Slide 2 – Defining the
are formations of people.
they are constructed through attendance at an
event, which is some sort of a shared experience in space and time.
mediated communication facilitates (a)synchronous,
mediated participation in social events. The people at these events
have little connection with each other than an interest in the event
attending or witnessing (by radio, TV, or the internet): football,
motor racing, Sunday religious services, X-Factor, Sydney-Hobart yacht
Year’s Eve fireworks, etc.
they may be linked by being subcultures;
fans, ethnic groups, indigenous or religious communities,
or even households. Members of these groups have certain shared
Those formations are shaped by pre-existing social and cultural
conditions, and exist independently of the media. The event is not the
that brings them together – we consider the shared perspectives as well.
An audience may also be
a small local group such as those attending a church service, school
day, or a theatre performance. Their audience requires the conjunction
interest with a designated space and time.
Groups who frequent internet
chat groups are separated in space, and those in
email list groups are separated in space and perhaps in time as well,
are audiences nevertheless.
As I pointed out last
week, being an audience requires more than just being in a particular
a particular time, otherwise everyone on a railway platform at a
time would be an audience. All the people having dinner at McDonald’s
an audience. Something extra is required.
A group becomes
an audience when participation becomes structured according to
relationship affected by the informational dimension of the event. For
a group on a railway platform becomes an audience when the station staff make an announcement on the PA system and people listen and respond to it. A
group at dinner becomes an audience when someone
begins to tell a story and the guests pay attention to it.
The media-tization of
information is often assumed to encompass the power and control
the event, but the increasing complexity of the media environment and
growing diversity of audience engagements mean it’s time to expand our
definition of ‘media audience’.
to Ross &
Nightingale, Audience events “occupy an increasingly pivotal role as
by which knowledge is transformed into social, cultural, economic and
action” (Ross & Nightingale, 2003: 6-7).
an audience involves more than being in a gathering.
Rather, a group of people become an audience when participation is
“according to power relations
governing the access to and use
made of the informational
dimension of the event” (Ross & Nightingale, 2003: 5). Henceforth,
audiences involve processes of privilege and exclusion, asymmetry
parties that speak and the parties that respond. Accordingly, new media
technologies not only affect the access to information, and the uses to
this information may be put, but has the potential to foster new power
relations (or reinforce existing structures) between different parties.
into audiences is increasingly important to make
sense of these processes.
technologies develop, and as media audiences globalise
and fragment, and as the different media converge, there are shifts in
kinds of interactions that are associated with being part of an
audience is not a thing but rather a role enacted by
formations of people. These people also have the capacity to function
markets and publics. These three concepts overlap but interrelate in
ways, by means of mediated communication.
media can deliver immediacy and agency.
Media events like Australian Idol and So
you think you can dance and The X Factor exploit this
agency. They treat audiences as markets.
and email lists are the public forums of earlier
times, and they treat audiences as publics.
enabling audiences to respond to media and generate
media, the new media environment is still governed by a complex set of
relations that enable particular citizens to take part in the
exercise control over events.
mass audience of the twentieth century is replaced by audience
formations in the
by the High Court, announced on 6 Aug 2012: if
someone puts something offensive on your Facebook page, it is your
responsibility to take it down. How does this affect the audience
4 & 5
history of the Audience
the early history of media, the audience was treated with contempt. Traditionally
have been seen as
“mindless, ignorant, defenceless, naïve and manipulated or exploited”
(Livingstone, 2005: 10). These attitudes intensified with the
proliferation of media, although they predate the invention of
mass media by thousands of
the twentieth century, audiences were a concern because of their passivity, or lack of agency. They
were susceptible to political and social propaganda. However, in the
century audiences were feared because of their agency, rather
deficiency of it. Today, forms of mediation are changing, with
public being mediated by ever more diversified, pervasive and subtle
mass communication and interactive communication.
not just a technological shift in communicative forms but also a social
The media are less separatated to discrete
but act to blur traditional boundaries between work/leisure,
education/entertainment, domestic/civic, and local/global.
Is Social Media Accurate?
Boston bombings were covered by mass media AND social media (bystanders had phones)
Mass media mistakenly identified 2 Chechen brothers (and others)
Social media made same mistakes, especially Reddit.com
essential role in order to have a functioning democratic system.
notion of the public sphere is related to liberal democratic
privileges the notion of the free exchange of ideas, ignoring the way
particular citizens and discursive strategies have always been
mass media is often considered a threat to the public sphere, as people
emphasised its capacity to control and 'dumb down' public discourse, at
expense of acknowledging its capacity to inform the public in myriad
Discourse is often reduced to a brief news grab.
