With reference to particular problems of interpretations that radio listeners of today are likely to encounter when listening to a Norwegian radio reportage from the 1930s, this article discusses the question of whether it is possible for present-day readers/viewers/ listeners or text analysts to understand texts from the past in the way that they were originally meant to be understood. It is argued that we need to gain some kind of access to the contexts that once engendered the texts if we are to arrive at historically acceptable interpretations and explanations of them. The article suggests a solution to the problem of historical text analysis, namely historical context reconstruction. This solution is concretised in terms of a specific methodology, which has here been used for research on the formation and first development of the genre system of Norwegian radio. This methodology involves the application of three different text-context models for discourse-analytical purposes:
1. Halliday’s structural correlation model
2. The multistratal realisation model developed within social semiotics
This article deals with the formation and first development of the radio genre system in Norway in the interwar years (1925-1940). It is shown that the programmes of the 1920s were mostly imperfect reproductions of existent cultural forms. Yet, a beginning modernization of the genre repertoire took place in the 1930s. Whereas the rudimentary genre repertoire of the 1920s was built up through a plain copying from other domains in society, the latter half of the 1930s saw the introduction of a more advanced genre-generating process whereby new genres were formed through a mixing of two or more existing norms. This article also identifies a number of developmental trends that had their slow start in the 1920s and would mark the evolution of Norwegian radio’s registers and genres ever since.
Technology, Textuality, and Discursive Roles and Relations
The present article takes its points of departure in medium and modernity theory (Meyrowitz 1985), as well as in the research on the special meaning patterns in developed broadcasting referred to as “para-social interaction” (Horton & Wohl 1956) and “flow” (Williams 1974, Ellis 1982). The empirical focus is on the early years of radio broadcasting in Norway (1925-1940). Through a detailed analysis of the relation between radio’s production and distribution technologies, on the one hand, and the formation of the medium’s textuality and discursive roles and relationships, on the other, the article assesses which stage in the fostering of a new sense of time and place Norwegian broadcasting had reached when the 1930s ebbed out. It is shown that very little in the way of the “blurring” of traditional distinctions between here and there, live and mediated, personal and public had become realities in the Norwegian context of the 1930s.