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Lost in interpretation? : creating meaning from LoveLife's "HIV: face it" billboards.

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This research presents a reception analysis of LoveLife's 'HIV: face it' billboards by youth aged 12 - 17 years old, LoveLife's target audience for the campaign under scrutiny. The study sought to find out whether the intended audience derived the same meanings from the billboards as they were initially intended by LoveLife; whether the target youth regard themselves as audience of the communicated campaign; and to assess whether LoveLife billboard producers have succeeded in communicating the intended message to the readers of the billboards. To achieve this, the study adopted a qualitative method of data collection by conducting two focus group discussions. One focus group was selected from a rural school in KwaZulu Natal and another one from an urban school of the same province. Participants were all youth between the ages 12 - 17 years old. The circuit of culture was used as the theoretical framework. The circuit of culture is a composition of certain moments in the communication process namely: representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation [see diagram. 1]. For the purpose of this research only one moment of the circuit, namely representation was adopted. Representation is an essential part of the process through which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It involves the use of language, signs and images that stand for or represent things. Findings from the study show that respondents assigned different meanings to LoveLife billboards. LoveLife's messages are not being decoded by the target audience in the initially intended manner. A majority of the respondents negotiated meaning in an attempt to understand what LoveLife is trying to communicate because the billboards' objectives are not straightforward. The study also found that urban dwellers identified more closely as audiences for the LoveLife billboards than rural dwellers.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2007.


AIDS (Disease) in mass media--South Africa., Theses--Culture, communication and media studies.