Managing ourselves: young people, soap opera and technologies of self-government

Stewart, Michael Patrick James (1998). Managing ourselves: young people, soap opera and technologies of self-government. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study examines two television soap operas and their consumption by a select group of teenagers. The soap operas in question, Neighbours and Home and Away, are produced in Australia and watched by large audiences in the UK. The study's broadest aim is to discover the nature of the relationship between the programmes and their teenage viewers. In order to meet this aim, the study combines textual analysis and audience research.

Following a review of the textual analysis of soap opera, Neighbours and Home and Away are examined in detail as texts. The audience study is then introduced and located. The empirical study involved tape-recording interviews with groups of 13-16 year olds in one Edinburgh High School, and with individual teenagers in their own homes. In total, 50 teenagers were interviewed. The recurring findings of the audience study are analysed in detail.

The final two chapters of the thesis contextualize the findings and conclusions of the textual and audience studies. A selective genealogy is provided which theoretically locates Neighbours and Home and Away and their consumption as cultural practices in self-government. It is argued that the two programmes should be understood as integral parts of a broad but specific arena for learning.

It is argued that interviewees use Neighbours and Home and Away as cultural resources. They learn how to conduct themselves in intimate and social relationships, and, in particular, learn how to practise and reconstruct their gendered selves.

It is argued that the model of analysis elaborated is valuable because: it best explains the specific nature of Neighbours and Home and Away and their consumption; it provides a way of moving beyond something of an orthodoxy in soap opera analysis; and it avoids the binary logic of some recent arguments about popular culture and social change.

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