Specificity of Critical Vocabulary

One of the goals of my intro class is to introduce critical vocabulary that not only allows students to analyze movies but also allows them to do the readings in the field that an upper-level class might require. One distinction I make to that end is between the viewer, the spectator, and the audience. In my mind these are three distinct concepts.

However, if you read in the field, scholars often use these terms interchangeably. So from a certain perspective, my usage is overly prescriptive - if the field does not as a whole distinguish between these, why should I or my students? From another perspective, though, there's a good case to be made that analytical clarity for critical vocabulary is a worthy goal.

But raises the problem of critical words that are not precise. The concept of ideology, for instance, is just the sort of idea that intermediate to advanced scholarship in the field relies on heavily. Yet anyone who's taught the concept before will realize how several definitions comprise what we call "ideology." Part of this is the subject of explicit debate (Stuart Hall v. Louis Althusser) but part of this goes unremarked, since the assumption is that scholars can apply their own fuzzy logic to determine what model is being invoked.

Do we teach that kind of fuzzy logic or the precision of definitions and models?

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