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Media as Text: What Text Can Be

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In my personal life, when I use the word text, what I am referring to is the written word. It may be a book I read over the summer, or a message sent by a friend. When I say text, I am looking at words in front of me. However, this is a limiting idea. Any media can be considered a text.

The Criteria

Robert de Beaugrande and Wolfgang Dressler presented seven criteria that any given “Text” will meet. These criteria include: cohesion, coherence, intentionality , acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality.

Cohesion

Cohesion is, in simple terms, the use of grammar in a text. This criteria leans heavily on Standard Academic English as what is “correct”. Luckily, subversions of this “standard” grammar can still fulfill this criteria. After all, deviance from the norm will still most likely follow its own set of rules. Different vernaculars may not adhere to SAE’s grammar, but they have grammar of their own.

Coherence

Coherence is the idea that a text makes sense. The information provided within a text has to have a meaning of some sort. Even if the meaning is not understood by every viewer of a text, as long as there is a meaning, that text has coherence.

Intentionality

Intentionality is the purpose the producer of a text has for creating said text. A text needs to be made with intention. An accidental product would not be considered a text due to its lack of intentionality.

Acceptability

Acceptability is the wider recognition that a text has a purpose. The specific audience of a text must understand that that text was created for a reason, specifically the reason the creator intended.

Informativity

Informativity is the amount of information that a text brings to an existing discussion. Typically, this would consist of new information of some sort. Other times, a text may use existing information and compile it, or add a unique perspective to it. Either way, information is presented within the text.

Situationality

Situationality is a text’s “appropriate-ness” within an existing context. Instead of focusing on if a text’s intended audience sees its purpose, situationality is a wider scope of how a text fits in to a larger meta-text.

Intertextuality

Intertexuality is the idea that a text will always relate to what has preceded it, or relate to other texts that are being produced at the same time. Another way to think about it is how a text connects to others within its given discourse.

Other Media as Text

Looking at these seven criteria, it should be clear that they can apply to any piece of media. Even when they are subverted, these criteria are still met in some form. A movie about a dystopian society may be social commentary on our current culture. If it is not the only media commentating on this in some way, then that displays its intertextuality, situationality, intentionality, and acceptability all at once.


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