Research via survey:
Cooking programs truly stand the test of time, with programs transitioning from radio to TV in the 1940s. Kathleen Collins, suggests the genre, “appeals to audiences from generation to generation by holding up a mirror to our own domesticated lives.” I, therefore, wanted to conduct research relating the change in cooking programs to what the audience wishes to see in their own home today and how that reflects their actions upon watching.
A survey answered by 48 respondents supported the idea that TV cooking programs or contemporary cooking in the media, focus more on entertainment than the actual teaching or methods of cooking, often using a celebrity figure to shift attention to entertainment characteristics.
Using ethnography research, I will analyse the responses to the questions asked in the survey as a way of explaining the qualitative research I have come across and my own understanding of how the results explain the effects of spacial nature on its audience.
Below are some of the key questions and responses from the survey:
As we can see, the majority of respondents are in-fact female rather than male. However within this graph, I was quite surprised by the number of male respondents. A book by Horace Newcombe suggests that cooking programs were often tailored to focus on ‘stay at home’ middle-class women. Martha stewart is used as an example of building a synergistic media empire in the 1990’s surrounding cooking and home improvement. In the attempts of broadening the audience, the food network worked to change the shifts of who they were targeting, for instance Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Bites‘, infuses cooking with sex appeal as well as Jamie Oliver’s ‘The naked chef‘ which focuses on Jamie Oliver shopping for produce, hanging out with friends and listening to the latest music as a way of subverting the gender roles and embracing working- class masculinity. These results could possibly reflect the transitioning of the target audience’s and inclusion of genders in cooking, however it would be hard to base that transition on what we are seeing in these results as it is too small of a number.
In Q2 respondents stated shows, as you can see, that have been over dramatised as a way of gaining viewership through entertainment qualities. The Katering show has completely changed the way in which audiences respond to cooking. They explore popular culinary trends as well as targeting audiences through comedy. MKR and Masterchef both focus on reality TV and contestant competition as a way of gaining audience viewership through getting to know contestants in a personal way and what the expert chefs have to say about their dishes in comparison to another contestant as a way of getting through the competition. These two shows incorporate a lot of different elements which all add to the entertainment rather than the method of cooking in order to appeal to audiences. There are also celebrity chef mentions such as Gino, Jamie Oliver, Zumbo and Gordon Ramsey which have been distinguished by The Food Network as Lifestyle shows also known as vicarious consumption.
As we can see the majority of respondents watch cooking programs via free-to-air which provides cooking programs 24/7 for all viewers, making it the most watched channel when it comes to cooking. This is reflected in the responses with over 77% sourcing it from free-to-air. Worth comparing is the idea that the food network aims to ‘teach, inspire and empower through expertise’ yet the majority of my respondents who said they watched free-to-air also stated that they believed cooking shows focus more an entertainment than on the actual method of cooking food.
As seen above most respondents stated they watched the shows for entertainment rather than cooking. I truly believe that although cooking programs have altered their content to get viewership and adhere to what the audience wants, cooking is no longer the main priority of these shows. I mean sure, they are based around cooking and can draw in an audience with the food that they cook but getting an audience to stay has resulted in the hybridity of food programs with comedy, health, reality and fantasy all meddling with cooking.
The above two questions relate to one-another quite significantly. In Q5 over half of the respondents stated they don’t cook from the shows or programs that they are watching. Which suggests that the cooking programs are no longer creating engagement with the audience. No longer does the audience watch cooking programs with the intention of learning to cook but rather a source of enjoyment. Over half of the respondents however follow recipes from the internet. This could suggest that respondents only watch shows for entertainment and when they need to cook they go to the internet which again suggests that a shows aim has changed from teaching people to cook, to entertaining them.
This response sums up my research undertaken. This is visual prove that there is a complete shift in the way cooking shows have constructed the content to compete with other channels gaining viewership and an audience interaction. You could say it changes the way society even thinks towards cooking. Think back to the way gender was targeted in cooking, transitioning into acceptance of both genders and then adding different qualities to enhance viewership of cooking channels. Many chefs often become frustrated with the fact that people have a bigger say in the way the meal tastes and is presented with the emergence of these ‘reality cooking shows’ . Chefs also state that there is an extreme amount of young chefs who don’t understand the industry and have a preconceived idea of cooking from ‘glamourised TV’.
Upon researching this topic, I have always been interested in food. The way it was made, where the produce came from, the respect of culture, the way the food looked and tasted and the methods used to create it. Growing up, my nan and I would cook every weekend. We would watch cooking shows and she would jot down the ingredients and method and then we would walk to the shops and carry back the produce, excited to recreate the dish that we had viewed on TV. Emeril Live was always a favourite in the house because it focused on the method of the recipe in detail. You could say I grew up with a lot of respect for traditional cooking and following recipes. Now we have hybridised cooking programs, which I admit are highly entertaining but personally I feel like they are missing the point of cooking, similar to the responses that I have received in the survey.
When deciding what qualitative research I should conduct, a survey came to mind in order to collect systemised material derived from respondents own observations. Surveys in this regard were used to explore the individuals own experience surrounding cooking on TV without any influence of what their answers may be. By keeping the survey anonymous, respondents were also more likely to say what they felt rather than being swayed by particular opinions etc.
One of the challenges faced with surveying was the fact that some questions were skipped which challenged the validity of what I could assess and how I was going to present the results in a none bias, clear way. I chose therefore to add the results from the survey in a blog post and critically analyse the results with links to further readings. This means that if a reader would like to look further into my research to deem whether it is valuable and adding to the critical analysis, they could. It also means that I don’t have the challenge of reflexivity although I have a background and opinion on the issue. Within my analysis I tried not to insert myself into the analysis of the results otherwise readers may be swayed to look at the results through my opinion. By adding the hyperlinks I have given readers there own time to analyse and have their own opinion. In this regard I have worked hard to ensure that my prior knowledge is backed up by the sources in order to reduce reflexivity.
Transferability has also been a huge focus, which is one of the main reasons I chose to do a anonymous survey. It is data and information that can be transferred and used again without being taken out of context in different forms of mine and other people research. Interpretation and analysis is both focused while adding engaging research to what the data is suggesting. Overall I worked extremely close with this text to ensure that the way I was analysing the data and the way I was discussing my ethnography experience were no way influencing one another in a way that would sway the data collected. Through using data and providing online access, media industries can grasp a good understanding of the way a particular cooking show is accepted by its audience. The data also gives media industries a good example of what they could improve on and what they shouldn’t be adding so much of in order to achieve a greater target audience as well as sticking to the aim of the industries production content. Surveys are great at analysing what the audience thinks about a product or even design in order to understand who your audience is and what they are after.