Conceptualising the Audience
In ‘Radio In the Global Age,’ Hendy talks about how consumers of radio can be seen as either active or passive depending on it is used. For example, a consumer can interact with the radio (phoning or texting in, social network pages, website) or just have it left on one station as background noise. The text also discusses Abercrombie’s ideas of what makes audiences passive when listening to the radio which are:
- ‘The content of programmes is trivial’
- ‘The mode of viewing/listening is passive’
- ‘The set of effects on the audience is narcotizing’
‘The Handbook of Media Audiences’ (Nightingale, 2011) includes audience theories by several theorist with different views on passive and active audiences. However, in the introduction, Nightingale states that she sees audiences as active, resulting in the amateur production of film, music and photography. However she does find it debatable whether use of social media can be considered active ‘new media audiences.’
As well as Abercrombie in ‘Radio and the Global Age,’ Adorno also believes that audiences are passive and that all media texts are read in the same way the homogenous mass of consumers. However, in ‘The Handbook of Media Audiences,’ Stuart Hall, whose incorporation/resistance model made him influential in audience theory disagrees with Adorno as he does not believe that audience automatically take the dominant reading of a text. He has stated that ‘reading or viewing constitutes a complex negotiation that creates multiple interpretation.’ (1979/91) Hall’s encoding/decoding model understands that audience members might read the oppositional or negotiated reading of a text.
Hendy critiques Adorno and Abercrombie’s view of all audiences as passive and believes they ‘underestimate the freedom of listeners to create meaning.’ This is supported by David Gauntlett in ‘The Handbook of Media Audiences’ with his Lego experiment (2006). This involved getting volunteers to make a Lego model as a visual metaphor for their identities. This suggests that consumers are able to create meaning themselves and do not rely on media texts to give them the dominant idea.
I felt that Hendy’s reading reflected parts of this week’s lecture. For example, Adorno’s views stated in this reading conform to the Marxist Popular and Mass Media Critique approach. Adorno believed that popular media was made by culture industries and were false needs sold to homogeneous passive consumers. He also felt that the accessibility of popular culture meant that high culture such as art and classical music were being forgotten.
I think for research into this area I would look at a range of polysemic media texts and hear the preferred readings from people of difference ages, genders, backgrounds and cultures to see how varied their responses are. I could then look to see if there are any patterns between similar groups of people.
Hendy, D, (2000). ‘Audiences’. In: (ed), Radio in the Global Age. 1st ed. UK: Polity Press. pp.(134-147).
Nightingale, V. 2011, ‘The Handbook of Media Audiences,’ Wiley-Blackwell, Malden