Tagged: Ph.D.

Ph.D. Dance 2015 by Lucie Barbapostolosová, the full description

Communication in Reality TV

Are you one of those people who watch reality television? Well, I belong to those who analyse the most controversial type of communication in reality TV: communication in container reality TV shows. I call it isolated.

I have applied pragma-, psycho- and sociolinguistic methods on hundreds of concrete communication situations, of both verbal and nonverbal nature, and described typical patterns of communication in the stressful (media) environment.

For the Ph.D. Dance video I have chosen these points from the thesis:

Opening and closing the door in scene 1 symbolizes the so-called gate-keeping (control over the media content, control over the participants. There are criteria that you have to fulfil to get through the gate). We have chosen the theatre hall for our performance, because we wanted to emphasize the isolated world of the reality tv show. Especially at the beginning of the video we decided to use the dynamic camera technique (moving camera) to emphasize also the dynamism of such a tv product (including qualities like popularity of a contestant, which changes literally each hour).

How does it all work? Firstly, a group of contestants has to be formed artificially. Criteria of such a formation include: “conflict potential”, sensitivity, interesting life experience, physical attractiveness. The group shares a limited space, knowing that they are being watched – and making use of it.

The levels of communication I observed are (pseudo)intrapersonal (the most nonsensical, such as talking to oneself out loud), interpersonal (talking in two), group (social talk, discussion, decision making in a group, im/politeness), intergroup level (groups within a group – solving a conflict, arguing – members of the smaller groups support their threatened colleagues), institutional (occasional post, police, doctor from the outside world), and all these levels are provided via the mass-media channel/level. This level of course includes the audience. Members of the audience watch the show, they partly make decisions about the destiny of contestants (voting), they also create social network platforms, confront each other and create the so-called parasocial relationships towards the contestants and moderators of the show. All this and much more I was observing in my Ph.D. thesis.

At the end of scene one we are showing the typical dynamics of the group, such as creating integration (e. g. as a result of expressing sympathy), or alienation (e. g. after sarcasm, vulgarity, or hostility towards someone).

Scene two shows contestants intuitively using some typical persuasive models of communication, e. g. assertiveness. There was for example a very nice example of two contestants talking about cheating in relationships and A wanted to convince B that people cheat on each other. She used the assertiveness technique of the broken record – she repeated her opinion again and again till the point when B agreed.

In scene three we show, how the reality tv crew manipulates the contestants´ mood and behaviour, often experimenting with people similarly to psychological laboratories. Since I personally wanted to take part in a big-brother-like reality tv show, I know what methods and psychological questionnaire they used to get as much information about the contestants as possible, including your fears, personal history, favourite music and food and so on. Later on they are using these mechanisms to change your mood and behaviour.

Scene five demonstrates, that from time to time feelings of deep crisis occur and then the contestants urgently want to leave e. g. the house, the island; the audience hear more often the dichotomy we (contestants) as opposed to you (staff, audience) – in case of “direct” confrontation through talking in the cameras – or we as opposed to them – when talking about the audience or staff in the isolated group. Still, in the end, there are just people standing in a row and waiting for the rise or fall. One of them ends up strongest in the run. It is often the one that exposed him/herself much during the show, allowing the audience a parasocial (indirect relationship) experience, and who therefore deserved the golden crown. The exposition is either voluntary or mandatory – the directors of the show could e. g. tell or write the contestants to tell each other the secrets or sins. They would do it then, some of them with a healthy lack of passion for such a self-endangering task.

In the last scene we showed the process of getting the golden crown, with other members of the group present not really physically anymore in the house (that is why the camera is focused primarily on the winner). The winner is sitting in a space that in the Czech environment they also named a confession room (speaking there was called a confession), by which they totally reversed the real meaning of the word. Confession in this sense is public (nonsensical) and used whenever needed in the process.

The problem with reality tv shows of this kind is not the fact that they exist and we watch them. The problem is that some groups of people (often the so-called young adults) start considering the communicative behaviour of contestants as a standard of communication in real environment, something usual. Please, let´s think.

This communication is a product of stressful and untypical circumstances, manipulative influence, and a group that most probably wouldn’t be formed in a real-life situation in the way the staff formed it.