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2.7 Exploring context - Std, ES and EAL/D

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 table on Page 1 of the student worksheet 2.1.2 Thirty years of RBT (All students)

30 years of RBT: transcript of radio report

The idea to celebrate law enforcement is in itself unusual.

  • Why would the Centre for Road safety have used this event as a celebration?
  • What effect might this create in the public?

ABC Radio had this report on the event. Listen to the podcast and answer the questions that follow. Part of the transcript has been given for you to follow.

As you listen consider: Why is the anniversary of an advertising campaign making the news?

ADVERTISEMENT (singing): Should you be under .05 or under...
WILL OCKENDEN: The 90s:
ADVERTISEMENT: If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot.
WILL OCKENDEN: And even today.
(Sound of car tires skidding)
While the fashion, acting and graphics have changed, the forceful message remains the same:
ADVERTISEMENT: If you're drinking, don't drive. RBT means you need a plan B.

1. The taglines of the three radio ads are in bold above.

  • What emotion is each tagline eliciting?
  • What kind of tone do you hear in the radio voice?

2. Three experts give comments: the police minister; the roads minister and a professor.

  • Why is each person important?
  • What does each one add to the discussion?

3. Different community perceptions

  • What does Michael Gallacher mean when he says RBT was regarded as an ‘attack on working class men’? What does this say about the culture of the time?
  • What is the feeling in the community about drinking according to Duncan Gay? Does he still think it’s the same?
  • Ross Homel says ‘It (RBT and the advertising campaign) moulded public attitudes.’ What does he mean by this? Are there any examples in what the others say that public attitudes were ‘moulded’?   

RBT has saved lives according to this interview. Why would advertising have been needed when the law was so positive and helped people?

Now watch the clip again and complete the second table on the worksheet

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 would include:

  • 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: 24th January 2019