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Sistema de Información Científica
Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal
Recibido: 01/02/10
Aceptado: 27/04/10
Resumen
En mercadeo, administración y literatura sobre organiza-
ciones, los conceptos de valor del consumidor y creación de
valor son fundamentales, aunque casi nunca se examinan
en el contexto de los bienes de experiencia en pantalla. En
este artículo, nos apartamos de enfoques imperantes sobre
audiencia o estudios de recepción y estudiamos el valor ex-
perimental que produce en el espectador el consumo de un
producto visto en pantalla. Aplicando la metodología Q y
el esquema de Holbrook sobre valor del consumidor (1999),
identifcamos segmentos de audiencia empíricamente, par
-
tiendo de la experiencia subjetiva de los telespectadores de
un producto flmado de manera innovadora:
Ryan
, breve y
laureado documental animado por computador. Este docu-
mental utiliza el estado del arte de la animación creativa para
contar una historia convincente en un estilo que amplía el
género documental. Descubrimos y describimos cuatro seg-
mentos de audiencia que, sin que nos lo propusiéramos, se
parecen mucho a los cuatro modos principales de recepción
de medios, planteados recientemente por Michelle (2007).
Esto crea un vínculo potencialmente útil entre el esquema
sobre el valor experiencial del consumidor y los estudios so-
bre recepción de medios.
Palabras clave:
valor del consumidor,
recepción de
medios, segmentos de audiencia, animación creativa, es-
pectador, mercadeo.
l
ISSN 0122-8285
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Volumen 13 Número 1
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Junio de 2010
13 - 30
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: Audience
Response to
Ryan
, a Computer-animated Psycho-realist
Documentary and its Own Documentation in
Alter Egos
Valor del consumidor y modos de recepción de medios:
respuestas de la audiencia
Ryan
, un pequeño documental
psicorrealista animado por computador, y su propia
documentación en
Alter Egos
Charles H. Davis, Ph.D.
1
Florin Vladica, Ph.D.
2
Abstract
Consumer value and value creation are fundamental con-
cepts in marketing, management and in literature on orga-
nizations, but are almost never considered in the context of
screen-based “experience” products. In this paper, the au-
thors depart from the prevailing approaches to audience or
reception studies by investigating the experience value the
consumption of a screen-based product has for the specta-
tor. Using the Q-methodology and Holbrook’s consumer
value framework (1999), they empirically identify audience
segments based on television viewers’ subjective experi-
ence with an innovative flm product: the award-winning,
computer-animated short documentary
Ryan
. The flm uses
creative state-of-the art animation to tell a compelling story
in ways that stretch the documentary genre. The authors
uncover and describe four audience segments. Unexpect-
edly, these four segments bear a strong resemblance to the
four principal modes of media reception proposed recent-
ly by Michelle (2007), thereby creating a potentially fruit-
ful link between the framework for consumer experience
value and media reception studies.
Key words:
Consumer value, media reception,
audi-
ence segments
,
creative animation,
spectator, marketing.
1
Edward S. Rogers Sr. Research Chair in Media Management and En-
trepreneurship. School of Radio and Television Arts and Ted Rogers
School of Management Rogers Communications Centre. Ryerson
University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. c5davis@ryerson.ca
2
Digital Value Lab. Rogers Communications Centre. Ryerson Univer-
sity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Forin.vladica@ryerson.ca
ISSN 0122-8285
14
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
Introduction
Media organizations, like producers in other ex-
perience industries, face the well-known prob-
lem of high uncertainty of demand for their
products (Caves, 2000). ATraction and retention
of audiences is a central challenge that media
frms must Face (cF. Aris and Bugin, 2005). ±o
strengthen audience engagement and improve
predictability and market control require mak-
ing sense of audience motives and behavior.
However, what feedbacks permit producers
and purveyors of mediated experience goods to
understand the ways these goods create value
for consumers? Media industries, especially
those branches that depend on advertising-sup-
ported business models, have developed highly
rationalized feedback mechanisms to provide
information about market share or customers’
exposure to product. These feedbacks, however,
do not get at the subjective consumption experi-
ence. Professional or amateur critics or consum-
ers themselves usually assess feedback about
the consumption experience; they routinely
share opinions about experiential product qual-
ity through word-of-mouth.
Market share, levels of exposure and vernacu-
lar opinions are, of course, far from negligible
as sources of market intelligence, but they only
take us so Far in our aTempt to understand
sources of value creation in experience goods.
The concepts of customer/consumer value and
value creation are central ones in the market-
ing, management, and organization literatures,
but they are infrequently considered in the con-
text of screen-based experience goods. In this
paper, we depart from prevailing approaches
to audience or reception studies by investigat-
ing the experiential value that consumption of
a screen product yields to the spectator. Using
Q-methodology and Holbrook’s consumer val-
ue framework (1999), we empirically identify
audience segments based on viewers’ subjective
experience oF an innovative-flmed product,
the award-winning short computer-animated
documentary
Ryan.
±his flm uses state-oF-
the art creative animation to tell a compelling
story in ways that stretch the documentary
genre. We uncover and describe four audience
segments. Unexpectedly, these four segments
bear a strong resemblance to the four principal
modes of media reception recently proposed by
Michelle (2007), creating a potentially fruitful
link between the experiential consumer value
framework and media reception studies.
