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Title: Audience 2.0 : new dynamics of audience reception in the age of social media
Authors: Crosby, Jessica Marie
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Recent years have seen a rise in interest in 'interactive' audiences, with the ongoing spread of digital media enabling media viewers to develop new participative and collaborative activities. As a hub of communication, the Internet has become a crucial enabling platform for these new forms of audience engagement. Audiences migrate to social media to share impressions, interpretations and issues with the content they view, an action which, it is argued, 'makes visible' the often-unseen processes that constitute audience reception. Using the microblogging site Tumblr as case study, this thesis makes a case for developing an integrative approach to media reception, by consolidating knowledge from film studies, fan studies, and participatory cultures, that these subjects might better address the mutable nature of the modern audience. This thesis commits to a radical contextualist approach which challenges the application of ‘linear’ frameworks to postmodern audiencehood, drawing specifically on the research of danah boyd, Henry Jenkins and Carolyn Michelle. This study contributes original knowledge on young adult's processes of ‘meaning-making’ when online, by examining (1) contexts of social media engagement in the audience's daily life (2) the forms of interpretative work produced online in relation to film texts (3) the social and cultural implications of this online audience activity. The research questions for this study are as follows: • How do social networking sites such as Tumblr figure in young adult’s daily media use? How do Tumblr users engage with film content when interacting online? • How are Tumblr users utilising the site in their reception of film texts? What are the forms of receptive work taking place online? • How does the audience interpret and reflect on their online activity? What do these practices reveal about the nature of online audiencehood? The study employs online ethnographic methods, including participant observation and Skype interview, to detail the processes of online audience reception. An intensive period of fieldwork was undertaken, consisting of 12 months participant observation of 150 users within the Tumblr community, followed by a series of 24 online interviews, carried out synchronously (via Skype) and asynchronously (via email). The ethnographic data collected for this study was analysed thematically in order to produce an initial conceptual guide to online audience engagement. This study identifies several key themes which typify audience work on this site, including ‘performance’, ‘anonymity’, and ‘bricolage’. The study finds that the 'exhibitive' quality of online interpretative work, being intrinsically informed by the contextual collapse between public and private in online spaces, promotes self-conscious responses whereby audiences can actively assert their sense of self and their place within a wider social and cultural sphere. This appears to have specific generational resonances, as critical discourses on the ideological basis of the film industry are increasingly propagated amongst Tumblr’s young adult userbase. The thesis concludes with an interrogation of the thresholds of participation in interactive audience engagement and the implications this has for the future of audience research. It is argued that the role of social media in audience enquiry should not be understood merely as a new source of data about audiences, but rather as a crucial enabling platform for audience participation and contribution.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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