academic reading

Conceptualising the Audience

New media and photography theory – Week 6 2013

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Week six consisted of critiquing the common-sense approach to the audience. The audience is defined by Long and Wall as “an anonymous and variable collective of individuals addressed (as a group of individuals) by the organs of ‘mass’ media communication” (Long and Wall 2012:488). This week moved beyond the original ideas of audience and into the ideas of the audience being a product of the media (Long and Wall 2012:275).

A realisation that became apparent during the lecture was that without the audience, there would be no media and without the media there would be no profit. The more there is of media, in a variety of outlets and forms, the more competition. This adds pressure to the producers to attract more audiences using a variety of methods to continue to make the profit that they need.

Long describes how we are not always aware of being part of an audience, no matter how many millions of consumers are also sharing the same experience at the same time. (Long and Wall, 2012:279) Whilst Mattelart describes it from the perspective of producers “each media institution has its own specific way of positioning the viewer, regulating certain aspects of the production of meaning and production of emotional responses, and so forth”.(Mattelart, A 1992:82) Audience unawareness and power or manipulation by the producer implies in this case the vulnerability and passivity of consumers. I wonder how many people notice the ‘how are you feeling today John?’ question that appears in the box before you write a status on Facebook. Again this first person text positions its audience into feeling unique and influences them in some cases to carry out the producer’s desired response of a status and therefore, more time spent on Facebook.

That however, is not comparable to the possible media effects and influence from propaganda. It is an active manipulation of ideas, information and aims to inject its desired effects into its audience by restricting and misinforming them of other options. (Long and Wall 2012:286) Mattelart discusses the role of active minorities in manipulation of inert societies and discusses The Frankfurt School in their belief in the omnipotence of the mass media (Mattelart, A 1992:73). Nazi Germany used it to achieve large influence in world war two. However, the same concepts –if not slightly subtler- are still being used today in the likes of President Obama’s political campaign.

My two readings have altered my view on possible media power. I want to research further into modern day examples of moral panics created by new media. Fast paced and immediacy of the new media industry can create news before it has even been officially reported by the press and therefore the effects on the audience can be elevated.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Mattelart, A and Mattelart, M. (1992). New paradigms: The procedures of consumption. In: Translation by Cohen, J and Urquidi, M. Series editor: Bolton, R Rethinking media theory: Signposts and new directions. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p72-86.

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Industry & Institution: Political Economy

New media and photography theory 2013

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Week one concentrated on the concept of political economy, which has been described as “The study of social relations and power relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution and consumption of resources” (Long and Wall 2012:490). This approach is one way of justifying and explaining the formalities carried out within the media and the influences that they have over media products. Political economy has been challenged by other concepts such as cultural studies.

Larger companies are said to create products suitable for a mass audience to achieve profit maximisation (Long and Wall 2012:176). As a result, they become potential power figures and could hold large influence over the factors of production, distribution and consumption. Long and Wall cover this, explaining how the smaller firms are regularly disadvantaged by the domination of larger companies (Long and Wall 2012:179). Natalie Fenton supports this by saying that power figures within the media have the ability to sustain or extend that power successfully, and by any means, through their high position and wealth (Fenton, N:13). Once they have positioned themselves close the market’s geographic core they can then be readily available to a larger audience. (Hotelling in Long and Wall 2012:176)

It can be said that Google is a prime example of this as it has monopoly over the search engine industry and other industries. It has few competitors in Yahoo and Bing and controls a large percentage of its media sector. Size is said to give advantage, through domination (Long and Wall 2012:179), and conglomerates such as Google will most likely out-compete other smaller firms. Janet Lowe agrees “Google appears to be an unstoppable online giant, capable of growing as fast as the internet grows. On a corporate level, Google challenges everyone remotely near it.”(Lowe, J 2009:262)

To research political economy in more detail, I would conduct an organisational study on Google. My primary focus would be the head office team, mapping out their roles and delegation of company plans. I would aim to analyse how they are tackling competitors and keeping their company strategy at its peak and make a report on my findings.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Bridging the Mythical Divide: Political Economy and Cultural Studies Approaches to the Analysis of the Media. Fenton.N

Lowe, J (2009). Google Speaks: Secrets of the world’s greatest billionaire entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. New Jersery: John Wiley & Sons Inc. p262.