. Instead…he identifies three ways by which the meanings encoded in images by their producers are decoded differently by the audience. The first of these is the dominant or preferred reading, where the viewer passively receives the intended meanings of the image in their entirety. The second, and arguably most common reading, is negotiated – where the viewer accepts some of the intended meanings, but questions others and adapts them to their experience. The third reading is oppositional, where the viewer entirely rejects the intended meaning of the image, seeing them as disconnected from their understanding of the world.


Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is:

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