In Viewers make meaning from the book Practices of Looking by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, the authors imply that the dominant class has the power to create culture through various cultural institutions such as intellectuals, media, and social leaders. The principal concept of this reading rests upon the explanation of encoding and decoding a particular message by a producer and audience, respectively.
At the stage of an artifact production, the authors assert that producers encode their intended meaning into the artifact that aims to influence how the audience perceive such an object. The artifact(and its implanted meaning) then decode or interpret differently by the audience. In other words, producers of an artifact have a specific message of which they are trying to inform the audience. But in reality, often time the audience’s own meaning generated after seeing the artifact would probably be completely different from the intended meaning from the producers. This is a result of people’s taste on cultural products, preferences that been influenced by experiences relating to one’s class, cultural background, education, and other aspects of identity(Practices of Looking, p. 48). The producers, however, have the power to shape the audience’s interpretation by utilizing taste as well as ideologies. According to Stuart Hall in the reading, there are three different viewpoints that viewers can take as decoders of cultural images and artifacts: (1) Dominant-hegemonic, is the position when readers completely agree with the dominant message from the producers; (2) Negotiated reading, occurs when readers negotiating an interpretation from artifact and its dominant meanings, it is in the stage of both acceptance and rejection of an intended meaning, and (3) Oppositional reading, is the idea of completely disagreeing the ideological content within an artifact.
A classic example for this discussion is the war between Apple MacBook and PC laptop. I choose to decode this piece of popular culture because I am a believer in PC laptop. Although I do consume Apple products to a certain degree, I do not necessarily share any common interpretation or purchasing desire toward Apple Macbook. As a clarification, it is very uncommon today for an average person to not knowing Apple MacBook or not seeing its advertisement. we have all seen the pictures below and know what Apple’s marketing stands for. Apple uses ideology as well as a juxtaposition to influence the viewer to create their own meaning. The message Apple’s ideology carries, of course, is that MacBooks are better than PCs in every aspect. As we can see in Apple’s advertising, the MacBook is seen as more technological advances and suitable for modern lifestyles than the PC because of its artistic design and limitless functionalities. While I do not agree with the ad completely, many people did. As a result, people purchased Macbooks, despite being told to do so. Little did these people know, this is exactly what the producers want you to act. By giving people the option to come up with their own meaning of the image they witness while implementing various ideologies to influence their perception. Therefore, of the three viewpoints discussed in the reading, my decoding of Apple’s MacBook advertising would largely be considered negotiated and, oppositional when comes to computer hardware qualities and other features that actually determine its purchasability.
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