Accounting for Active Reception Theory versus a re-engagement with Manipulation. (13).

The work of Stuart Hall advocates a continuum between three possible readings of a text:

1. Domination – the reader takes in the meaning of the sender exactly as it was intended and does not change it in his mind in anyway.

2. Negotiation – the reader takes in the meaning and changes it to match his own internal “radar” map he has generated on account of his experiences and beliefs.

3. Refutation – the reader rejects or drastically alters the meaning of the text to be used against the sender or posited as a contradiction to the sender’s text.

Now you might have noticed that I have reinterpreted Hall’s three modes of reading as a good negotiating reader should and stated them in my own words. And in keeping with Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety they aren’t exactly what Hall meant to say but they don’t stray too far. I’m not arguing with him but at the same time I don’t completely agree with this simplified continuum model.

I would argue that the plethora of possible reading modes along and outside of this continuum are so vast that it would be un-blog like to list them all here. But I do want to make a few things clearer.

What is important to question active reception theory on is the actual amount of active reception presently occurring in our society.

Is popular culture really being taken into the minds of citizens and reinterpreted and reused to their benefit? Who is really winning in the corporation versus consumer trade?

To make it easier lets make a (by no means complete) list.

Large organizations like corporations and governments have on their side:

  • The judicial system
  • Advertising system
  • Oligopolistic media system
  • Ownership of private property
  • Accumulation of capital
  • Dominant (market) ideology

Consumers have:

  • Time to work and money to spend
  • Their own versions of cultural production
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Limited spaces for dissent
  • Coercive and seductive “coerseductive” intra-personal networks
  • Active reception (manipulation, negotiation, or rejection)

What active reception theory doesn’t account for is the power of the cooperation between the systems listed for large organizations to agree on preferred meanings and the homogeneous results we see in consumption pattern’s and uses and interpretations of popular culture.

Neither does it account for the social pre-conditioning that capitalism’s market ideology accomplishes in the infant mind that reduces the ability of future adults to negotiate or reject preferred meanings into different spaces of thought.

Even a recognition of the impressive power of coer-seductive intra-personal networks over corporate speech does not account for the possibility that the large majority of Western society’s intra-personal networks already believe in and actively support the dominant market ideology.

There is evidence for both sides, but the weight of evidence seems to tip the scales in Strangelove’s favour. A re-engagement with the theory of mass manipulation is depressing and unpopular. But if we are going to be honest with ourselves, it is at the very least necessary.

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Notion of Authenticity: Internet Sex Video, Cyber blackmail, and Privacy. Part 2. (12) (video 5)

~ Part 1Part 2 ~

What we have here is a multi-textual event which can be experienced and read by the Youtube viewer in several different ways.

Especially relevant to this event is Michel Foucault’s idea that “It is no longer a question simply of saying what was done—the sexual act—and how it was done; but of reconstructing, in and around the act, the thoughts that recapitulated it, the obsessions that accompanied it, the images, desires, modulations, and quality of the pleasure that animated it” (p. 63).

Some aspects of this multi-textual event:

  • The majority of videos which have emerged from users condemn Cap’n for his publication of the sex video against a woman’s will.
  • Many users have commented on Fakesagan’s and Oshunavani’s channels expressing their sorrow for Oshunavani’s embarrassment and public shaming.
  • Other users have requested the web address of the pornographic images of Oshunavani, openly signaling a lack of compassion for the victim.
  • Still other users have made the point that Oshunavani was foolish to record a digital sex video.
  • Yet still others have made the point that the whole event has been over-dramatized and claim that they see nothing interesting about being involved in such a drama.
  • A user can experience the drama played out on Youtube by seeing the videos and images associated with the dramatic event. It is more authentic and dare I say more entertaining than any reality TV show could ever dream of being.
  • At the same time, the “realness” of it means there are real victims and real psychological and physical consequences to actions in the virtual community.
  • Fakesagan, usually a promoter of rational thinking and free speech, has found himself at odds with an abusive act of free speech, and has promised legal consequences and has both requested and hinted at physical retribution.
  • At the same time, TheAmazingAtheist has claimed that Fakesagan cannot truly express himself on Youtube without crossing some legal boundaries by threatening Kevin’s life. He also points out that while it is possible to be entertained by the drama, that is is not just a “Youtube drama” but a real event played out in video.
  • Most importantly, a human being has been the victim of public humiliation, and, according to her boyfriend, is in a depressed state and has not left her bed since the release of the images.

What is interesting about this event is the dynamics of confession and the pre-formed discourse which states that private sexual acts are seen as shameful when they are made public. Even though most of those who see the video do not know Oshunavani and those who she does know will most likely express compassion towards her, the trauma was immediate and a victimized position was assumed.

What is intensely ironic about this event is that the primary popularization of the pornographic images came through one of the victim’s (Fakesagan’s) account of the drama and the audience’s reaction. As Capnoawesome’s Youtube profile has been closed, there is little other publicity associated with the porn images. Fakesagan’s decision to break his Youtube blackout was perhaps shortsighted. Although, Cap’n might not have closed his account if Fakesagan had not made threatening video replies.

If Fakesagan and the audience which has largely condemned Capnoawesome deleted their videos, perhaps Oshunavani would be spared some publicity.

My apologies go out to Oshunavani for any additional humiliation the publication of this blog may cause. I do not mean to popularize the drama associated with this event, merely to analyze its functioning in relation to the powerful discursive forces all of us face during our every day lives.



Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Retrieved from: