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Audience and Reception

Audience and Reception

As my term paper, I decided to do a research about the topic Audience and Receptio. Both of these terms are closely connected to mass media, as the audience is the focus group for media and reception is how this group feels about the presented medium. If we want to know something more about the term audience, we should dwell a bit into the history. In 192 a new !rankfurt school was formed. "ne of its main concerns was what effects could the mass media possibly ha#e, so they created a model called $%ffects&. 'his model understands society as a composition of isolated indi#iduals susceptible to media messages. 'he !rankfurt school saw the media as a hypodermic syringe. 'he media contents were distributed, or in(ected, into the audience)s thoughts and influenced them in such ways that the audience un*uestionably accepted the attitudes, opinions and belie#es e+pressed by the medium. 'he inspiration for this model was found in na,i -ermany, where film and radio were used as a mean of propaganda, and later it was implemented into the American society based on capitalism. 'he followers of the hypodermic model of %ffects adopted a #ariant of .ar+ism, which depicts the capitalism as a dangerous political tool that controlled and held influence on new forms of media and information. !ollowers of the %ffect model understand the audience as passi#e when recei#ing the interpretations of media te+ts. 'he te+t itself is considered to be a #ery significant tool with power to directly influence the audience. But there are also other approaches to understanding of audience and reception. In ne+t lines I will focus my attention on these three approaches / *uantitati#e, *ualitati#e and film studies approach.

Quantitative media studies approach to audience and reception

'he ultimate focus of *uantitati#e media studies approach is on predicting the occurrence and fre*uency of some phenomenon. !or instance, if we want to measure the #iolence in tele#ision or mo#ies, we can begin with counting the number of guns and weapons in a particular mo#ie and we could also try to e+plain why there were so many weapons. But the main issue would be / do people want to watch shows and mo#ies with so many weapons and #iolence0 And what impact does it ha#e on the people of #arious age categories watching such mo#ies and shows0 'hese are the *uestions on which the 2

*uantitati#e media studies approach focuses. 'he solution offered by this approach is to gather large groups of indi#iduals from all social groups, age categories, geographical locations and also with different #iewing habits. -athering such a mass of representati#es with different opinions allows the researcher to generali,e his findings and apply them to the bigger part of population. 1a#ing a large group of #arious representati#es or test sub(ects is also a good factor influencing the ob(ecti#ity of a research. $'he first conceptuali,ation of the audience in American *uantitati#e media studies largely referred to a mass of undifferentiated people who are anonymous to the producer of the mediated message and become a collecti#e of unorgani,ed indi#iduals centered on the use or e+posure to a particular media te+t.&

2owadays, the audience is seen as network of

people with potential to interact with each other and to discus and share their ideas and #iews about certain ob(ect of interest in the media. 3o when we talk about audience, we usually mean a group of people or set of indi#iduals, which implies that when we talk about an indi#idual related to audience, we talk about a single member of the audience or a media user. !or e+ample millions of Americans watching the presidential debate can be described as an audience. And when this audience is organi,ed and possesses ability to influence some public or social institution or organi,ation, we refer to this group of people as a public. But when speaking about entertainment media audiences, such as theater, film or music, the main focus is on the audience, not public, and how the media affect the audience. 4urrent researches tend to focus greatly on these factors. Researching how and whom do the media influence is an important thing for ad#ertisers, whose main goal is to influence potential customers. 5ue to this fact, the current researches tend to segment the potential audience according to the demographic lines such as age, ethnicity, gender or social status. 'hese researches help to understand which groups of audience can be better persuaded but also protected against certain negati#e factors such as #iolence or nudity. Another important part of *uantitati#e approach is the di#ision of the audience on acti#e and passi#e. 'he passi#e audience is a type of audience, which is easily influenced by the media)s messages. 1owe#er, the acti#e audience consists of indi#iduals that #aried in their decision which media)s messages will they accept and how will they interprete them. 'his shows us that the main issue today is to recogni,e which part of the audience is acti#e and which part is passi#e, and supply these two groups with appropriate media messages. 6hen the media researchers realised that the audience is not (ust group of people passi#ely accepting the media)s messages, but there are also acti#e groups, they ha#e to change their

-lynn, 1erbst, ")7eefe 8 3hapiro, 9ublic "pinion :Boulder, 6est#iew 9ress, 1999;

opinion about the reception. In the past, there was no need for paying attention how the audience recie#es the media content, because it was understood that e#erybody accepts e#erything. But since the acceptance of the acti#e part of the audience, researchers started to focus also on the reception / indi#idual interpretations of the media content. As they dwelled deeper and deeper into this issue, they started to ask new *uestions like do men and women differ in their understanding of se+ual images0 5o they interprete them differently0 Are there any differnces in people)s demand for #iolence and adrenaline0 3o the main and most important *uestion is what would influence and enhance the o#erall media effects0

