As I’ve reflected on telenovelas since the first day of class, I’ve been curious to find out in what ways mass media influences the larger social constructs of a country. As a graduate student of higher education, I’m interested in different methodological approaches to answering complex social phenomena. One compelling approach to the study of the relationship between telenovelas and society could be the use of qualitative research methods. This research method is unique in that it studies the larger perceptions, ideas, and opinions of your research in question and captures the nuanced ideas that quantitative research cannot measure.
One interesting qualitative study that I found speaks to this very question. It is entitled “An ethnographic approach to the reception of telenovelas: some reflections on research methods” and asks the fundamental research question: “How do viewers engage with telenovelas’ representation of gender, race, and class issues” (3). The author’s use of ethnographic fieldwork—a form of social research used by sociologists, anthropologists and other scholars—points to the use of telenovelas as a medium to address contemporary social phenomena (2). His findings largely point to the telenovela industry as “a process of appropriation, circulation, and reiteration of meaning that is anchored and framed by sociocultural contexts and subjective positions” (Machado-Borges, 3). This point reminds me of a key idea in one of the readings we read last week that highlighted the growing commodification of telenovelas as a cultural symbol to be packaged and profited on. Not only have the symbols been reiterated and commodified, but their influence on the larger social constructs of a country can be seen in real-life. These examples are both direct (large national events have been postponed due to the airing of a telenovela) and indirect (a telenovela brings up a contentious social issue). In this vein, ethnography can yield a rich field of data because it can create a context within which production, consumption, and reception can be viewed from the people who actually produce, consume, and receive these telenovelas.
With this in mind, I revert to my original question: in what ways are telenovelas an informal social platform? Without having done much research on this topic, I can already sense that telenovelas have a large influence on both the society that produces them, as well as the perceptions that the viewers form after consuming them. I look forward to studying the consumption, production, and reception process of telenovelas and relating the use of mass media to informal educational platforms. As we continue throughout the semester, I will keep these ideas in mind, always questioning the boundaries between the viewer and reality.
Machado-Borges, T. (2002). An ethnographic approach to the reception of telenovelas: some reflections on research methods. Revista da Associação Nacional dos Programas de Pós’Graduação em Comunicação. Retrieved from http://www.compos.org.br/seer/index.php/e-compos/article/viewFile/190/191