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2.1 Exploring context - Advanced

Context influences how people respond to texts at the time of their production and the time of their reception. Context literally means ‘what comes with the text’ – and texts carry a lot of baggage from:

  • Composers - Historical events, a composer’s personal life, and her/his particular ways of seeing the world, all influence the creation of a text.
  • Responders - Similarly the ways you look at the world in the moment you encounter a text shapes how you respond.
  • Texts - influence and are influenced by other texts.

If you agree with the directions of the arrows in this diagram, please explain why. If you have redrawn the arrows, give the reasons for your changes.
This diagram puts the composer, responder and text in the world at the same time. What aspects of context become more difficult to recognise when composer and responder live in different historical times?

Changing times, changing text

Times change, people change with them and individuals bring different experiences and understanding to a text that may change the meaning and its effect. Knowing the cultural context of the composer and of the audience for which a text is intended helps us understand the meaning of a text and why it was composed in that way.

Aspects of context

This framework for considering context focuses on historical, social and cultural contexts, contexts of production (and reproduction), and contexts of reception.

Complete the student worksheet 2.1.1 Exploring context (All students) to suggest specific examples of each type of context, and note how this might affect meaning.

Changing contexts

Look at the YouTube clip of 30 years of RBT: survey of advertising over that period

Now listen to the ABC Radio report which refers to these advertisements on the anniversary of the beginning of Random Breath Testing.

As you listen to the radio report, fill out the tables in student worksheet 2.1.2 Thirty years of RBT (All students)

Bringing it all together

30 years of RBT: Radio report

The purpose of the advertisements has remained the same over the last 30 years - to stop people from driving after they have consumed more that the legal alcohol limit - but the approach has had to change.

One way of constructing an argument is to move from the specific to the general, the concrete to the abstract. Using the information and details in the radio report and advertisements, write an argument explaining how the context of the times affected the advertisement to deliver the same message. A suggested paragraph structure could follow this order: 

  • a paragraph summing up how RBT advertising has changed over the past thirty years, and
  • a second paragraph inferring from these changes how attitudes towards drink driving have changed in that time, and
  • a third paragraph on how different contexts influence the content of texts.

Last update: 1st April 2019