new media

What do audiences do with media?

New media and photography theory – Week 7 2013


In this week’s lecture we discussed what the audience do with media, rather than the audience being a concept like last week. We discussed the way that audience can manipulate the forms media for their own satisfaction and purpose. We also used the active vs passive theory by Stuart Hall to help us understand the developments in audience theory.

Key theorists in this week’s lecture were Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams and Katz and Blumler. They all have made vital arguments in theorising the different ways in which an audience can consume the media. Moving on from popular and mass culture media effects, we considered the idea that audience consume media to their own uses and gratifications (Katz and Blumler in Long, P 2012:304). Webster also moves away from the effects models and begins to think about the other forms of consumerism “the “marketplace model”, casts people in the role of consumers who enter the marketplace and selects the products that suit their tastes” (Webster, J 1994:27). An example of the audience pursuing their uses and gratifications in photography would be using images that represent their personal identity, such as a smiley face or a football. This moves furthermore onto the idea that groups of people with collective uses and gratifications become a sub-culture or a fandom. (Long and Wall. 2012:314)

Uses and gratifications explores the idea that we as audiences can positively influence our personal media experiences (Lull in Long, P 2012:305) To do this, we have to become active audiences. Rather than the media coming to the audience, Webster explores the marketplace model as the audience coming to the media, knowledgeable of their preferences and therefore chooses specific products (Webster, J 1994:27). In this context, an audience member would seek out a fashion photographer’s work as they prefer that genre. They would not look for landscape photography if that was the case.

The marketplace model and Stuart Hall’s active audience theory share the same key concepts. They evoke the thought that audiences have increasingly more power over the producers. Webster implies that future developments will occur “it is for such an environment that the laws of supply and demand seem best suited” (Webster, J 1994:34)

To further research into the subject of what the audience do with the media I would conduct an ethnographic study of a fandom. I would emerge myself into the culture of becoming a fan and report on my findings. I would conduct interviews with fans, talk about their relationship with the media producers for their product, observe events and habits of a fan with the aim to interpreting the meaning of fandom.


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

Webster, J. and Phalen, P.. (1994). Victim, consumer or commodity?. In: Ettema, J. and Whitney, C. Audiencemaking. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p19-37.


Industry & Institution: Political Economy

New media and photography theory 2013


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.


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.