In this fifth chapter, we consider the interpretive employment of media equipment—the screen, with its customarily unreflected upon tacit types of understanding-in-use. Reference to the study of television as ‘non-media-centric’ in recent literature signals authorial primary emphasis on the embodied practice of its deployment (how it is viewed) in understanding, constructing identities for audience as well as content. Following the chapters on marketing and psychological perceptions of consumer hermeneutic disclosure, discussion here first reviews some earlier studies of televisual consuming as audience practices producing identities. Engaged in ‘decentring and contextualising media and communication research’ (Hepp, 2010: 42), this chapter on media use is avowedly ‘non-media-centric’ (Morley, 2009) for it emphasises the generic behavioural practices of engaging with media prior to considering their tacitly deploying a horizon of understanding—or their representing an external world, albeit across differing narrational modes of media access.
Hermeneutically, we have seen that a practice of consuming is (i) embodied knowledge-in-use, exhibiting cultural competence and (ii) equipped by ‘tools’ (in a very inclusive sense). A practice thereby (tacitly) prefigures or anticipates narrative, behaviourally configuring its telling (e.g. apple buying), a process open to being refigured or applied by participants in construction of self-identity. Guys ‘just grab and go’: but ‘we, we, we (women) pick the apple that looks nicer with no flaws’. In this compressed narrative, a ‘formative horizon of (her) identity’ (Taylor, 2004: 55) emerges.
Consuming’s fore-understood behavioural producing of generic narrative (iii) emplaces or puts in place our little reflected on perspectives, tacitly establishing (iv) our aligning or alienation. Such embedded horizons of concerned understanding are perhaps (v) considered subsequently (as in focus groups), viewed comparatively for a moment: ‘Normally, (guys) would say, “It’s just the same. Just grab and go”’. Practices imbricate affective perceptions, sometimes functioning later as a foregrounded 115focus for research. Establishing the embodied horizon of participant understanding—with its configurative narrative—is contextualising or grounding the analysis of a hermeneutic practice in behaviour and broader outlook. Instantiated by a participant’s culturally competent activity, generic practices equally articulate understanding of an institution’s (e.g. supermarket’s) rules and values.
In short, from a hermeneutic practices perspective, understanding is a priori (necessarily):
(i) anticipatory (Heidegger)—informed by generic fore-conception and thereby temporal;
(ii) applicative (Gadamer)—embodied narratival knowing how preceding knowing that;
(iii) aligning or alienating (Ricoeur)—with/from wider affective horizons of understanding.
Incorporated in generic, albeit ubiquitous practices, understanding is continually constituted through people presuming, projecting and producing narrative meaning across a ‘terrain of habitual use’, ‘trajectories’ (Couldry, 2009b: 439, 442) deploying enabling artefacts from shopping to screen. Meaning evolves from our informed anticipation reconciled with actuality, or the ‘situated interplay of experience, practice and structure’ (Lewis, 1992: 283) across our embodied making narrative. In media use, programme preferred narrative perspectives on the world may (like ‘frames’) function as ‘structural manifestations which order the interpretation of reality’ (Carter, 2013: 5) reviewed or re-organised and perhaps resisted by audiences configuring meaning from horizons of understanding. Seen from a philosophical stance of Franco-German hermeneutics, the non-media-centric analyses (Moores, Morley), which we consider in this chapter foreground behavioural generic understanding-in-use (e.g. domestic) of media before reflective concern with users’ embodied affective ‘horizons of understanding’ (Gadamer) their screen narrative representing of material world. The ‘mediated and discursive “self” is yoked to the body’ in ‘acculturated physicality’ (Durham, 2016: 117, 118).