Screen Experiences, Innovation and
Consumer Value in Documentary Film
Documentaries traditionally are considered to
be a Factual, non-fctional genre that seek to re
-
cord, reveal, preserve, persuade, promote, ana-
lyze, question, or express a viewpoint (Renov,
1993), thereby making a pledge to the viewer
“that what we will see and hear is about some-
thing real and true –and, frequently, important
for us to understand” (Aufderheide, 2007). John
Grierson coined the term documentary in 1926
in reFerence to the flm
Moana
, produced by the
American John Flaherty, which Grierson regard-
ed as having a “documentary value” (Kilborn &
Izod, 1997: 12). Documentary subgenres include
advocacy, political propaganda and govern-
ment a²airs, historical, nature, and ethnograph
-
ic (Aufderheide, 2007). Hogarth suggests that
a global approach to documentaries should
involve a “³exible defnition oF documentary
to suit the social, cultural, economic, and tech-
nological circumstance in which it now oper-
ates” (2006, p.14), keeping in mind emerging
demand for documentaries that provide “art-
ful entertainment” (Aufderheide, 2005) and not
just instruction or edifcation. Much scholarship
on documentaries focuses on aesthetic innova-
tion through critical analysis of documentary
content,
characterization
and
interpretation
of stylistic features, parsing of a documentary
flm’s claims to authenticity, or grappling with
the perennial question of what are the limits of
15
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
the genre, considering the “increasingly blurred
boundaries between factual and Fctional genre
categories” (Kilborne, 2004). This is true of the
subgenre of documentary discussed here, ani-
mated documentary, which emphasizes an al-
ternative means of conveying social or political
messages rather than claiming to document
something in the factual, non-Fctional, or literal
sense (Hight, 2008a, 2008b; Martins, 2008a).
Although documentaries are a strength of the
Canadian screen industry, many documentary
producers live a hand-to-mouth existence. In-
novation in documentary business practice may
provide the potential to put documentary pro-
duction companies on a Frmer Fnancial footing.
In a previous paper (Vladica & Davis, 2009), we
described and assessed a model to analyze in-
novation in the Canadian documentary Flm in
-
dustry. The Sawhney-Wolco±-Arroniz “radar”
model of innovation (2006) identiFes twelve di
-
mensions of innovation and value creation. This
model provides a comprehensive way of con-
ceptualizing and observing innovation across all
aspects of business practice in any industry, in-
cluding a creative industry such as documentary
Flm. It has one shortcoming, however: that limits
its applicability in a signiFcant swath of the econ
-
omy: one of the twelve dimensions of innovation
is a black box called “customer experience.”
Reliable theory about the production of expe-
riential value for screen audiences is scarce. A
considerable literature in experiential marketing
and customer value has emerged, but it has not
a²ected mainstream innovation practices in the
screen industries. Screen audience research has
taken a di²erent tack. Since the 1920s, a substan
-
tial audience research and analysis industry has
emerged alongside the media industries. Napoli
(2008) recounts how media organizations moved
from reliance on intuitive understanding of au-
diences to development feedback mechanisms
based on highly rationalized audience measure-
ment practices with the emergence of advertis-
ing-supported broadcasting and the spread of
consumption culture in the United States. Con-
ceptualization of audiences and construction
of coherent images of audiences are becoming
increasingly complex undertakings as media
consumption migrates to broadband. Highly
mediated, interactive environments are leading
to sharp increases in media consumption, high
levels of personalization, proliferation of experi-
ence segments, and the advent of cross-platform
“liquid media” (Russell, 2008). The once relative-
ly distinct roles of consumer, spectator, user, and
player overlap, and media such as social network
sites lend themselves to multidimensional uses
and gratiFcations (Joinson, 2008). Media con
-
sumption over interactive networks is leading
to the sort of large transactional databases and
data-intensive behavioral constructions of audi-
ences and markets that have already become fa-
miliar to Frms in retailing, Fnancial services, and
other sectors (Zwick and Dholakia, 2004), per-
mi±ing precise targeting of advertisements and
increasingly relevant product recommendations.
The motion picture industry stands apart from
other screen industries in its reliance on spectacle
and a one-to-many business model. Interactivity
is not signiFcant, and advertising is not the prin
-
cipal source of revenue. Hollywood’s business
model requires production of blockbusters and
recovery of high up-front product development
costs through theatrical admission fees, brand
extensions,
windowing,
and
merchandising.
Market research on Flm audiences took o² in
The motion picture industry stands
apart from other screen industries in
its reliance on spectacle and a one-to-
many business model. Interactivity is
not signifcant, and advertising is not
the principal source of revenue.
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16
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
Hollywood in the 1940s (Bakker 2003). It has pri
-
marily evolved in three directions: focus groups
and concept testing before release, audience pro-
fling based on box oFce data, and investigation
o± the ±actors that a²ect consumers’ decision to
see particular flms or pre±er
various kinds of
frms (Austin, 1986; Becker et al., 1985; Cuadra
-
do and ³rasquet, 1999; ³ischo², 1998; Moller &
Karppinen, 1983; Palmgreen et al. 1988).
The feld o± scholarly research on screen audi
-
ences, however, has hotly debated the processes
and consequences of audiencehood for decades.
The contested status of the audience involves a
methodological and epistemological controver-
sy over the relative extent to which we can at-
tribute e²ects to media consumption. These are
the degree of activeness or passivity of the audi-
ence, the coherence of categories of audience, the
motivations for categorizing audiences, and the
implications o± a´ributing or ±ailing to a´ribute
functions of consumer, producer, or citizen to
audiences. Recent calls for methodological plu-
ralism in audience research (e.g. Schroder et al.,
2003) may help to widen the space of shared un-
derstanding between marketing and media stud-
ies which, as Puustinen (2006) points out, are
both keenly interested in the subjective dimen-
sion of media consumption.
