Together with colleagues from DR, NRK, SVT and YLE I’ve studied how to measure viewers’ emotions when they watch television drama. Good television drama makes us asking for more because we’re emotionally attached to it. So how to measure emotions?
(From Nordvisions/2010 annual report pp. 96)
When television drama is at its best viewers are very much emotionally engaged. They identify with the characters and practically share their experiences. To reveal when viewers experience high or low levels of emotional engagement is therefore very important if we are to understand their overall impression of a drama series. A research collaboration involving YLE, SVT, NRK and DR in 2010 focused on ways of becoming better at revealing the emotional engagement of viewers in test groups.
Media Research Departments from the Nordic public service broadcasters were awarded resources from the NV Fund for a development project to develop the meth- ods normally used when testing television drama.
Testing TV drama is usually done in focus groups, where specially selected indi- viduals are interviewed about their experience of the broadcast. While the interview technique is very well developed it may still have its limitations, as there are many people who find it difficult to verbalize their emotional experiences. That is precisely why it is often difficult to uncover emotional involvement in a research context.
The focal point of the project was to find a solution to this problem. At a workshop at SVT in Stockholm, the project group agreed to combine test equipment from SVT with some new interview techniques, and then test these ideas. Using Mentometers, which are small remote control units, the test participants in the focus groups register their emotional experience while watching an episode of a drama series. It gives the researcher an idea of where viewers experience a high degree of emotional involvement. By rewatching the scenes which register most clearly overall, you can get the test participants to tell you exactly how they experience high emotional involvement.
The workshop was a great success. The method proved very useful, and by comparing the test results it was clear that the method also provided new insight compared to more traditional testing methods. The final phase of the project is the development of its own customized system to record test participants’ experiences during screening to the benefit of all the partners in the project. Development is being carried out at NRK and will end in March 2011.
The project was funded by Nordvision. Project participants were from the Audience Research Departments in YLE, SVT, NRK and DR.