Studio 04: Knowing Audiences

Studio brief

In this studio we will be thinking about audiences, how they can be understood, theorised and researched. The advent of mass media and broadcasting led to concerns over the power of the media in influencing the public, and the negative effects media might produce. We will consider these arguments, and then look at alternative perspectives which emphasise the positive, creative aspects of being an 'audience' and how digital technologies – particularly the internet – can be seen as supporting and encouraging this creativity. Alongside this, we will also look at how qualitative research methods allow researchers to generate rich data which helps us to understand how 'audiencing' works, and how people make meanings from the media they consume.

Students will be encouraged to consider a specific audience group and will be guided on how this audience might be studied, analysed and understood in a range of situational and theoretical contexts. We will consider theories of media effects, cultivation, propaganda, reception theories, and the arguments around interactive and participatory media that are linked to the rise of digital media. We will choose a specific film and consider how audiences might interpret, understand and engage with it in the context of various theoretical approaches.

Suggested readings, resources and preparatory activities

Read this story by The Guardian. What does it suggest about TV? What does it suggest about horror movies? Who are the experts here? How is this linked to arguments around the value of popular culture? We will discuss these issues in the studio. 

Reading List 

  • Alasuutari P (ed.) (1999) Rethinking the Media Audience: The New Agenda. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications UK 
  • Barker M, Arthurs J and Harindranath R (2001) The Crash Controversy: Censorship Campaigns and Film Reception. Wallflower Press 
  • Barker M and Petley J (2001) Ill effects: the media/violence debate. 2nd ed. Communication and society. London: Routledge 
  • Gauntlett D (2011) Making is connecting: the social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Hills M (2002) Fan cultures. Sussex studies in culture and communication, London: Routledge
  • Jenkins H (2006) Fans, bloggers, and gamers: exploring participatory culture. New York ; London: New York University Press 
  • Sullivan JL (2012) Media Audiences: Effects, Users, Institutions, and Power. SAGE Publications, Inc.
An audience seating on a theatre stage


Tutor Jeremy Collins

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