In this paper, we leave aside the sociodemo-
graphic and qualitative-interpretive approaches
that are usually employed in research on audi-
ences and their screen experiences, and use Q,
a structured qualitative research methodology
(described below), to focus entirely on the cog-
nitive and a²ective responses o± viewers to a
specifc screen experience. At frst glance, the
approach that is closest to our interests in the
feld o± media studies may appear to be the us
-
es-and-gratifcation paradigm. We are especially
interested in the ways that
content
yields value,
however, and this is a well-known weakness of
the uses-and-grat
ifcations approach.
Instead,
we employ the concept of customer value as a
starting point. The three predominant meanings
of customer value refer to
value for the customer,
shareholder value
, and
stakeholder value
(Wood-
all, 2003). While conventions have been devel-
oped to defne and measure shareholder and
stakeholder value, the conceptualization and
measurement of customer value remains unset-
tled. Korkman identifes three di²erent starting
points in the customer value literature: customer
value as a cognitive process, as a resource-based
production process, and as an experiential pro-
cess. The la´er –customer value as experiential
process– has become a widely accepted proposi-
tion since Holbrook and Hirschman suggested
in 1982 that the experiential dimension of con-
sumer behavior is, in many cases, more impor-
tant than considerations of functionality or price
in production of consumption value. Therefore,
marketing of experience goods cannot rely on
conventional marketing frameworks that that
assume consumers’ rational assessment of price
and quality o± o²erings (Hirschman, 1983; see
the useful summary in Euzeby, 1997).
Production of valuable customer experience
is a central purpose o± frms in experience in
-
dustries, and failure to apprehend and under-
stand innovation in customer experience is an
important shortcoming among producers of
experience goods. As the literature on service
innovation makes clear, a complete understand-
ing of customer experience innovation requires
In this paper, we leave aside the
sociodemographic and qualitative-
interpretive approaches that are usually
employed in research on audiences and
their screen experiences, and use Q, a
structured qualitative research methodology
(described below), to focus entirely on the
cognitive and affective responses of viewers
to a specifc screen experience.
17
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
consideration of how an experience good pro-
duces value throughout the entire customer
transaction cycle. In experience goods that aim
primarily to yield entertainment value, such as
flms, arguably the core value is yielded dur
-
ing the consumption of the experience good. At
present, however, reliable knowledge is scarce
about the subjective dimensions of mediated
consumption experiences. In particular, no con-
ventions have been established; by which to
observe and compare the ways that consump-
tion of screen products creates value among au-
diences. This is especially true of documentary
audiences (Austin, 2007, 2005; EiTen, 1995; Har
-
die, 2008; Vladica & Davis, 2009).
Researchers have proposed and tested a variety
of typologies of customer value but for which
few validated scales are available. We used Hol-
brook’s (1999) typology of consumer value, which
posits three dimensions of value: self-oriented vs.
other-oriented, active vs. reactive, and extrinsic
vs. intrinsic. This typology contains eight kinds of
consumer value: eFciency, play, quality, beauty,
status, ethics, esteem, and spirituality. Research-
ers have not yet begun to test customer/consum-
er value frameworks in the realm of experience
goods, especially screen products. It is likely that
some of the consumer value categories will need
to be modifed or le±t aside. ²or example, ±unc
-
tional or instrumental value is not likely to be ap-
plicable in the case o± flm viewing.
Our goal in this paper is to identify and describe
segments of audience experience. Consumer seg-
mentation is a fundamental marketing practice
that seeks to identify sets of potential or actual
consumers with some common a³ributes that can
be addressed with an o´ering. µhe sets can be
defned using many di´erent kinds o± variables:
“geographic, demographic, psychological, psy-
chographic or behavioural” (Tynan and Drayton,
1987) and a range of increasingly sophisticated
analytical methodologies (Wedel and Kakamura,
1999). We use Q-methodology, an exploratory
empirical social science technique, to identify and
describe the subjective viewpoints of viewers of
an animated documentary flm,
Ryan,
winner
of
the
2004
Oscar ±or best-animated short flm.
Ryan
and
Alter Egos
Although best known for its stunning computer-
generated animation,
Ryan
claims documentary
status through its portrayal of Ryan Larkin, re-
nowned Canadian hand-drawn animation artist
±rom the 1960s and 1970s. µhe flm recount his
down±all ±rom wunderkind flmmaker to coke
-
head and alcoholic and homeless panhandler.
Although the flm points to a kind o± redemption
±or Ryan, flmmaker Chris Landreth’s portrait
of this fallen creator raises troubling questions
about artistic license, especially when the short
animated flm is viewed as an embedded se
-
quence in Laurence Green’s 52-minute live-ac-
tion documentary
Alter Egos
(2004). Although
originally, it was a promotional vehicle for
Ryan
,
Alter Egos
stands as a powerful documentary in
its own right by chronicling the production of
Ryan,
notably
including Larkin’s pained reac-
tion to his psychorealistic portrayal in the flm
and the ensuing interaction between Larkin and
Ryan
’s creator Chris Landreth.
3
Ryan Larkin (1943-2007) was a Canadian artist
who learned animation at a young age at Can-
ada’s National ²ilm Board (N²B) in Montreal.
He produced several acclaimed short animat-
ed flms:
Syrinx
(1965),
Cityscape
(1966),
Walk-
ing
(1969), and
Street Musique
(1972).
4
Walking
,
which was nominated for an Academy Award
in 1970, is an astonishing fve-minute portrayal
of people moving on foot. It is a classic of hand-
drawn animation and some animation courses
frequently use it as a teaching resource.
3
µhe flm
Ryan
may be viewed on the National ²ilm Board’s websi
-
te (www.n¶.ca). µhe DVD
Ryan (Special Edition
) (2005) contains the
flm
Ryan
as well as the documentary
Alter Egos
.
4
µhese flms may be viewed on the N²B website.
