At the beginning of the century, two activities dominated most people's lives: working and sleeping. As the end of the century approaches, we can add a third: watching television. We know remarkably little about watching TV, despite its predominance and the forty years of research it has generated. How, in the most precise and intricate sense, does television influence the way we think about the world? What ideological role does it play in contemporary culture? Does TV control us or do we control it? The Ideological Octopus assesses our progress in responding to these questions, and offers some answers of its own. In the last ten years, with the emergence of semiology and cultural studies in particular, there have been a number of significant theoretical developments in our understanding of television's power. This book is the first to provide an overview of these developments, while also incorporating more traditional approaches. Justin Lewis suggests that television influences us ambiguously and unpredictably, depending upon who we are and how we think. Ambiguity does not blunt television's power, it simply diversifies it into a very modern kind of omnipotence.
Employing two major qualitative audience studies, one covering TV news and a second covering The Cosby Show , The Ideological Octopus illustrates its argument with findings that are both unexpected and disturbing.