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Title: Cueing the viewer : how reflective elements in documentary film engage audiences in issues of representation
Author: Govaert, Charlotte
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 003X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2011
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Documentary theorists such as Brian Winston and Bill Nichols have theorised the merits of reflexivity to issues of representation in documentary film. They advanced the reflexive mode as a conscious effort to heighten the viewer’s awareness of the problematic relationship between the documentary image and that which it represents. Yet, how viewers read reflexive elements, and whether they raise the viewer’s consciousness with respect to the problem of authenticity in documentary film, has remained under-researched. In general terms, reflexivity is the procedure by which a particular piece of communication turns back upon itself and addresses its inner workings. If communication is constituted by six elements, as Roman Jakobson theorized, then reflexive texts may take as their subject the sender of the message, the production process, its form or inherent structure, the context to which it refers and/or the receiver of the message. Building on this theorization of reflexive strategies in light of Jakobson’s paradigm, a film was produced for this reception study, entitled Silver City (2008), which was edited in four versions that employed various forms and levels of reflexivity. Each film was subsequently screened and discussed in three focus groups. In total, 76 informants participated in this qualitative study. The findings demonstrate that reflexive elements in documentary film do not automatically raise consciousness in viewers of the problematic relationship between the historical world and its representation in documentary film. A wide variety in response was found, ranging from definite susceptibility to categorical rejection of the reflexive elements. The evidence underlines that reception is a complex and hyper-individual process that is determined by a myriad of variables, which include structural competence, personality, (media) experience and the viewing situation. These factors subsequently interact with specifics of the particular strategy that is employed as well as its intensity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Documentary films ; Motion pictures