ISSN 0122-8285
18
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
Considered a star in his 20s, Larkin never complet-
ed another flm aFter
Street Musique
. He became
addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and he ended up
homeless, living in a men’s shelter in Montreal
and panhandling for change. “I had a drug prob-
lem, you see,” recounts Larkin in
Alter Egos
.
That’s why I couldn’t fnish my flms. Cocaine.
What you do in cocaine, is you get all kinds of
brilliant ideas every three and a half minutes,
and there’s never enough time to complete a
thought on paper before another idea even
more brilliant comes up. So I was overloading,
which is the main reason why I stopped making
flms, because I was just not good at it anymore.
In 2000, a sta±er From the O²awa Internation
-
al Animation Festival “heard through a friend
about this old animator who was now panhan-
dling on the streets of Montreal” (Robinson,
2004). A group drove to Montreal to fnd him;
“our idea was that maybe we could help him
out by bringing him to the O²awa 2000 Festi
-
val” (ibid.). Larkin was indeed panhandling on
St. Laurent Ave. He eventually was invited to
join the Festival’s selection commi²ee. Robinson
(2004) describes how the other animators on the
selection commi²ee became aware oF the sig
-
nifcance oF Larkin’s contributions to animation:
[W]e decided to have a screening oF the commi²ee’s
own flms. We consciously saved Ryan’s For last.
The reaction was unForge²able. Until that mo
-
ment, I do not think that Andrei, Pjotr or Chris
really had an inkling that this guy was. When they
saw
Street Musique
and
Walking
, they were stun-
ned. “
You
did that flm!?” someone said. In a span
oF about 20 minutes, Ryan went From li²le brother
to mythological hero. Everyone wanted to know
what happened, what he was doing. We poured
drinks and everyone gathered around Ryan as he
recounted — often through tears — his down-
Fall From golden boy at the N³B to Montreal
cokehead. Everyone was quiet. No one really
knew what to say.
In following this encounter, Chris Landreth, en-
gineer turned animator and member of the se-
lection commi²ee, began to develop the idea oF
a flm based on Ryan’s liFe. Landreth, at the time
employed by Alias, the maker of
Maya
and other
3D animation software, is the creator of several
short animated flms oF which the best known
before
Ryan
are
The End
(1995) and
Bingo
(1998).
I met Ryan Larkin in the summer of 2000. I
hung out with him for one week and thought,
“What a life story this guy has.”
It has all the ele-
ments of drama. It’s got tragedy, comedy, ab-
surdity, [and] this redemptive element. And
there are some other themes as a result of it
that are about Ryan, but also about alcoholism,
addiction, mental illness and fear of failure.
(Animating the Animator, 2007)
In the summer of 2001, Landreth conducted the
series of interviews with Larkin that provided
the audio For the flm’s soundtrack and the
video for modeling. It took about three years to
complete the 14-minute flm. The flm recounts
Landreth’s interview with Larkin in a decrepit
cafeteria in a homeless shelter in Montreal, in-
tercut with sequences from Larkin’s own ani-
mated flms and observations about Larkin and
his life by two individuals who knew him well,
his former girlfriend Felicity Fanjoy and his
former producer Derek Lamb. All characters
are 3D CGI animated. The Landreth character
shows the Ryan character an original drawing
from
Walking,
the frst time in 35 years that he
has seen this original material. The climax oc-
curs when the Landreth character asks the Ryan
character to consider “beating alcohol in the
same way you beat cocaine.” The Ryan charac-
ter’s highly emotional response makes Landreth
think of his mother, also a talented alcoholic
who “died oF it,” to whom the flm is dedicated.
The flm ends with a scene oF the Ryan character
gracefully panhandling on a Montreal street, the
Landreth character thoughtfully observing.
The story of Larkin’s fall and ambiguous re-
demption is made vivid with three-dimension-
al computer generated images to produce an
19
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
expressive, surreal style Landreth calls psy-
chorealism. It involves “co-opting elements of
photorealism to serve a diferent purpose; to
expose the realism of the incredibly complex,
messy, chaotic, sometimes mundane, and al-
ways conFicted quality we call human nature”
(Landreth, 2004, as cited in Power, 2009). Lan-
dreth’s psychorealism uses non motion-captured
3D graphics and simultaneous perspectives to
make the physical appearance of the characters
express their internal state of mind.
5
Larkin him-
sel± is portrayed as a ±reakish skeletal ²gure with
a disintegrating head in which we see images
Fashing. This stylistic ±eature exploiting
faux
-
photorealism to depict characters whose strange
physical deformities represent their emotional
lives elicited most a³ention among critics. Ob
-
served a reviewer in the
New York Times
,
The emotions are raw; so is the way Mr. Lan-
dreth draws the human mind. Ryan’s head
looks like a botched medical experiment. Mul-
ticoloured strings cross and twist; red spikes
strike his glasses when he gets angry. Green
rays hang in empty space. Clear thought has
burned away. (Jeferson, 2005)
Ryan
takes three notable risks. First, it stretches
the limits of documentary genre by asking view-
ers to accept 3D animation as a serious form when
animation is usually experienced in cartoons,
children’s programming, video games, or ad-
vertisements. Second, it requires that the viewer
accept that non-factual photorealistic representa-
tions of characters’ appearances accurately repre-
sent emotional reality. Third, the ²lm requires the
viewer to judge whether the ²lmmaker has ±airly
treated Ryan, raising questions o± who bene²ts
from artistic license and who has been co-opted
by it: the ²lmmaker, his subject, or the viewer.
Obscured by the success of
Ryan
is Laurence
Green’s live action documentary
Alter Egos
, com-
missioned by the National ´ilm Board to docu
-
ment the making of
Ryan
.
