In trying to determine what an audience is, it is necessary to look at the different types of audience. Is the audience member passive or active? Are they a knowledgeable member of audience? Morley writing in 1980 identified three types of active viewer in which there he concluded that there were three ways in which an audience could decode the text. The first was a hegemonic viewer who decoded precisely what was intended by the encoder (producer of the text). A negotiated viewer accepted the general frame of the text but felt that they had personal circumstances, which led them to interpret the text in a slightly different way from the one intended.The oppositional viewer recognised message trying to be conveyed by the text but disagreed with it and interpreted it in a more individual way fitting with their social context. Morley also connected a fourth branch to this framework and offered the idea that there were those audience members of the oppositional viewer who offered a ‘critique of silence’ and were not able to identify the encoded message of the text.
The more recent works of Fiske argue that we now live in a ‘semiotic society’ which argues that audiences are able to interpret texts in such a great range of ways that they interpret this as a political resistance to the dominant power of the media. Fiske also argues that the power to produce pleasure and meaning from a text lies with its audience. This can be seen as a very interesting argument as it possibly shows the beginning of the more modern view that the audience are in a greater position of power over the media than the media are over the audience, a radical swing from the opinions of media and sociology theorists of the 1920’s and 1930’s.So what else could have contributed to this change of opinion? What helped the audience of the twentieth century to grow in such a way that they could go from a venerable entity being exposed to mass manipulation to being the manipulators? Part of this can be answered with technology. It is possible to argue that with the introduction of new convergence technologies, media has become greater (volume) and accessibility has become greater.
This means that the audience consuming the product were less attentive and therefore less likely to consume the conveyed message and would therefore be more likely to form their own opinions. The argument against this is that because they are more attentive the audience will not tend to go against the grain of the text either.Another possible suggestion to explain the audience’s growth of awareness is that their opinions were inspired to grow by their manipulators. The idea that they bit the hand that fed them.
Over the past sixties years the tabloid press have caused social panics over the influence of the media on certain groups of people in particular children. An example of this would be the hostility toward the film Childs Play III and its creators after it was linked, by the tabloid newspapers, to the killing of a young child, James Buldger, by two other children. The media claimed that ‘video nasties’ as they labelled them were corrupting the minds of their audiences.It can be argued that it is impossible to define an audience, sixty years of research with nothing but conflicting views proves this. It is probably more advantageous to persevere with Katz idea that audience perception changes every ten years. It could also be argued that this is de to a radically changing society with continually expanding social concepts and there is a greater audience social network comprising of many differing backgrounds and traditions. The media seems to understand this and over the last few decades has shifted to try and accommodate as wide as possible audience base.The audience are, as argued by many critics, no longer ‘prisoners of the media’ but have grown to become the judge of the media.
However it could be argued that the media still have control over their audience’s belief and value systems and as argued by Eldridge, Kitzinger and Williams writing as late as 1997 that ‘Most of us, most of the time go along with what the media tells us to be the case’.Whilst it is true to say that this argument must have some truth and that we cannot rule it out because it is possible that we will never be able to find out why the relationship between media text and audience exists as it does I would argue that the modern audience has broken free of the constraints pressed upon it by the Nazi propaganda of the early twentieth century and I would argue that it I a positive thing and has led to and will lead to a much better varied, socially aware media.BibliographyMcCullagh, Ciaran (2002) Media Power, A Sociological Introduction, Hampshire : PALGRAVEO’ Sullian, Tim, Dutton, Brian, Rayner Phillip (1994) Studying The Media, London : Arnold PublishersGary Lulahm Page 5 01/11/2002C:Documents and SettingsLulhamMy DocumentsMedia MS-100What is an audience.doc