Week 9 – Media Audiences

by

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

 In his article, “The Extended Audience”, Nick Couldry engages with the idea of the media ‘audience’. He emphasises the need to “understand audiences’ relationship[s] to a new spectrum of media outlets…a more complex interlocking of old and new media” which extends beyond issues of convergence and considers how the things audiences do are being affected by the things with which they interact. Furthermore, Couldry believes “we must make new connections, extending the places and activities we study in order to grasp what membership of the contemporary audience involves”. Finally, we also need to consider the increasing individualisation of audiences’ access points to media…or the increasingly global scale on which audiences are linked because of media’s international flow and the internet’s automatic global link; or the new ways of engaging with media summed up in the word ‘interactivity’”.

 Couldry uses the theories of Abercrombie and Longhurst to discuss the various types of audiences, including the ‘diffused audience’ – the notion that in contemporary society everyone becomes an audience all of the time. Couldry proposes that the term ‘extended’ audience may actually be more appropriate as it “requires us to examine the whole spectrum of talk, action and thought that draws on media, or is orientated towards media”. In particular, Couldry discusses the extended audience in relation to ‘reality TV’. In many respects, there still remains a division between audiences and the media industry. For instance, when audiences travel to various media locations, such as the site of Big Brother, they are still visitors to a different space and “the underlying distance is unaffected”. On the other hand, the invention of new media technologies can be seen to alter the power relationships between media consumers and producers. Any individual with access to a camcorder and the internet has the power to broadcast ‘reality’ footage of their own life. This has the potential to turn ‘ordinary’ people into celebrities. A recent example is possibly Canadian teen Justin Bieber who broadcast videos of himself singing and performing on YouTube. After being accidently ‘discovered’ by singer/manager Scooter Braun, Bieber has become an international pop/R&B singer. Such examples demonstrate how the boundaries between audience and media production are in a constant state of flux.

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