Alter Egos
provides a
deeper and more detailed look at Larkin’s his-
tory and conFicts than
Ryan
does, and it crucially
shows the complicated relationship
that devel-
ops between ²lmmaker Landreth and his sub
-
ject Larkin. The la³er clearly has no inkling that
he has been portrayed as a damaged skeletal
²gure in Landreth’s ²lm until Landreth returns
to Larkin’s shelter and shows him a videotape
o± the completed ²lm, a scene that is shown in
Alter Ego
s. Larkin’s reaction and the subsequent
conversation between Landreth and Larkin cre-
ate an extraordinarily poignant scene. Larkin
says: “I’m not very fond of my skeleton image.
..
it makes me very uncomfortable.” And later:
“it’s always easier to portray grotesque ver-
sions o± reality.” As the ²lm sinks in: “I guess it
shows me ±or who or what I really am.” But at
the close o± the ²lm, Larkin says to the camera:
“I am what I am. I didn’t do anything wrong.
...
I just want out o± this ²lm.”
6
Method
We used Q-methodology to identify and describe
subjects’ experiences of viewing
Ryan
. In Q-
methodology, respondents rank order items–in
this case, statements about the ²lm. Q-methodol
-
ogy provides a systematic, rigorous means of ob-
jectively describing human subjectivity through
the combination of qualitative and quantita-
tive analysis (Brown 1996, 1980; McKeown and
Thomas, 1988). Many social science disciplines
such as political science, marketing, psychology,
sociology, public policy, marketing, and health
care has used Q-methodology, but less often the
humanities. The use of Q-methodology in audi-
ence research is relatively infrequent.
6
Larkin came to appreciate the ²lm
Ryan,
which
helped to bring him
out of the world of panhandling and back into the world of art. In
a short video by Gibran Ramos titled “Ryan after Ryan,” shot the
day Larkin received his diagnosis of a cancer that was to prove fatal,
Larkin is seen wearing a t-shirt featuring
Ryan’s
skeletal face. Lar-
kin says: “I was retired but because of Christopher Landreth and his
±amous ²lm, I began to realize that there are millions o± people out
there wanting to see another Ryan Larkin ²lm. I’ve been working on
it.” h³p://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7QvVYz4Vzs.
5
For an account of the 3D techniques used to create
Ryan,
see Robert-
son (2004).
ISSN 0122-8285
20
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
The audience was a class of second-year television
production students in a media research methods
course. We screened a 20-minute segment from
Alter Egos
beginning with the sequence
in which
Landreth enters the men’s shelter in Montreal
in
search of Larkin to show him the completed
flm,
and ending with a live action
scene with
Larkin and Landreth siTing in a bar discussing the
flm. ±his segment contains practically all oF
the
animated flm
Ryan
.
The items to sort (Q-deck) consisted of a “con-
course” oF 32 statements evoked by the flm,
shown in Table 2. A concourse must properly rep-
resent the range of ideas, feelings, and perceptions
that the stimulus can evoke. We selected these
statements from among several hundred collected
from the audience, who was asked to write about
their thoughts and feelings after having viewed
Ryan,
complementing the audience’s statements
with a few selected from viewers’ comments post-
ed to online flm review sites. Since our research
was motivated by the question of how a screen ex-
perience yields consumer value, we selected state-
ments to represent the kinds of consumer value
posited by Holbrook (1999). This was the most
subjective step in our method because the exist-
ing concourse referred much more extensively to
some kinds of consumer value than other kinds.
For example, we found no statements regarding
‘e²ciency’ and Few that we could classiFy as ‘play’
or ‘status.’ Our 32-statement concourse therefore
does not adopt a balanced Fisherian design. The
concourse contains nine statements referring to
aesthetic value, nine on excellence, six on spiri-
tual values, four on ethics, two on esteem, and
one each on status and play.
The audience anonymously completed the Q-sort
a week aFter viewing the flm. In this procedure,
the respondent is asked to rank-order items by
iteratively selecting the items that best and least
represent his/her viewpoint, placing the items in
a set distribution as shown in Table 1 and work-
ing toward the middle. We obtained 77 usable
Q-sorts from participants this way and analyzed
the results using a commercial software package
for Q-methodology, PCQ for Windows.
Results
A Four-Factor solution ft the data best. In this so
-
lution, 48 sorts loaded signifcantly and singly
on only one of the four factors. There were 5 con-
Founded sorts and 24 non-signifcant sorts. Each
Factor had From 8 to 17 signifcant sorts associ
-
ated with it. Each factor represents a viewpoint,
an account of the viewer’s experience. The sorts
that defne each viewpoint are shown in ±able 1,
along with a radar diagram of the Holbrookian
consumer values represented by each viewpoint.
Viewpoint A
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
2
5 13 1
6
8
3
10 9 18 4
7 28 17
14 22 11 15 30
16 24 12 20 31
26 19 25
32 21 29
23
27
Factor A
Table 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
Viewpoint B
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
5 15 9
4
2 18 1
10 16 12 6
3 22 7
20 13 14 8 27
28 17 19 11 30
21 23 31
29 24 32
25
26
Factor B
Viewpoint C
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
10 4
6
2
7
1 11
21 13 12 3
9
8 28
23 14 5 18 20
24 15 16 22 31
17 19 29
26 25 30
27
32
Factor C
Viewpoint D
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
16
2 13 6
1
4
3
28 9 14 12 11 5 30
10 18 15 22 7
24 20 17 25 8
21 19 26
23 27 29
31
32
Factor D
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Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
A complete list of the 32 statements
and the score of each statement on
each factor are presented in Table 2.
