Select one chunk of videotext. This may be from broadcast television, satellite or film content. Although length is not prescribed, the chunk should have some coherence, defined by a sequence of shots forming an identifiable scene. The extract should not normally exceed 3 minutes.
1. Provide an analysis of the ‘textual features’ of the extract, showing how the juxtaposition of symbol systems (Kozma, 1991) contributes to the whole. (1000-1200 words)
2. Identify how this analysis would inform the use of the extract with a given group of second language learners. (800-1000 words)
Note: You should submit a copy of your chosen extract (or make URL clear if online) with your assignment.
Analysing video as text (DS)
– “a media literacy perspective on broadcast text”
This perspective explores the nature of text which we describe as ‘video’ simply to continue to employ a well-used term. To be more precise, we shall be looking at texts which are characterised by channels of communication that involve sound, picture, and sometimes the written word. These may be broadcast via the television or cinema screen; they may be delivered via digital technologies such as DVD, or online through technologies such as YouTube or digital playback facilities. We shall continue, however, to refer to these as videotexts.
The specific texts that interest us are those often termed ‘authentic’. Again, we have traditionally referred to these as ‘off-air’, which relates to the fact that they are originally broadcast in some way for some L1-speaking audience. They include different types of television programme, broadcast advertising and films.
During our sessions, we will analyse a number of extracts from different broadcast exemplars. Our objective is to be able to develop an approach to identifying the salient features of these texts, and to explore how these communicate meaning both individually and in combination. We also consider how such analysis reveals genre-specific features, which may also recur across different cultural instances. This awareness will also lead us to reflect on how we might create learning materials that help learners move towards a more authentic engagement with such texts.
To allow you to begin to consider how we can ‘read’ videotexts, I’d like you to look at the following two pieces before the first session for this perspective:
Kozma, R.B. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61, 179–211. http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/61/2/179
Turner, G. (1988). Film languages. In Turner, G., Film as Social Practice, London, Routledge reproduced in D. Graddol and O. Boyd-Barrett (eds.), Media texts: Authors and readers (pp. 119–135). Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.
The work of Kozma is often referred to by subsequent researchers into the decoding of media texts. In this paper, he introduces ideas about how different symbol systems interact (largely focussing on the role of the visual) in different texts. He starts with print media, then video and also moves on to computer based delivery. Whilst we are not concerned with the technologies themselves (and Kozma minimises their importance anyway), this paper traces the argument through to hypermedia. Turner’s chapter then exemplifies through a more specific focus on the communicational devices employed in film. This is available as a digitised chapter – see the online content for this perspective for the direct link.
Use this preliminary reading to activate your own schema; note the features that the authors describe as ‘carrying meaning’; reflect on how these can both complement and compete in terms of cognitive processing. Try to conjure up examples in your own ‘mind’s eye’. These may be of programme types in your current cultural context; you might also think of films that contain short extracts that exemplify the features described by Turner. If you have begun to identify particular texts, bring these along to the discussions. (Note URLs for online content that we might view together).
Graddol, D and Boyd-Barrett, O. (eds.) (1994). Media texts: Authors and readers. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.
Graddol, D. (1994). What is a text? In D. Graddol and O. Boyd-Barrett (eds.), Media texts: Authors and readers (pp. 40–50). Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.
Gruba, P. (2007). Decoding visual elements in digitised foreign newscasts, Proceedings Ascilite Singapore 2007 http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/gruba.pdf
Gruba, P. (2004). Understanding digitized second language videotext, Computer Assisted Language Learning, 17, (1), 51-82.
Gruba focuses on the news text in his study. This genre-related aspect can be a powerful tool to understanding how different videotexts work and eventually to how we might exploit these in our teaching. There may be particular instances of how tradecraft is handled in different examples. The visual and verbal interplay is a key focus in the news, for example, and Gruba discusses some of this.
Meinhof (1994), which is a further chapter in Graddol and Boyd-Barrett (1994), provides more useful discussion on the juxtaposition of visual and verbal in news texts, describing the relationship as one of
• dichotomy (p.216).
Overlap describes footage and text which ‘share the same action component’, the equivalent to literal meaning so the text explains or identifies the visual (a graphic, flag, a specific group or people or animals).
Displacement refers to footage and text that relate to the same event but present different components. Meinhof gives the example of a report of a disaster such as an earthquake where the announcement of the event is followed by pictures which illustrate its effect.
Dichotomy describes visual and verbal juxtaposition which has no obvious relationship save the visual providing some tentative backdrop. Meinhof’s example, though rather dated, is a description of withdawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Kabul under threat of collapse, acute food shortages but the viewer sees an unrelated street scene in the city.