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2.5 Text, context and perspective - Advanced

When we read texts we are essentially reading, listening to or viewing some aspect of the world that someone else wants to present. Often composers want to bring a change to the world by having others engage with their perspectives.

Changing texts by changing perspective

Open the ROAD TRAFFIC CRASHES IN NEW SOUTH WALES: Statistical Statement for the year ended 31 December 2013, scroll down to page 7, and read the executive summary, Main Points for 2013.

Consider these questions based on this page of the report and jot down some answers:

  • Who is the audience? Who is addressing the audience?
  • What is the page about?
  • What is the reason for this page in the report?
  • Who else (in other areas of society) might be contributing to discussions about the subject matter in the report? Consider voices on talk-back radio, social media and in personal accounts.

Humanising the impersonal

The language of the report projects a world composed of facts rather than behaviours and actions. The people represented in the texts are characterised passively rather than as active agents.

  • What happens when you change the report by rewriting statements? Rewrite a statement from the report so that:
    • the people in the report are portrayed as active agents
    • the people in the report are affected by the information in the report or affect others
    • the depersonalised statistics are personalised
    • it is communicated as a spoken text.
  • Share your responses with another student and explore:
    • how your interventions have altered the perspectives in the original statements
    • what you have learned about the statements in the original report.

Text as context

Our world is saturated in texts. When we encounter new texts we form perspectives based on our previous experience of other texts. The Centre for Road Safety advertising campaigns operate in a society that has texts with competing, at times contradictory, intentions and perspectives.

Take for example the general tenor of car advertising. Car advertisers, like all advertisers, are very interested in consumers’ needs and desires. They operate on the principle that needs are finite, desires are infinite.

Once needs are satisfied, desires become extremely compelling and consumers can become obsessed with what they don’t have but do want, or… what advertising tells us they should want [Arthur Asa Berger Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture,  Investigating the lack of social context in car television advertising, Sarah Redshaw,  2012].  Specific views of the world or perspectives represented, either explicitly or implicitly, in texts are laden with values and beliefs which shape how responders (consumers) interact with these values and beliefs.

Whilst advertisements may be described as imaginative, at times informative texts, they are always persuasive texts. They often create representations of desires that may seem realistic but are in fact a distortion. Take, for example, the tendency of car advertisements to portray drivers alone in cars not interacting with other people or society as a whole.

Conduct a survey of car advertisements targeted at young drivers and consider whether the features on Page 1 of the student worksheet 2.5.1 Text as context (Advanced) are typical and record your answers on the worksheet. [Activity based on Investigating the lack of social context in car television advertising Sarah Redshaw, 2012]

Working with a partner, answer to what extent you think the advertisements combine factual and fictional elements.  Organise your ideas using the table on Page 2 of the student worksheet 2.5.1 Text as context (Advanced) and answer the questions on Page 3 below.

Choose one or two of the Centre for Road Safety advertising campaigns and write a speech to be delivered to a group of citizens gathered to express their concerns about the increased number of car accidents in their community. Your purpose is to explain how the campaigns counter the perceptions encouraged by vehicle advertisements about driving and present a more realistic context for driving.

Bringing a new perspective to texts

Faction is a hybrid textual form that happens when a factual text is combined with a fictional text. The Centre for Road Safety advertisements are examples of faction because they are underpinned by research and statistics. This research data is recontextualised for particular audience demographics.

In this activity you are going to work in pairs to create faction. You will do this by combining aspects of the Road Traffic Crashes in NSW 2013 report, a factual text, and an advertisement, a fictional text.  In order to do this, you need to:

  • consider the perspective you wish to convey in the new text and how that perspective draws on the context for the new text
  • decide on whether you want the meanings within the texts to:
  • complement and expand on one another
  • collide with another 
  • offer an entirely alternative meaning.
  1. Begin by reviewing the report details and the advertisements you have previewed. From these, make a list of texts that you might like to combine and their points of similarity or difference. Record your ideas in the Text combinations table on page 4 of the student worksheet 2.5.1 Text as context (Advanced).
  2. Using the information in the table, work with your partner to brainstorm as many ideas as possible for why and how you might combine the chosen texts to create a different perspective [Pope, Rob. Textual Intervention: Critical and Creative Strategies for Literary Studies. London: Routledge, 1995. Print p. 544]. You could experiment by:
    • combining texts at critical points such as turning points
    • juxtaposing particular elements of each text
    • recasting the advertisement as a factual text in the style of the report
    • creating a collage or montage of texts, photographs and moving images
    • creating a performance for two or three voices – who would you script? Who would you introduce? What gender? Will you use one text as a base text?
    • rewriting some of the evidence in the report by giving agency to the marginalised.
  3. Draft your ideas, then determine and document what exactly you are trying to achieve in this combination. Which text are you interrogating and why? You may find it helpful to clarify your ideas in a table such as the one below.

     

     

    Selections to combine

    New perspective

    Fictional text

     

     

    Factual text

  4. Re-draft your new text to make sure that each language decision is focused on what you are aiming to achieve.
  5. Keep comments on the reasons for combinations and alterations by:
    • including the ideas and experiments you may have rejected
    • explaining the language choices you have taken to address a particular context, and
    • explaining how the texts are:
    • Complementing
    • Expanding
    • Contradicting or
    • Reinforcing one another.
  6. Present your faction to the class with an accompanying exploration about how the perspectives in the texts have been altered for a particular context.

    Last update: 24th January 2019