A B C D
0
3
2
1
-3
1
0 -2
3
1
0
3
0
0
-2
2
-2
-3
0
2
1
0
-1
0
1
3
1 2
2
1
2
2
-2
-1
1
-2
-3
-3
-3
-2
0
1
3
1
Table 2
Factors
1.
I love to see such a physical embodi-
ment of grief and pain in the way the
fgures are Formed; very powerFul
images and ideas.
2.
This is a real masterpiece, unforget-
table, to say the least.
3. We all go through devastating expe-
riences, but what is important is that
we learn from them, or be doomed to
repeat them.
4. It was a cool animation life show.
5. One cannot do anything without the
power of money.
6. I am acutely aware of the life of an art-
ist, the lack of money, for the amazing
things that they do.
7. I thought the genuine emotion was
there. This is cool, the way it was pre-
sented.
8. Any piece oF work, oF art, a flm, a
picture, or a song, has to inspire some
kind of thought, and this work does
that. It makes you think about it, at
least For a liTle bit, and so it achieved
its purpose.
9.
It makes me want to know the creator
and Ryan.
10. Art is not deemed worthy until you
are dead or beTer yet the bigger fsh
swallows the liTle fshes.
11. The way the characters were missing
pieces of themselves, the meaning be-
hind that--beautiful in a way, truly.
12. At the end, I felt horrible for the main
character. And the events that he had
to go through in life. Things happen
and people live with it and we all do
what we can.
13. It makes me laugh. It is creative, an
animated document less serious, but
more interesting.
14. Seeing this flm was an amazing ex
-
perience.
15. It is not di±cult to portray people as
grotesque.
16. Most amazing use of 3D animation
I’ve ever seen.
17. I don’t need money to create art. Do
it for the fun and the emotional re-
wards not the money because that’s
true art.
18. It has opened-up a new world of doc-
umentary type that could be created.
19. I did not fnd it boring. I enjoyed it, it
was interesting.
20. It is sad how artistic minds of our
time who use questionable means for
inspiration are in turn destroyed by
the same inspirational sources.
21. I gained hope, the hope that many
others, including myself, have the in-
spiration and potential to overcome
any obstacle that will come in the way.
22. It is beautiful and haunting, great
work!
²ouching and enlightening.
23. Maybe “comfortable” is a weird word
to describe it, but you can be comfort-
able watching that story if you could
relate to it.
24. Loved this! IF you’ve ever been artis
-
tic - or
ever had a problem with your
own stupid mind geTing in your way,
0
-1 -1 0
-1
-1
-2
-1
-2
0
-1 -1
1
-2
-1
0
-2
-2
0
-3
3
-1
-1
0
-1
2
1
-1
0
0
0
0
1
-2
2
-1
0
-1
-3
-1
-1
2
1
1
0
0
-2
-1
-1
0
-2
-2
23
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
Viewpoint A: Inspiring and Effective
Work, but not a Masterpiece
Subjects respond as creative artists who identify
with the animators in
Ryan,
although the story
does not create a desire to know either Landreth
or Ryan (statement 9). The flm is considered in
-
spiring by these subjects because it speaks to
the “devastating experiences” familiar to cre-
ative artists (statement 3), the fear of failure and
and the world not co-operating, this
just illustrates it to a T.
25. One can have a wonderful piece of
artistic expression, but one also needs
to be respectful of the subject, of the
talent that is being used.
26. It is beautiful and at times funny, it’s
life in
all its colors.
27. It is the relationship between the doc-
umentary flm maker and the subject
that I found interesting.
28. I have always worried that I will fail
and Fall into obscurity, Forgo±en and
lost, and as result, be a shell of who I
once was.
29. Acceptance of what others believe
whether I believe it or not, is some-
thing I can relate to.
30. Movies don’t have to have real actors
to get such an emotional response
from the audience.
31. I guess the examination of our own
demons and they a²ect our art or liFe
is a question we all ask at some point.
32. The way the main character spoke
made me feel for him in such a per-
sonal way. It is hard to explain, I just
felt sympathy for him.
1
0
0
1
-1
0
-1
1
0
2
0
0
2
-2
3
-3
1
-1
1
1
2
2
1
3
2
1
2
0
-1
1
0
0
obscurity (statement 28), the need to examine
one’s own demons and understand how they af-
fect one’s art (statement 31), the dangers drugs
pose to artistic persons (statement 20), and the
intrinsic motivations for creating art (statement
17).
Ryan
is considered an e²ectively executed
flm because it uses computer-generated char
-
acters to achieve an emotional response (#30).
However, the flm is not regarded as amazing
(statement 14, statement 16) or an unForge±able
masterpiece (statement 2). Subjects do not accept
that money, death, or exploitation are necessar-
ily part of the creative experience (statement 5,
statement 10). In regards to sources of value and
Holbrook’s model, viewpoint A expresses expe-
rience primarily in terms of spiritual values–
faith, ecstasy, sacredness, and magic and relates
largely to the numinous experiential aspects of
the flm. Seventeen respondents expressed this
viewpoint.
Viewpoint B: Critical Appreciation for
Powerful Documentary Storytelling
In Viewpoint B, subjects position themselves
as
knowledgeable documentary flmmakers, as
craftpersons appraising a peer’s production.
They
respond primarily to
Ryan
’s value propositions
in terms of its demonstration of the values of ex-
cellence and aesthetics (see Holbrook’s sources
of value). They appreciate the techniques and
approaches used to make the flm and to con
-
vey the story. Subjects admire the flm’s prow
-
ess at expressing beauty and emotion with
computer-generated characters (statement 1,
statement 7, statement 22), and indicate inter-
est in the flmmaker-subject relationship (state
-
ment 27) as well as in Landreth’s innovation in
the documentary genre (statement 18). Subjects
do not respond emotionally to the flm’s darker
themes: fear of failure (statement 28), the associ-
ation of art with a death wish (statement 10), or
Larkin’s art-vs-commerce con³ict (statement 5).
