University of Bari, Italy
MEDIATED IDENTITY IN THE PARASOCIAL INTERACTION OF TV
Mediated communication merges direct and indirect knowledges and produces new types of experience which alter social relations and, through them, the structure of identity. In mediated relations self is compared to a notional other whose continuous changes form identity as multiple and alterable. TV communication processes develop a type of 'parasocial interaction' in which the roles of production and reception are separated and lead to the exchange of symbolic forms in disparate contexts and times. In this 'quasi-interaction' presence is not necessary; the only required condition is the mediation/representation of subjectivity through TV simulacra. The TV genre of the talk show offers a space of parasocial interaction where ordinary people represented on the screen are a simulacrum of the audience on the other side of the screen. By proposing involving images of subjectivity the talk show drives viewers to integrate screen suggestions of 'possible selves' with desired and feared selves and induces them to plan identity continuously. Assuming a socioconstructionist perspective and the point of view of audience studies, this research explores the construction of identity in audience discussion programs through a qualitative methodology. It seeks to point out ways of by which viewers construct identities as a comparison between real or individual selves and screen others. It employs focus group discussion and content analysis as methodological tools. The working hypothesis of this study is that audience participation in talk shows produces identity through involvement. Data collected through focus group discussions show that involvement is the most recurring category in content analysis where this conception is both directly stated by discussants and indirectly asserted by a strongly negative categorization of this TV genre. Talk shows produce a TV identity generating in viewers a strong categorization which marks their involvement as a sign of indirect participation - the parasocial interaction - and capable of explaining the construction of identity as a dialogical process.