Qualitative media studies approach to audience reception

'he main difference between the *uantitati#e and *ualitati#e approach is, that the *ualitati#e approach does not aim to predict, but to understand #arious phenomena / why they e+ist, what processes are behind them, are they common phenomena or are they uni*ue0 'he *uantitati#e approach tends to focus on large di#erse group of people. 1owe#er, the *ualitati#e approach aims mainly to represent the pehenomena being studied. <ualitati#e studies has its roots in critical and cultural studies. At the beginning of the 2=th 4entury, the .ar+ists belie#ed that the working class is under oppression by the producers, who had means to manipulate and influence the cultural #alues. 'he working class was the audience of interest because for the working class, the mass media was something easier to >consume$. It was also more affordable than high class culture sucha s opera, theatre or no#els. .ore scholarly audience deemed the mass media unworthy of their attention. In 19?=s a new cultural study was performed on the audience in -reat Britain. 'he researchers decided to study specific audiences that de#eloped a kind of resistance against the dominant mass media. 'he main focus was on #arious subcultures with attitudes that opposed the mainstream mass media. 'hese were punks, glams but also other subcultures in -reat Britain. 'he study set a new pattern similar to the *uantitati#e studies, where an audience or subculture was identified and categori,ed based on their resisting acti#ities or some sociodemographic characteristic that labeled them as more likely to be oppressed :for e+ample Blacks, women, homose+uals etc.;. And as a result, the scholars, similarly as their colleagues preferring *uantitati#e studies, di#ided the audience into #arious segments. But the difference is that the *ualitati#e approach does not try to understand how to persuade or @

how to protect the target audience. 'hey want to understand how the audience makes sense of the content in comparison to their e#eryday li#es. 'here was also an issue that came to the British cultural criti*ues and that was the need to understand how #arious audiences were recie#ing and interpreting the media te+ts. If there was a belief that some audiences can acti#ely resist the ideological meanings in these te+ts, there was need to clarify why and demonstrated how it was occurring. According to the study performed, the audiences may argue about the meaning of the te+t and accept only those aspects that can be compared and fit with their real li#es. 'hose parts that does not seem to fit are simply discarded by the audience. It can e#en reach such le#el that a member of audience or e#en the whole audience simply refuse the whole content, because it does not match with their e+periences, habits or traditions.

Film studies approach to media reception

'he main differencet the film studies approach and two pre#ious approaches is, that the latter studied #ariou characteristics of media audiences. 'he film studies approach focuses mainly on the media studies connected with the film. 'he first film audiences were considered to be people that will likely duck under the seats at the sight of a #ampire or would e+pect the train on the screen to leap into the theatre. At the beginning of the 2=th century, the film studios did not care who their audience was. 'hey simply trusted the studio chiefs and their ability to see the difference between good and bad mo#ies. 1owe#er at the beginning of the 19A=s this trend started to change slowly. And today, when there are many other ways to spend the free time, the studios are #ery careful in identifying their target audience. It is #ery important for them to decide whether to make a mo#ie for teenagers, for children or for all age categories. 6ith the 2=th century and de#elopment in film industry came also the attempt to better understand the reception of the mo#ies by the audience. 'here were discussions what is the part of the mo#ie that makes it a real aesthetic e+perience for the audience. Researchers studied #arious things such as how the cutting from scence to scene, or lighting an actor in particular way can influence the final e+perience of the audience from watching the mo#ie. 'oday the audience reception is the most important factor for the film studios, because it is the audience, the spectators, that decide if the mo#ie will be commercial succes or a flop. 'he film producers pay attention not only to things such as script or dialogues, but today A

e#ery single detail is important. 4hoice of actors, setting, effects, costumes. 'hese are all important factors that are important for the mo#ie to be succesful. And the best indicator that will tell us if the mo#ie is succesful or not is the audience reception.

-lynn 4arol C., 1erbst 3., ")7eefe -., 3hapiro R. Public Opinion BoulderD 6est#iew 9ress, 1999

Internet sources:
'he Ad#antages and Eimitations of a !ocus on Audience in .edia 3tudies, Accessed 5ecember 1B, 2=12, http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/ tudents/pph!"#$.html

Re#isiting .ass 4ommunication, Accessed 5ecember 1B, 2=12, http://www.%ordham.edu/images/undergraduate/communications/revisiting &'#mass&'#communication.pd%

'he Audience as .ass, Accessed 5ecember 1B, 2=12, http://www.scribd.com/doc/$("!#)((/*ass+*edia+Audience+Research$