John Fiske

Biography of John Fiske

John Fiske (born 1939) is a media scholar who has taught around the world, most notably as Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His areas of interest include popular culture, mass culture, and television studies. He is the author of eight books, including Power Plays, Power Works (1993), Understanding Popular Culture (1989), Reading the Popular (1989), and the influential Television Culture (1987). Fiske also acts as a media critic, examining how cultural meaning is created in American society, and how debates over issues such as race are handled in different media. In May 2008, Fiske received an Honorary Degree from the University of Antwerp.


Fiske was educated in Britain. After graduating from Cambridge University he taught throughout the world including Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. He was the general editor of Cultural Studies at Curtin University in Western Australia, Australia during the 1980s to early 1990s. He is the author of books on television studies on popular culture and mass media. Fiske's books analyze television shows as "texts" to examine the different layers of meaning and sociocultural content. Fiske disagrees with the theory that mass audiences consume the products that are offered to them without thought. Fiske rejects the notion of "the audience" which assumes an uncritical mass. He instead suggests "audiences" with various social backgrounds and identities enabling them to receive texts differently.

Fiske's 1987 textbook on television, Television Culture, introduces the subject of television studies by examining the economic and cultural issues and the theory and text-based criticism. It also gives an overview of the arguments by British, American, Australian and French scholars. It was "one of the first books about television to take seriously the feminist agenda that has been so important to the recent development of the field." Fiske is considered one of the first scholars applying semiotics to media texts following the tradition of poststructuralism, and coined the term semiotic democracy.

His life

In 1994, John Fiske and his wife Lisa Freeman established their own antiques shop - "Fiske & Freeman: Fine and Early Antiques'. Fiske is also the editor-in-chief of the New England Antiques Journal.

In 2000 he was granted Emeritus status as a Professor of Letters and Science/ Communication Arts after having taught at the University for 12 years (University of Wisconsin, 2000). He has since retired from academia, devoting himself full-time to antiques in Belmont, Vermont; Fiske and Freeman relocated to Ipswich, Massachusetts in 2008.

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