Television Culture

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A code is a rule-governed system of signs, whose rules and conventions are shared among members of a culture, and which is used to generate and circulate meaning in and for that culture (1088). Codes convert pieces of information from one form to another and are often used where spoken and/or written language is not possible. John Fiske discusses, in his essay “Television Culture”, how codes are used in television broadcast programs and how broadcasters attempt to make the meanings “perform the work of dominant ideology” (1087). He breaks the codes down into three levels: reality, representation, and ideology; each of which has sublevels that, with constant movement up and down the levels, all work together, by merging in to what seems to be natural unity and allows us to make sense codes (1090). In level one, reality, Fiske states that reality is already encoded within our culture and what passes for reality is the product of that culture’s code and therefore the program or show is already encoded with social codes such as appearance, make-up, dress, expression, speech (1089). He goes on to further break down this level by discussing how the individuals that are cast of fill the roles are real people whose appearance is already encoded but that they are also media people who exist for the view intertextually (1091). These characters not only represent individual people but are also the encodings of ideology (1092). The attractiveness of the character is a mixture of how they are encoded both technical and social codes as well as ideological codes (1092). Settings and costumes also play a role in the reality level of codes when thinking in terms of physical differences and the ideological codes of class, heroism and villainy, mortality, and attractiveness (1092). In level two, representation, Fiske looks at how technical codes such as camera, lighting, editing, and music, etc. transmit the conventional representational codes which in turn shape the...
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