ARTS1090: Media Audiences May 15, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 12:10 pm

Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience: Scanning the Horizon”. In Gillespie, Marie. Ed. Media Audiences. Berkshire: Open University Press, 2005, 184-196 & 210-220.


This reading by Nick Couldry does not attempt to present the current state of media audiences directly, but rather giving a overview on methodology in conducting research on media audiences and critically analysing the different media audience models drawn up by other academics.


Couldry grouped the challenges of audience research into 3 categories: technological, social/spatial and experiential. I find this grouping very relevant to the layout of the ARTS1090 course, because the media theories and topics can fall under these 3 categories, and it can be also applied to the assignment of doing our own media research proposal and paper. I have now come to the impression that strong, well-presented media theories tend to agree with each other more rather than disagree, as that theories can be only based on truth of the reality.


In regards to the nature of the contemporary audience, Couldry included an extract from Abercrombie and Longhurt about the concept of ‘diffused audience’, and which he challenged against such theory. The following quote can summarise what “diffused audience” means according to them: ‘People simultaneously feel members of an audience and that they are performers; they are simultaneously watchers and being watched.’ (p191) I found that the concept of “diffused audience” to be jumping too many steps ahead in saying that media institutions no longer have power in separating the performer and audiences, and that “communication is direct and unmediated” (p192) already. Couldry posed many valid points in arguing against Abercrombie and Longhurt’s proposed theory of ‘diffused audience’. He reinforced the fact that the number of people who have been both media audiences and media performers remain a low percentage of the population. Although there are many more reality shows on television that invite ‘ordinary media audiences’ to partake in, there is still a embedded idea of distance between the audience and performers. Also, Couldry rebutts to Abercrombie and Longhurt’s idea that media power is almost non-existant in the the contemporary audience model, in which he gave reminders to what is really happening for media institutions. Media institutions have power and influence over the circulation of information in society, and thus there is a “relationship of dependence” between audiences and media institutions. We still rely on intermediates for getting all sorts of information, so this stands true.


After overthrowing the idea of ‘diffused audience’, Couldry gives us a new term: the ‘extended audience’.  This idea of audience is superior than that of ‘diffused audience’ because it not only presents ‘the experience of being in a media audience is both very widely shared and highly differentiated, as differentiated as the rest of out everyday lives’, but also considering the fact that media institutions are still very important in our comtemporary world and that there is still a marked difference between a media audience and a media performer; yet, interactions between media audiences and performers are on the rise with new media technologies and environments. 


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



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