Salvaging textual media analysis, or not?

3 03 2009

In an attempt to “salvage textual analysis as a viable option for media study”, Elfriede Fürsich (2009: 238) replies to Greg Philo’s critique of (critical) discourse analysis’ shortcomings, championing “independent textual analysis” (2009: 239) as an exclusive means for elucidating “the narrative structure, symbolic arrangements and ideological potential of media content” (ibid.). While I am sympathetic to the babies-and-bathwater sentiment expressed in Fürsich’s article, I find her critique of media production analysis problematic.

Fürsich’s defense of independent textual (media) analysis, understood as “a type of qualitative analysis that, beyond the manifest content of media, focuses on the underlying ideological and cultural assumptions of the text” (2009: 239) is spirited yet balanced. For example, she acknowledges that textual analysis often finds what it is looking for. The gist of her article is aimed at countering Philo’s (2007) critique of context in critical discourse analysis.

Interestingly, Fürsich points to a number of flaws in studies that also account for media production or media reception. Limiting myself to the former, Fürsich argues that even though production studies can avoid “embarrassing mistakes” (2009: 242) in researchers’ interpretations of media discourse,

“this type of analysis […] can establish a one-sided causality between production and text – especially when the analysis stays close to the actual producers of the media product” (ibid).

Point taken, but how can researchers examine the agency of media producers within their institutional setting if not by examining the context of production? At this level, textual analysis remains speculative, at best, even when it claims to – ta-da – take “into account the ongoing political, economic and cultural concerns” (Führlich 2009: 245)?

References

Fürsich, Elfriede (2009). In defense of textual analysis. Restoring a challenged method for journalism and media studies. Journalism Studies 10 (2): 238 – 252.
Philo, Greg (2007). Can discourse analysis successfully explain the content of media and journalistic practice? Journalism Studies 8 (2): 175-196.


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