Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/decoding.” Culture, Media, Language. Ed. Stuart Hall et al. New York: Routledge, 1980. 128-138.
Hall begins by pointing out that traditional research on communication has been critcised for being too linear by interpreting communication as a mere “circulation circuit” (128). He asserts that a better approach, conceptualised by Marx, is one which encompasses additional distinctive aspects of communication so that the old model of sender/message/receiver should be replaced by a new model of production-circulation-distribution/consumption-reproduction. Underlying the new model is a “‘complex structure in dominance’” (128) in that each element, though connected, is quite distinct from the other and dominates at that specific moment in the communication process. Hall also notes that the model emphasizes what makes discursive production different from other forms of production.
Influenced by Althusser, Hall asserts that the meaning derived from the media systems is dependent on “the operation of codes within the syntagmatic chain of a discourse” (128). In other words, media communication is structured within an equal system of signs that engages both langue and parole. The production and circulation of the message are thus fueled by the rules of the language (langue) as well as the actual discourse (parole) in an entire system of interconnected parts. Furthermore, in alluding to Marx’s base/superstructure model, he posits that the economic base produces a symbolic form in which the message is circulated among different audiences. However, if meaning is not derived from the message, the audience will not be able to translate/consume the message which further prevents it from being reproduced. Hence, the circuit remains incomplete. Hall notes that it is in this way that each element is linked as an interruption in one will hinder the reproduction of the message.
Encoding and decoding are