Thirteen respondents expressed this viewpoint.
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Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
Viewpoint C: Powerful Story
of Damaged Selves
In this viewpoint, subjects position themselves
as individuals who empathize with the pain
and sufering expressed by the characters in
Ryan
. Subjects respond emotionally to the de-
piction of damaged selves as damaged bodies
and acknowledge their own fears of corporal or
psychological disintegration (statement 1, state-
ment 11), of “falling into obscurity” and becom-
ing a shell (statement 28), and of destruction
by internal demons (statement 31) or personal
weaknesses related to drugs or alcohol (state-
ment 20). Subjects do not Fnd the Flm to be light,
funny (statement 13), comfortable (statement
23), or reassuring (statement 21).
This viewpoint
re±ects a screen experience that admires the
quality o² the animation Fnds the psychorealistic
aesthetics pain²ully and efective. Eight respon
-
dents, female, expressed this viewpoint.
Viewpoint D: Cool Animation
but not Engaging
In this viewpoint, subjects position themselves
as sophisticated consumers of screen entertain-
ment who decline to become engaged in this
screen experience. They Fnd the expression o²
emotion by computer-generated characters to
be “cool” or a “cool show” (statement 7, state-
ment 4, statement 30) and they admit that it
induced “some kind of thought.
.. at least for a
li³le bit” (statement 8). They take it ²or granted
that people have devastating experiences and
that art can con±ict with commerce (statement
3, statement 5). However, they do not worry
about failure (statement 28) or art that seems
driven by death wishes (statement 10), they do
not want to get to know the artists (statement
9), and they do not regard the Flm as a master
-
piece (statement 2) or amazing (statement 16).
This viewpoint responds positively to the Flm’s
proposed aesthetic and ethical sources of value,
and negatively to its value propositions having
to do with spirituality and craft excellence. Ten
respondents expressed this viewpoint.
Discussion of Results
The four experience segments apprehend the
Flm’s value propositions very diferently. The au
-
dience does not place uni²orm value on the Flm
in terms of excellence, spirituality, or aes
thetics.
In seeking to understand diferences in view
-
ers’ appraisals o² the Flm’s value, we notice that
each segment represents a speciFc way that the
viewer positions him/herself with respect to the
Flm. In Viewpoint A, viewers appraise the Flm
as creative artists who relate to the Flm’s story o²
artistic genius and sufering. They Fnd the Flm
to be inspiring, so the source of value is of spiri-
tual nature. In Viewpoint B, respondents position
themselves as persons who have some knowledge
o² and interest in documentary Flmmakers. They
are interested in the creative beauty and craft ex-
cellence o² the Flm, so notice Flm’s production
values, including its problematic relationships
between artist and subject. In Viewpoint C, view-
ers enter into the Flm and allow themselves to
experience its narrative of self-damage. They ad-
mire the technical virtuosity of
Ryan
and Fnd
a
spiritual appreciation, but the aesthetic style of
the Flm is disturbing. In Viewpoint D, viewers
keep themselves at arm’s length ²rom the Flm.
They Fnd it mildly entertaining (play value) but
do not wish to engage substantively with the
Flm in terms o² technique or narrative.
Descriptions of four distinct subjective view-
points suggest that we can categorize viewers of
Ryan
in four audience segments. Since none of the
They are interested in the creative
beauty and craft excellence of the Flm,
so notice Flm’s production values,
including its problematic relationships
between artist and subject.
25
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
four factors is bipolar, our audience did not expe-
rience
Ryan
in opposite ways, just diferent ways.
We can compare the Four empirically identi±ed
viewer positions we uncovered with Q-method-
ology with a recently published theory of modes
of audience reception. Michelle (2007) reviews the
corpus of audience reception studies, synthesizes
them, and proposes four modes of reception:
l
Transparent (text as life). The viewer sus-
pends disbelief and does not critically de-
construct the text. Instead, she/he enters
into the story and engages with it. The
transparent mode of reception corresponds
most closely with our Viewpoint C, ex-
pressed by a group of eight viewers who
found
Ryan
to be powerful and disturbing.
l
Referential (text as like life). The viewer per-
ceives the “text” as standing alongside the
real world, and draws on personal experi-
ence or knowledge of the wider world in his/
her experiencing oF the ±lm. The reFerential
mode of reception corresponds most closely
with our Viewpoint A, expressed by a group
oF seventeen individuals who Found the ±lm
an inspiring a story of artistic struggle, with
reference to their own experiences.
l
Mediated (text as a production). The view-
er is a²uned to the text’s generic Form, its
aesthetics, and its intentionality, and he ap-
praises the text from the perspective of a
producer of similar products. The mediated
mode of reception corresponds most closely
with our Viewpoint B, expressed by a group
of thirteen persons who assessed
Ryan
as an
innovative documentary production.
l
Discursive (text as message). In this mode,
the
viewer
analyzes
and
comprehends
the text and its motivation, and positions
her/himself with respect to that message:
against, for, or in a negotiated relationship.
The discursive mode of reception corre-
sponds most closely with our Viewpoint
D, expressed by a group of ten individu-
als who negotiated the following position
with respect to
Ryan
: comprehension of the
±lm’s message but emotional distance.
Our empirical ±ndings show that audiences nei
-
ther are passive consumers of screen messages,
nor entirely individualized readers of texts. We
found four viewpoints, representing segments
of similar audience experience. The idiosyncratic
experiencers are in a minority–they do not con-
stitute a homogeneous group and the audience
members in this group have only fragmentary
aspects of their screen consumption experience
to share with others–. These four principal ex-
perience segments, which we may represent the
four principal modes of reception, as outlined
by Michelle, account for 62% of respondents.
