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Television organizations might also use the Internet message boards as a rich medium to investigate audience response. TV Globo did have a message board for the telenovela, as well as Telemundo. However, the message board on Telemundo does not use the threaded format, which makes it difficult to have the posts as a dialogue. The web site for the telenovela might also be used as a continuation of the educational process that is initiated by the telenovela. For example, in the Globo “O Clone” web site there are many additional sources of information regarding alcoholism and Muslim culture. Visitors to the web site can learn about the different Arabic words used in the novela and their translation, as well as having deeper explanations of the themes touched by the novela.

This research methodology collaborates to the practice of audience studies, with the utilization of the Internet and the discussion board as the background for the study. The study of the posts allows for the observation of the reactions and comments of the forum participants in their own words, through the analysis of the messages, and without the researcher’s interference. It helps to comprehend how they translate the telenovela message, how they help each other to clarify misconceptions and misrepresentations, and how they relate what they see in the novela into their lives and how they critically interpret the cultural content of the soap. The message writers are highly involved with the telenovela, their participation in the forum attest to that. It is important to emphasize that the differentiated audience, fans of the telenovela, does not allow extrapolation of the conclusions to the general population of viewers of the telenovela. However, this limitation should not overshadow the significance of the study. The research results can be important to generate additional examination and inquiry efforts in an area where there is need of further exploration (McAnany & La Pastina, 1999).

This dissertation has an axiological philosophical approach where the values of the researcher are expressed, not only in the selection of the theme, but also in the theories that sustain the investigation. The theoretical framework for this research combines Bandura’s social learning/cognitive theory notion of vicarious learning, self-reflective capabilities, and Freire’s theory of dialogue and critical thinking. These theories share a common belief that individuals and communities have the intrinsic power to bring change through self-efficacy and empowerment.

The utilization of the media as an educational tool has been implemented in Entertainment-educational programs, based on Bandura’s social learning/cognitive theory model of vicarious learning. These programs are usually based on the dominant paradigm of development communications, which believes in the utilization of the media in the promotion of social change. On the other hand, Freire’s dialogical communication believes in interpersonal communication and community participation to accomplish change. Participatory strategies advocate including the needs and wants of the population in the process. Scholars that examined entertainment-education strategies have established the need of interpersonal communication in order to change behavior (Papa et. al, 2000). And some evaluators of the participatory approach have also recognized the need of transmission of knowledge in the implementation of projects (Morris, 2001).

This study is an indication that it is possible to find a common ground in both theories and come up with a construct that will allow the utilization of the media as an important font of information dissemination, but also take into account interpersonal interactions, dialogue, and critical thinking. The online messages are related to the telenovela content related to Muslim culture, and the shared knowledge and experiences that take place in the forum can be analyzed as part of the construction of the social learning environment and the participatory communication. The viewers learn vicariously by watching the televised drama and by sharing their understanding and doubts in the message board.

Even though these theories are sometimes seen as opposite, in this research they are actually complementary. The intention here is not to mix Bandura and Freire and come up with a third theory, but it is rather to understand these theories in their essence and find a common denominator. At the heart of these theories lie their commonalities: the belief that individuals and communities have the intrinsic power to bring change through self-efficacy and empowerment.

The effectiveness of this construct is demonstrated in using these two theories to anchor this research. This new approach allowed for the elaboration of a proposed model that extracted the ideas of vicarious learning, self-reflective capabilities from Bandura’s social learning theory and the notions of critical thinking and dialogue championed by Freire along with their common belief in self-efficacy and empowerment.



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