Cultural Forum Theory

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In Television as a Cultural Forum and Parks and Recreation: The Cultural Forum, Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch, and Heather Hendershot, respectively, address the role of television as a cultural forum in different television eras, with Newcomb and Hirsch, writing on the Network Era of television in the mid-1980s and Hendershot writing about the Post-Network Era of the 2010s. Hendershot’s revision of Newcomb and Hirsch’s original cultural forum theory was necessitated by the industrial conditions of the Post-Network Era, which fragmented viewing audiences across multiple platforms and channels so that the mass audience and its sense of collectivity inherent in the original theory of the cultural forum are no longer applicable. Thus, it is a…show more content…
Newcomb and Hirsch argue that the important function of television, is not the ideological conclusions that it comes to, but rather, in its status as a cultural forum, through which important cultural issues or topics are raised and commented on, to later be consumed and interpreted by viewers acting as cultural bricoleurs, who can find an infinite number of meanings within the televisual text based on their previous knowledge, experiences, and ideologies. While there are theoretically infinite interpretations, they also state the communication depends of a degree of shared meanings, especially in the cast of advertisement funded television. This leads them to the formation of the forum concept, which is the idea that television, as a whole system, presents a mass audience with the range of ideas and ideologies inherent in American culture and that to understand television’s role in American culture, one must examine a variety of foci, including episodes, seasons, series, genres, and special interest groups, who passionately respond to texts based on their…show more content…
She suggests that the series relies on liminality through its ideologically diverse characters and plots and the roles of viewers as cultural “bricoleurs” and their various readings to appeal to various ideologically “niche” audience segments, in an attempt to access as a mass audience, like that which was in place in the Network Era in which Newcomb and Hirsch first theorized the cultural forum, mass audience, which is at the heart of television’s function as a cultural forum. Both pieces also cite the case of Charlie’s Angels, in explaining that different people may like, or dislike the same thing, but for different reasons, so for Parks and Recreation, conservative and liberals may both like the show, but for opposing reasons, such as their political ideologies being ‘positively’ represented. This is an important aspect of the cultural forum because it illustrates television’s role in raising questions, answerable by anyone according to their previously held beliefs, and not a circumscribed
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