Women’s magazines and their readers. Experiences, identity and everyday life
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In this thesis I explore women's magazine reading as a media experience. I ask how regular readers of women's magazines experience these publications, and how these experiences can be related to readers’ everyday lives and to their sense of identity. In order to answer these questions I have conducted a qualitative questionnaire and interview study of a group of regular women's magazine readers. The reader study constitutes the central empirical component of my research, but it has been supplemented with textual analysis and interviews with magazine editors. In the thesis, my analysis of this empirical material is presented in the form of four scholarly articles. Each article emphasizes different dimensions of women's magazine reading as a media experience, each draws on different theoretical perspectives, and each can be related to different debates in the field of media studies. A central ambition of the thesis is to suggest and demonstrate analytical approaches that are new to research on women's magazines. In addition to drawing on established methods in qualitative audience research I will also propose a new methodological approach for exploration of the relationship between specific practices of reading and specific textual features. While I situate my research in relation important debates within women's magazines research, I also introduce and apply theoretical perspectives that are new to this field, inspired by phenomenology, sociological identity theory and public sphere theory. Throughout the thesis, women's magazine reading is conceptualized as a multifaceted media experience that encompasses perceptual, aesthetic, technological, cognitive, emotional, social and cultural dimensions. Regular readers value women’s magazine reading as a relaxing ritual that holds a specific place in the structure of everyday life, and they appreciate the properties of the print magazine medium as particularly suited to such reading rituals. However, readers also engage in critical evaluations of women's magazine texts. Sometimes women's magazines fail to live up to readers’ expectations, but mainly regular readers experience women's magazines as relevant – to their everyday lives and to their conceptions about their own lives. Furthermore, these experiences are relevant to society in a broader sense, as women's magazine reading can be understood as one of several possible resources for relating one’s personal life to a greater social and cultural community.
Paper I: Ytre-Arne, Brita. (2011) Women’s magazines and their readers: The relationship between textual features and practices of reading. European Journal of Cultural Studies 14(2): 213-228, April 2011. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367549410389928Paper II: Ytre-Arne, Brita. (2011) ‘I want to hold it in my hands’: Readers’ experiences of the phenomenological differences between women’s magazines online and in print. Media, Culture & Society 33(3): 467-477, April 2011. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0163443711398766Paper III: Ytre-Arne, Brita. Women’s magazines and women’s lives: An analysis of reading and identity. Full text not available in BORA.Paper IV: Ytre-Arne, Brita. Women’s magazines and the public sphere. European Journal of Communication 26(3): 247-261, September 2011. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0267323111416181