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Title: Audiencing Jamie Oliver : social engagements with food media
Author: Piper, Nicholas Ewan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 6435
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores audience engagement with the popular celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in two stereotypically contrasting UK towns: Rotherham in South Yorkshire and Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It is concerned with the various ways that popular food media are understood and used in different social contexts and for differing social purposes. Methodologically the thesis adopts an approach called ‘audiencing’ (Fiske, 1992) which stresses the importance of tracking the multiple engagements that audiences have with media, beyond their actual viewing practices, as they relate to broader social and cultural processes. Focusing specifically on Jamie’s Ministry of Food, the thesis emphasises that audiencing Jamie Oliver involves a relational process of social recognition, where audience relationships to one another are supported through joint recognition of Jamie Oliver as a common resource. The research employs focus group, interview and participatory video methods to explore a range of audience responses to, and social interactions around, Jamie Oliver. A geographical comparison is made between two towns, highlighting some of the social and geographical structures and processes influencing the way audiences engage with this figure. The thesis identifies some of the key personal and social relationships that are worked up in relation to Jamie Oliver and how these correspond to exemplary audience ‘positions’. Specifically it discusses the geographical dimensions of emotional responses to the representation of people and places in ‘reality TV’. In that regard the thesis focusses on cases of angriness and embarrassment in addition to the experience of class disgust. The development of parasocial relationships is examined and highlighted as a significant emotive effect of primary viewing. Accounts of cautious collaboration with Jamie Oliver are discussed in relation to the difficulties of involving a mass media figure in public sector health promotion around food. The thesis also discusses the occurrence of ambivalence as people grapple with the complex and contradictory aspects of their moral relationship to Jamie Oliver as an entertainer and social campaigner. This thesis also makes a contribution to contemporary understandings of the nature of cultural intermediation by offering grounded accounts of audience interaction with didactic ‘reality TV’ and ‘lifestyle entertainment’. It proposes that cultural intermediation hinges upon the successful negotiation of the normal and the novel as they are variously understood in different social contexts. The thesis employs a video research method to explore the value of co-produced participatory video responses to Jamie Oliver as a way of expressing and performing a range of social positions. The thesis makes a contribution to debates about the nature of audience activity and contributes to literatures in cultural geography by addressing the lack of empirically based audience research in this field. Similarly the thesis contributes to work in cultural studies on celebrity chefs by engaging with actual audiences in order to complement studies carried out using textual analysis. The thesis argues that the social function of Jamie Oliver far exceeds the immediate context of viewing and that gaining a full understanding of the social significance of food media should involve further empirical research with audiences.
Supervisor: Jackson, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available