Conclusions and Implications
We are interested in the design, production,
distribution, and especially consumption of ex-
periential goods and services. In this paper, we
looked at the subjective consumption experience
oF those who are watching an innovative-±lmed
product, the award-winning short computer-an-
imated documentary
Ryan.
In order to describe
and explain such a speci±c screen experience, we
Focused on the cognitive and afective responses
of viewers. We empirically revealed four view-
points, as described in the previous section, and
we posit that combinations oF diferent value
types motivate and so can explain this range of
responses. Holbrook’s framework for consumer
value, with its typology of values, proved useful
in a number of ways:
1.
It helps to explain the diversity of view-
points, hence diferent subjective screen
experiences.
2.
It helps in describing these viewpoints and,
to a certain degree, the corresponding au-
dience segments
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26
Consumer Value and Modes of Media Reception: .
..
3.
It provided a rationale for the selection of
the statements required to construct the
“concourse” in Q-methodology.
The subjects in our research project were sec-
ond-year television production students. Their
professional
interest,
career
aspiration,
and
personal motivations can be captured with Hol-
brook’s typology of values and are nicely illus-
trated by the combination of value types that
dominate their answers: excellence in craft and
storytelling, the beauty of creative output, and
source of personal inspiration and reFection
(spirituality and esteem). At the same time, we
do not equally capture all types of value in a
concourse dominated by statements referring to
“aesthetics” and “excellence”, nine each, whilst
we found no statements regarding “e±ciency”,
and only one each on “status” and “play.” We
suggest that future research should endeavor to
adopt a balanced Fisherian design, work with a
balanced concourse, and extend the research to
a more heterogeneous audience. Perhaps this is
also an indication for a need to re²ne the eight
categories to beTer explain value created by ex
-
periential goods and services.
The eight types of consumer value proposed by
Holbrook (1999) were used to select and build
the concourse, the 32 statements sorted in Q-
method. In this sense, the typology can be a use-
ful guide to design and implement early stages
in Q-method. At the same time, this process of
grouping statements according to types of value
introduces a degree of subjectivity in the design
of the research and interpretation of sorting per-
formed. Furthermore, it requires in-depth famil-
iarity with Holbrook’s interpretation of consumer
value concept: not a trivial expertise to acquire.
Nevertheless, the use of Q-methodology was
worthwhile in our endeavor to objectively iden-
tify and describe subjective experiences of view-
ing
Ryan
. In a broader context, we also conclude
that there are promising prospects to adopt Q-
method in the study of audiences, of experiential
consumption, and to beTer understand sources
of value creation by experience goods. We were
able to empirically identify audience segments,
summarily characterize its members (given the
limited data collected from subjects), and de-
scribe corresponding subjective viewpoints, all
by working with both Q-method and Holbrook’s
consumer value framework (1999). It was an un-
expected outcome of our research to discover
that these four empirically derived segments
bear a strong resemblance to the four principal
modes of media reception (Michelle, 2007).
These results encourage us to further look for
ways to use Q-methodology at the boundaries
between qualitative and quantitative research,
between social sciences and humanities, to
create fruitful links between these, such as the
one between our experiential consumer value
framework and media reception studies. Of
course, we also recognize the need to adapt,
to ²ne tune the tools and methodologies that
brought us to this promising position. For ex-
ample, the concourse in Q-method (the Q-sam-
ple) must properly represent the range of ideas,
feelings, and perceptions that the stimulus can
evoke. ³he viewpoints o´ered by media stu
-
dents appar
ently did not cover all eight types of
consumer value, as discussed earlier. This may
be related to our selection of subjects who per-
formed the Q-sorts (the P-sample), a homoge-
neous demographic group, or may suggest the
need for a beTer understanding of the applicabil
-
ity of Holbrook’s typology of value. It may very
well be a limitation of this framework and its use
in the context of media and creative products
that should be addressed in future work.
Furthermore, it requires in-depth
familiarity with Holbrook’s interpretation
of consumer value concept: not a trivial
expertise to acquire.
27
Volumen 13 Número 1
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Charles H. Davis, Florin Vladica
We also confrm the potential that Q-methodol
-
ogy has for commercial research and mana
ge-
rial practice. As our example illustrates, the four
factors (spectators’ viewpoints) enrich the market
intelligence with empirically obtained
knowl-
edge, and consequently complement data and
information from prevailing approaches to au-
dience measurement. Most importantly, this
knowledge of experiential value that consum-
ing screen-based experience goods yield to the
spectator is essential. Understanding the na-
ture, the types, and the sources of experiential
value, in other words making sense of audience
motives and experience, can greatly improve
predictability of a positive outcome and conse-
quently critical acclaim or commercial success.
To strengthen audience engagement, media
producers, for example, can use Q-method and
conceptual models of experiential value to in-
vestigate and develop new mixes of characters
or alternative storylines. Additional insights
about
individual
behavior
and
preferences
when acting as users, consumers, players, or
members of an audience can be used in subse-
quent consumer research, to design advertising
campaigns, and enhance eFectiveness in pro
-
moting particular media brands. Understand-
ing consumption experiences can enhance the
range of services available at the venue before,
during, and a±ter a flm screening, translated
later on in increased satisfaction and larger box-
o²ce revenues. ³inally, Q-methodology does
not require large samples of respondents, it can
be quickly executed, and fnally it can result in
lower cost intelligence whilst still oFering rich
qualitative and quantitative data, benefts large
-
ly appreciated by frms.
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