The evolution of research techniques in social science is a topic of great interest to me. Reading about past assumptions held when evaluating the actual effect on audiences of television programs is almost laughable today. How could researchers actually believe that counting acts of violence or analyzing the power structure that controls the media is equivalent to evaluating the message that is getting through to the audience? It seems very common sensical that different members of an audience would receive varying meanings from watching a television show, seeing as how our perspectives on life are informed by a host of unique, individual, and personal experiences.
My first impression after understanding the intentions of this article was, "Seriously?! You're going to evaluate how different audiences in various countries view an absolutely frivolous show like 'Dallas'?" However, I realize now that that is part of the point. I think of Dallas (and other comparable soap operas) as having no relation to the reality of my life, but maybe in other places audiences will relate differently and gather a different meaning from this show.
And this is exactly what the researchers found. Since 'Dallas' at its core was a story about a family, it allowed viewers to examine their own interpersonal relations and values in comparison to those on this TV program. For Dutch viewers, the researcher Ang concluded that 'Dallas' transmitted "the sense of tragedy in life," while the German researcher, Herzog, found that Germans viewed the show as an "escapist fantasy" (Katz and Liebes 377). Viewers from other countries garnered different meanings from watching 'Dallas' as well.
I wonder if present-day soap operas can still be seen "as mobilizing ethnic and national identities and as capable of promoting social and economic change" (Katz and Liebes 373). Do you think 'Passions' really has that kind of effect on people? In all seriousness though, it seems that at least American soap operas are falling on hard times. For example, 'Guiding Light,' the country's longest running soap, originally a 1930s radio drama, was cancelled earlier this year due to financial inviability.
With the recognition that audiences are active viewers, research in the area of content analysis and the study of effect has made great strides. To take this research a step further, I think it would be interesting to look at how exporting television program formats affects viewers internationally, for example the pop idol shows. How is the format for this show tweaked when shown in different countries and how do the different country audiences respond to these shows?