Audience as a Market –
essential role in order to have a
functioning capitalist system.
market rejects the necessity for fair information,
suggesting that the management of populations on behalf of
interests is not only a part of commercial exploitation but also a part
political manipulation that masquerades as rational discourse.
market sees the mass media as a tool that enables the
promotion of consumerism and advertisement of goods and services.
market transforms audiences into units sold to
public is an aggregate of people who engage in public
discussion on issues of concern to the state. It is quite distinct from
government and from people engaged in private affairs, whether at home
social institutions that ‘house’ such discussions
constitute the public sphere. Ideas about the public sphere are based
ancient Greek and Rome where citizens assembled in forums to consider
facing their city-state. (Heater, 2004)
ideas and institutions faded from European culture in
the middle ages, but gradually reappeared in the early modern period
Century Europe re-established publics
as a valued idea and emphasised reason as the necessary mode of
size of eighteenth century nation-states made assemblies
of even a select class of citizens impracticable, and so the press
integral to the concept of national publics.
the twentieth century, other media, in particular
broadcasting, were added to this. But the
growth of media raised concerns about whether
publics or are a tool for publics.
Views of media audiences
There are 4 competing views of media audiences:
1. Media audiences as Public Good
2. Media audiences as Marketplaces
3. Media audiences as Communities
4. Media audiences as Producers
Mass Media as a Public Good
Powerful connection between the individual and the Public Sphere.
Media represents the public to itself
Problems occur when the mass media itself is influenced by government, private sector, or individuals
Recent media reports re Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd
inception, television was perceived as good for the public. Television,
all mass media, creates a powerful connection between the individual
public sphere. As a result of this perception, the industry was
subsidised by the government, limiting commercial competition, and
codes for the transmission of information. For example, there were
codes to control
advertising and “adult” content.
knowledge generated by shared exposure creates an imagined public
is all the more convincing to its audiences because the media also
the public to itself. Audiences tend to assume that the public sphere
the mass media is an accurate representation of what they need to know
participate as citizens in the democratic process.
these shortcomings, mass media is crucial for its capacity to engage in
deliberation. This entails the problematisation
discussion of issues that are of social relevance, enabling a consensus
achieved through argument.
Mass Media as a Marketplace
TV media content is produced for profit
Media space can be used to sell commodities to audiences via advertising
Focus on maintenance of capitalism
Audience research focuses on ratings and market share
audiences as consumers transforms the relationship between content
and audiences. This concept is
built on two relatively simple bases.
The first is that media content is produced for
The second is that media is a space where commodities
can be directly marketed to audiences.
Rather than expressing a duty to inform audiences of
information that is vital to democracy, it engages in strategies that
to the maintenance of capitalism. The
practice of inserting advertisements amongst media content affects the
in rather pronounced ways.
Content is designed to attract the maximum number of
viewers and hence deliver the largest audience of potential consumers
Content is motivated to keep the audience ready to
consume. It's not so important to give audiences a message
as it is to grab their attention.
Approaches to researching audiences in this context
traditionally follow the (rather pedestrian) logic of ratings, market
Research into Media Audiences - Effects
Typical of academic communication/health research
Affected by prevailing social and cultural concerns
Assesses the efficiency of marketing strategies
Effects of violent media on children
Effects of pornography on adults
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt5MjBlvGcY (Hypodermic needle theory)
into media audiences is affected by the prevailing social and cultural
of its era. For example, attention to models that emphasised the power
propaganda were popular in the aftermath of the second world war, as
researchers attempted to come to terms with the role that mass media
mobilising groups of individuals to attack and dehumanise one another.
Similarly, the contemporary focus upon the effect that media has upon
is a product of particular ideas about, and social realities of,
contemporary society e.g. The idea that children are vulnerable to
they are 'blank slates; for culture to inscribe itself upon, relates to
lack of social and political power that children have (who are spoken
adults who “think of the children”).
research is of interest to researchers investigating audiences as
publics. Research into media audiences as markets tends to judge the
of particular form of marketing strategies.
bulk of research into media audience as a public has sought to
effects that exposure to particular kinds of media have upon particular
of people, e.g. the effects of “violent media” upon “children”.
as opposed to elite, forms of culture are most often the focus of this
reinforcing the notion that the masses are vulnerable to media effects.
