The definition of referential reading
The definition of referential reading is opposite to that of the concept of critical reading. There are two types of framing, the referential frames and the critical frames. According to Jakobson’s understanding, the referential frames connect the text (TV programs, fictions, music, etc) and the readers’ real life. Readers viewed the characters in the text as real persons similar to their actual life. The critical reading discusses the text as a social construction with aesthetic rules.
The characteristics of referential reading and critical reading
The patterns of reference reading held by readers of different cultures can be distinguished by four variables: framings, keying, referents, and value-orientations. For instance, Russians prefer to use “we”, their interpretations are value-free, and they are apt to view the characters real rather than just plays. Critical reading can be divided in to three kinds: semantic criticism (genre, dramatic function, business, construction.), syntactic criticism (themes, messages, mimetic), and pragmatic criticism.
Referential reading and critical reading can’t be well distinguished by the degree of emotional involving, although referential reading seems much more emotionally involving, and on the contrary, critical reading seems more cognitive. Critical doesn’t imply distance, so it’s necessary to combine two kinds of readings with hot/cool dimension. Then we can get four forms of opposition: moral, ideological, ludic, and aesthetic.
Forms of opposition
HOT moral ideological
COOL ludic aesthetic
The significance of referential reading and critical reading
The global export of meaning is not simply cultural imperialism. There are wide gaps between coding by the media and the decoding by the readers. Although the production process is apt to be controlled by the interest groups and capitalism, the decoding process is not. The readers interact with the content to deprive different meanings of the text produced by the media. So two types of reading highlight the mechanism through which the readers interact with the program, especially the role of the readers, they are not viewed as weak, tiny, isolated object of the strong media effects.
According to the concept of referential reading and critical reading, there are negotiations between the readers and the text exported by the dominated countries in the world system. There are different patterns of negotiations depending on the property of culture, and ideology is produced through the process of negotiation between the various media content and the readers. Different readers carrying different cultural identity get different meanings from the same media content. Dallas’ success is owing to its openness for negotiations, people from different counties feel free to participate in the active interpretation of the same media content, and they reinforce their own cognition of the world and their lives. Similar to the spiral of silence theory, the meaning sent by the mass media is not so important, and what really matters is the perceived meanings produced by the decoding of the readers. This is related to the gratifications want by the readers to serve their needs of social learning, reinforcing identity, lubricating interaction, providing escapes. So it’s important of find out the patterns of what is learned, which aspect of identity is reinforced, what is talked about, and where one go for escape. The determinants behind these patterns are necessary to explain the choice between referential reading and critical reading.
“But label something imperialistic is not the same as proving it is.” (Liebes and Katz 1993)
Liebes, T., and E. Katz. 1993. The export of meaning: Cross-cultural readings of Dallas: Polity.