'Oh goodness, I am watching reality TV': How methods make class in audience research

Bev Skeggs, Nancy Thumim, Helen Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most striking challenges encountered during the empirical stages of our audience research project, 'Making Class and the Self through Televised Ethical Scenarios' (funded as part of the ESRC's Identities and Social Action programme), stemmed from how the different discursive resources held by our research participants impacted upon the kind of data collected. We argue that social class is reconfigured in each research encounter, not only through the adoption of moral positions in relation to 'reality' television as we might expect, but also through the forms of authority available for participants. Different methods enabled the display of dissimilar relationships to television: reflexive telling, immanent positioning and affective responses all gave distinct variations of moral authority. Therefore, understanding the form as well as the content of our participants' responses is crucial to interpreting our data. These methodological observations underpin our earlier theoretical critique of the 'turn' to subjectivity in social theory (Wood and Skeggs, 2004), where we suggest that the performance of the self is an activity that reproduces the social distinctions that theorists claim are in demise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008


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