In Encoding/Decoding, Hall (1980) proposed a model of mass communication that highlights the importance of active interpretation within relevant codes. Hall rejects textual determinism and states “decodings do not follow inevitably from encodings.” In contrast to some previous models, Hall gives a significant role to the decoder. His model contains the following components:

  • moment of encoding, when the ‘institutional practices and organizational conditions and practices of production’;
  • moment of text: ‘the symbolic construction, arrangement, and perhaps performance. The form and content of what is published or broadcast’;
  • and moment of decoding: ‘the moment of reception or consumption.”

According to Hall, mass media codes offer readers social identities that they may choose to adapt as their own but they are not determined to accept the codes. Decodings are likely to be different from the encoder’s intended meaning. Hall stresses the social positioning in the interpretation of mass media text by different social groupos. Hall suggests three hypothetical interpretative codes or positions for the reader of a text:

  • Dominant reading: the reader fully shares the text’s code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading.
  • Negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text’s code and broadly accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists and modifies it in a way that reflects his own position, experiences, and interests.
  • Oppositional reading: the reader is in a social situation that places him or her in direct opposition to the dominant code. The reader understands the preferred reading but does not share the text’s code and rejects the reading, bringing to bear an alternative frame of reference.