chapter
210 Pages

CAVEAT LECTOR

Once these problems have been set out, the way to moving on has already shown itself. While it is not possible to imagine ‘television’ as a singular object of study, and not wise to reduce it to a single characteristic, it is possible to take a simple analytical approach by changing the question to one that is fundamentally historical. Not: W But: W W This is the ‘research question’ of this

But it isn’t Hoggart’s literary sensibility as such, nor his view of working-class culture as such, nor his practical, governmental and institutional work as such, that make him an important figure. Beyond his opinions, his allegiances and even his work, and beyond also those of his critics, is something that I have been trying to identify in this book as more important; namely teaching. Hoggart’s teaching is not designed to inculcate this opinion or that policy, but to teach how to see, how ‘I’ see, how others see. He is reaching for access to the inner life of populations. To grasp a true sense of that yields answers to ‘big’ questions, including: ‘Will they revolt?’; ‘Will they be able to think as we do?’; ‘What will they buy?’. These questions were of equal moment to those who wanted ‘them’ to revolt/think/buy, and those who feared revolutionary or indeed any change. But instead of addressing the fears, hopes and vested interests of onlookers, Hoggart’s project was to teach his readers how to see ‘them’ (contemporary populations) as ‘we’ (fellow-readers); how to make seeing into knowledge; how to ‘know’ how others see. He made the relation between analyst and analysed convivial not conflictual. He addressed the common reader as a ‘we’ identity. For him the analysis of ‘media and society’ is not abstract sociological knowledge got by some formal(ist) method; it is an analysis of the relations between writer, reader and the culture both inhabit – striving to make that world inhabitable for both. Where in an earlier chapter I posited a three-way relation between television, television studies and readerships, here I am doing no more than applying Hoggart’s model of a homologous relation between culture, writer and reader:

C R O S S - D E M O G R A P H I C C O M M U N I C A T I O N

CULTURE WRITER

(READERSHIP)

READER

(TELEVISION) (TELEVISION STUDIES)

as opposed to media, film cultural, communication (etc.) studies; i.e. as a coherent field in its own right. It’s my hunch that as the ‘mass’ audience subsides, it will be the influence of the (popular, unknowable) audience on television, not the influence of television on the (individual, vulnerable) audience, that will require explanation. Once popularity has gone, there will be style and design, history and archive, variety and comparison, cult and conversation; and of course the issues of production, text and audience will remain, as will ‘anthropological’ questions about the creation of meaning in everyday life. Certainly, there is plenty to be done now that TV itself is becoming ‘historical’, and plenty of international talent already doing it.