Let’s see how far we’ve come: the role of empirical methodology in exploring television audiences



Publication Details

C. E. Sharp, 'Let’s see how far we’ve come: the role of empirical methodology in exploring television audiences' in P. Robson & J. Silbey(ed), Law and Justice on the Small Screen (2012) 111-132.

Additional Publication Information

This is a wide-ranging collection of essays about law in and on television. In light of the book's innovative taxonomy of the field and its international reach, it will make a novel contribution to the scholarly literature about law and popular culture.


The relationship between law and popular culture has invited great interest among scholars over the years. It is a field that invites the merging of disciplinary boundaries and allows for plurality in the ways that law can be understood. Viewing the relationship between law and popular culture from the vantage point of the viewer is an expanding research interest. Given the influential effects wrought by focuses upon cultural diversity and plurality, this interdisciplinary field invites the exploration of law as it is conceived and portrayed within visual cultural forms. Increasingly, scholars are looking beyond traditional legal narratives in order to better understand the various ways in which law is understood and perceived by the general public. This has meant that greater attention has been paid to stories of law as told in popular culture, with many scholars researching film and television as one avenue through which to say something meaningful about the way people respond to the law. Over the years these scholars have examined the way in which 'a popular understanding of the law and lawyers is constituted by interpretive references and devices employed in the communicative mediums of television, film and literature'. 1 These examinations have been accomplished, for example, by making serious studies of the ways in which trials are portrayed in film, or by evaluating portrayals of female lawyers on television. Attracting a variety of scholars from film studies, literary theory, cultural studies, sociology and law, the multidisciplinary nature of such an enterprise enriches the research quantum by enabling points of difference to be rigorously debated. Work in this diverse and seemingly amorphous field is largely connected by a desire to explore the meaning and representation of law within a variety of cultural contexts, and as a body of scholarship it describes the site of a complex encounter between contemporary culture and law.

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