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Active Audiences

We see a variety of media everyday, ranging from what is on the news, what we hear on the radio, or what we read about on the Internet.  After coming in contact with any type of media, we immediately have some type of opinion about the content.  We may agree, disagree, or be unaffected by it—this is know as active audience.  “The notion of an active audience appeals to our belief in the intelligence and autonomy of people.  The term is both a critique of cynicism about the power of media and an expression of faith in the power of people” (256).   The belief used to be the mass media was communicated to society and that the audience was being dominated and told what to think according to what the media said.  This idea has completely changed due to three factors; individual interpretation, collective interpretation, and through collective action.

Individual interpretation refers to when a viewer sees some type of media, like an ad and reflects on the ad.  This can be as simple as someone seeing a movie trailer and thus from the trailer deciding to go see the movie.  It is completely up to the individual to decide how they feel about what the media shows.  The thing that is so compelling about individual interpretation is that the makers of advertisements want the viewers to feel a specific way about their ad, however they don’t have 100% control over an individuals feelings.  A viewer could easily see an ad they are supposed to like, and instantly hate it.  This is the basic notion of individual interpretation—the viewer is in control of what they see.

The second notion that goes along with active audience is collective interpretation of media.  This notion is almost the same as the first with one distinct difference, almost anything you witness you are sharing with the people around you.  “Audiences are active in the sense that they interpret media messages socially” (258).   This means that not only does the individual see media but it also becomes transmitted around to multiple other people.  If something is amusing it spreads like wildfire especially with websites like YouTube and Facebook where everything is seen and shared with hundreds of other people.  Viewers construct certain meaning and the ways audiences engage with others as they interpret media show that the producers of media don’t have that much control on what people think.

The third notion that active audiences cover is collective action.  Collective action is the build up from first individual interpretation or seeing something that gives you opinion, then sharing it with the people around you, which ends with collective action or doing something to change a situation.  This is a common occurrence when something offensive is played on TV or the radio; it results in public outrage and thus collective action.  Collection action really shows how the media cannot control its viewers.  It is vital for the audience to show their on opinions about a variety of topics.  Active audience is very important because it allows society to express what they think about the media they see whether it is individually or collectively.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Kathleen
    October 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Great post, Allison! A very thorough analysis of individual interpretation and active audience.

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