Research has been discussed in the press in recent weeks due to a
return of the
discussion of whether an exposure to violent video games makes children
of Media Effects
models, which retain some popularity within the social sciences,
demonstrate causal relations and direct behavioural effects. However,
this research as any sort of conclusive answer is difficult because of
tendency to generate ad hoc hypotheses and engage in post
propter hoc fallacies of logic. The former problem creates research
self-serving, whilst the latter confuses correlation with causation.
these experiments are conducted in a
context that hamper extrapolation to audiences who aren't
subjected to violent or pornographic material in a laboratory.
Livingstone argues, “in the best field experiments – that is, those
in the most everyday or ordinary settings – the effects tend to be
to non-existent” (2005: 26).
other experiments, conducted in the field of communication studies,
power of media not as behavioural effect, but rather, a hermeneutic
that is probabilistic rather than deterministic.
week there is yet another discussion of the effect of violent video
games as a
training ground for violent behaviour.
of Media Communication
than asserting a direct line of meaning between the speaker and the
communication research acknowledges that contextual factors affect the
of a message.
Lasswell attempted to map the
communication in 1948, investigating, 'who says what in which channel
and with what effect?'
amended model of media communication appears as:
→ (other factors) → MESSAGE
→ (other factors) → RECEIVER
Hall constructed the Encoding/Decoding model
that attempted to explicate these “other factors” through the emphasis
His model centred the text as a piece of meaningful discourse
that was produced as meaningful only through the cyclical exchange of
frameworks, relations of production, technical infrastructure, and
Audiences as Communities
research methodologies were unable to produce results that seemed to
the complexity of audience responses to media. Communication models
move away from broad responses and pay attention to the range of
different audiences may experience.
nuanced response is germane to the third conceptualisation of media
evaluating audiences as communities.
(publics, then markets, then communities)
l Referring to audiences as communities emphasizes the
communal nature of cultural expression, and how media relates to
identity. As a member of the general public, we respond to mass media,
as consumers we respond to advertisements. As members of the media
we situate ourselves through fluency and identification with media
l This conceptualisation of
the audience was invaluable as it moved the research field from the
settings of the laboratory, where the researcher has a distant, almost
adversarial relationship to the audience;
embedded, ethnographic world. The audience was transformed from
subject into research collaborator, helping to define what questions
asked, rather than merely responding to the researcher's hypothesis.
of research brought the fandom under scrutiny, revealing complex media
engagements between audiences, text and media.
the ethnographer focuses attention on a community, selecting
knowledgeable informants who know the activities of the community well.
These informants are typically asked to identify other informants who represent the community, often using chain sampling.
This process is often effective in revealing common cultural denominators connected to the topic being studied.
Ethnography relies greatly on up-close, personal experience.
Participation, rather than just observation, is one of the keys to this
Ethnography is very useful in social research.
Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, ethnographic research methods began
to be widely employed by communication scholars. The purpose of
ethnography is to describe and interpret the shared and learned
patterns of values, behaviors, beliefs and language of a
Ethnographic work in communication studies seeks to explain "how"
ordinary methods/practices/performances construct the ordinary actions
used by ordinary people in the accomplishments of their identities.
This often gives the perception of trying to answer the "why" and "how
come" questions of human communication. Often this type of research
results in a case study or field study such as an analysis of speech
patterns at a protest rally, or the way firemen communicate during
"down time" at a fire station.
21st C technologies – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, reality TV, hypertext novels, mobile phone apps.
We are now living through a revolution in communication and media
choice. We have at our disposal the largest range of technologies with
which to both produce media and receive media. For some people their
phone has replaced the newspaper, the TV, the magazine, even their
computers. Some people spend more time on Facebook than any other
single activity, including sleep. The ability to record our very
significant lives and share events with our ‘friends’ has become the
basis of our existence.
No single sources of media, and multiple reception platforms
Problems arise in terms of ethics, accuracy, credibility.
I have a Facebook page, and someone makes an offensive
statement on it (or, presumably, puts an offensive picture on it), then
my responsibility to take it down, and failure to do so is the same as
made the statement myself.
does this affect your relationship with your audience? High
Court, reported by ABC News, 6 August 2012.
Aug 4: Twitter has introduced anti-abuse
tools to prevent death threats and rape threats aimed at women after a
journalist suggested that Jane Austen should appear on the 10 pound
note in UK. While the abusers were seen to be the perpetrators of
criminal acts, Twitter itself wishes to stop such acts. This is like
the telephone company trying to stop stalking or crank calls on its