Audience theory

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Audience theory

  1. 1. Audience Theory
  2. 2. Audience - Overview <ul><li>A media audience may be as small as one person reading a magazine or as large as billions of people around the world watching events, like 9/11, unfold live on television. </li></ul><ul><li>Audiences have a complex relationship with the products they consume. Media producers intend audiences to read their product in a certain way, but in actual fact everyone 'reads' and enjoys a product differently due to the individual's background and lifestyle. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Audience – Overview cont. <ul><li>Media audiences may be consuming different types of media at any one time (such as listening to an iPod, watching TV, chatting on the Internet) and be engaging at different levels – for example, the television may be turned on whilst a family has dinner. </li></ul><ul><li>Media consumers are organised into identified groups (based on such things as lifestyle or earning power) by producers, broadcasters and advertisers who can then target consumers. </li></ul><ul><li>Most media products are produced for profit – so producers and advertisers are more likely to target those groups with spending power such as urban professionals between the ages of 25–40 </li></ul>
  4. 4. The effects/hypodermic model <ul><li>The original model for audience was the effects/hypodermic model which stressed the effects of the mass media on their audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>This model owes much to the supposed power of the mass media - in particular film - to inject their audiences with ideas and meanings. </li></ul><ul><li>Such was the thinking behind much of the Nazi propaganda that was evident in Triumph of the Will and similar films. </li></ul><ul><li>It is worth noting that totalitarian states and dictatorships are similar in their desire to have complete control over the media, usually in the belief that strict regulation of the media will help in controlling entire populations. </li></ul><ul><li>The effects model has several variants and despite the fact that it is an outdated model it continues to exert influence in present debates about censorship and control in the media. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Uses and gratifications <ul><li>A more recent model of audience is that of uses and gratifications, which suggests that there is a highly active audience making use of the media for a range of purposes designed to satisfy needs such as entertainment, information and identification. </li></ul><ul><li>In this model the individual has the power and selects the media texts that best suit her needs and her attempts to satisfy those needs. </li></ul><ul><li>The psychological basis for this model is the hierarchy of needs identified by Maslow. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Uses and gratifications cont. <ul><li>Among the chief exponents of this model are McQuail and Katz. The main areas that are identified in this model are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a) the need for information about our geographical and social world (news and drama) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>b) the need for identity , by using characters and personalities to define our sense of self and social behaviour (film and celebrities) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>c) the need for social interaction through experiencing the relationships and interaction of others (soap lives and sitcom) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>d) the need for diversion by using the media for purposes of play and entertainment (game shows and quizzes). </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. The active audience <ul><li>More recent developments still, suggest that there is a decoding process going on among the active audience who are not simply using the media for gratification purposes. </li></ul><ul><li>Morley's view of dominant, negotiated and oppositional readings of texts is a semiological approach because it recognises the importance of the analysis of signs, particularly visual signs, that shape so much of modern media output. </li></ul><ul><li>In this model, at its simplest level, the audience accept or agree with the encoded meanings, they accept and refine parts of the text's meanings or they are aware of the dominant meaning of the text but reject it for cultural, political or ideological reasons.   </li></ul>
  8. 8. The active audience cont. (Mode of Address) <ul><li>Still in line with the active audience idea is the concept of mode of address. This refers to the way that a text speaks to us in a style that encourages us to identify with the text because it is 'our' kind of text. </li></ul><ul><li>For example Friends is intended for a young audience because of the way it uses music and the opening credits to develop a sense of fun, energy and enthusiasm that the perceived audience can identify with. </li></ul><ul><li>This does not mean that other groups are excluded, merely that the dominant mode of address is targetted at the young. </li></ul><ul><li>Mode of address can even be applied to entire outputs, as in the case of Channel Four which works hard to form a style of address aimed at an audience which is informed, articulate and in some ways a specialised one. </li></ul><ul><li>Newspapers, too, often construct their presentation to reflect what they imagine is the identity of their typical readers. Compare The Sun and The Guardian in this context. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Ethnographic Model <ul><li>The latest research into audience has resulted in an ethnographic model, which means that the researcher enters into the culture of the group and uses questions and interviews to try to understand media engagement from the perspective of the group. </li></ul><ul><li>What seems to be emerging from this work is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a) the focus on the domestic context of reception of media texts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>b) the element of cultural competence, and finally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>c) technologies. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Ethnographic Model <ul><li>The first of these stresses the fact that engagement with the media is often structured by the domestic environment because of the domestication of entertainment and leisure. </li></ul><ul><li>It appears that the home is not a free space and there are issues about finance for purchase of media goods, control of the remote, the gendered nature of watching TV and the 'flow' of TV that fits alongside or within a set of domestic relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>So TV viewing may not be the concentrated, analytical business that some theorists suggest. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Ethnographic Model <ul><li>The second area is best understood in terms of texts that can be identified as belonging to a genre that has gender appeal. For example, soaps are usually seen to have a strong female bias in viewing audience. There is a selection of competencies that are brought to such texts so knowing about cliffhangers, the role of the matriarch or the fluid nature of character relationships simply adds to the pleasures associated with the text. Think about the texts that you enjoy and even though you know how a text will be shaped or how it will end these are not barriers to your enjoyment of that text. </li></ul><ul><li>Competencies even include the very expectations that you have for the text. The male preference for news and more factual forms can be seen as a feature of cultural competence because men occupy more public space than domestic space and therefore feel the need to be aware of the public worlds reflected in such texts. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Ethnographic Model <ul><li>The third area identified relates to the way we engage with the hardware in order to enjoy the output of the media. </li></ul><ul><li>There seems to be a strong gender divide here with computers and complex technology fitting into the category of 'boys’ toys'. </li></ul><ul><li>If present trends in technology continue then there is a real danger that just as our society is dividing along lines of information-rich and information-poor then there will be a further demarcation along gender lines. </li></ul><ul><li>This explains why schools and TV programmes need to present positive gender representations and good practice that supports females and technological expertise. </li></ul><ul><li>You will note that many of the lifestyle programmes that are on TV use females in less traditional roles as a way of redressing the balance. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Ethnographic Model <ul><li>Overall the shift in the models for audience has gone from mass audience to individual viewer with stress on the active audience rather than the passive model. </li></ul><ul><li>The level of activity in the implied audience is related to the uses, pleasures, cultural competence, situation and available technology for the particular audience. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Pause! <ul><li>The next section goes into a bit more detail about some of the ideas explored above... </li></ul>
  15. 15. 1. The Hypodermic Needle Model (More detail) <ul><li>Dating from the 1920s, this theory was the first attempt to explain how mass audiences might react to mass media. It is a crude model and suggests that audiences passively receive the information transmitted via a media text, without any attempt on their part to process or challenge the data. </li></ul><ul><li>This theory was developed in an age when the mass media were still fairly new - radio and cinema were less than two decades old. Governments had just discovered the power of advertising to communicate a message, and produced propaganda to try and sway populaces to their way of thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>This was particularly rampant in Europe during the First World War and its aftermath. </li></ul>
  16. 16. 1. The Hypodermic Needle Model (More detail) Cont. <ul><li>Basically, the Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that the information from a text passes into the mass consciouness of the audience unmediated , ie the experience, intelligence and opinion of an individual are not relevant to the reception of the text. </li></ul><ul><li>This theory suggests that, as an audience, we are manipulated by the creators of media texts, and that our behaviour and thinking might be easily changed by media-makers. </li></ul><ul><li>It assumes that the audience are passive and heterogenous . </li></ul><ul><li>This theory is still quoted during moral panics by parents, politicians and pressure groups, and is used to explain why certain groups in society should not be exposed to certain media texts (comics in the 1950s, rap music in the 2000s), for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent behaviour and will then act them out themselves. </li></ul>
  17. 17. 2. Two-Step Flow (More detail) <ul><li>The Hypodermic model quickly proved too clumsy for media researchers seeking to more precisely explain the relationship between audience and text. </li></ul><ul><li>As the mass media became an essential part of life in societies around the world and did NOT reduce populations to a mass of unthinking drones, a more sophisticated explanation was sought. </li></ul><ul><li>Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet analysed the voters' decision-making processes during a 1940 presidential election campaign and published their results in a paper called The People's Choice . </li></ul>
  18. 18. 2. Two-Step Flow (More detail) Cont. <ul><li>Their findings suggested that the information does not flow directly from the text into the minds of its audience unmediated but is filtered through &quot;opinion leaders&quot; who then communicate it to their less active associates, over whom they have influence. </li></ul><ul><li>The audience then mediate the information received directly from the media with the ideas and thoughts expressed by the opinion leaders, thus being influenced not by a direct process, but by a two step flow. </li></ul><ul><li>This diminished the power of the media in the eyes of researchers, and caused them to conclude that social factors were also important in the way in which audiences interpreted texts. </li></ul><ul><li>This is sometimes referred to as the limited effects paradigm . </li></ul>
  19. 19. 3. Uses & Gratifications (More detail) <ul><li>During the 1960s, as the first generation to grow up with television became grown ups, it became increasingly apparent to media theorists that audiences made choices about what they did when consuming texts. </li></ul><ul><li>Far from being a passive mass, audiences were made up of individuals who actively consumed texts for different reasons and in different ways. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1948 Lasswell suggested that media texts had the following functions for individuals and society: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>surveillance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>correlation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>entertainment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>cultural transmission </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 20. 3. Uses & Gratifications (More detail) Cont. <ul><li>Researchers Blulmer and Katz expanded this theory and published their own in 1974, stating that individuals might choose and use a text for the following purposes (ie uses and gratifications): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Diversion - escape from everyday problems and routine. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal Relationships - using the media for emotional and other interaction, eg) substituting soap operas for family life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal Identity - finding yourself reflected in texts, learning behaviour and values from texts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Surveillance - Information which could be useful for living eg) weather reports, financial news, holiday bargains </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Since then, the list of Uses and Gratifications has been extended, particularly as new media forms have come along (eg video games, the internet) </li></ul>
  21. 21. 4. Reception Theory <ul><li>Extending the concept of an active audience still further, in the 1980s and 1990s a lot of work was done on the way individuals received and interpreted a text, and how their individual circumstances (gender, class, age, ethnicity) affected their reading. </li></ul><ul><li>This work was based on Stuart Hall's encoding/decoding model of the relationship between text and audience - the text is encoded by the producer, and decoded by the reader, and there may be major differences between two different readings of the same code. </li></ul><ul><li>However, by using recognised codes and conventions, and by drawing upon audience expectations relating to aspects such as genre and use of stars, the producers can position the audience and thus create a certain amount of agreement on what the code means. </li></ul><ul><li>This is known as a preferred reading. </li></ul>

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