Week 8: The Diffused Audience

Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience: Scanning the Horizon.” In Gillespie, Marie. Ed. Media Audiences Berkshire: Open University Press, 2005, pp.184-196 & 210-220.

Over the past decade, the rapid integration of digital technology into everyday life and culture has developed a new kind of media and a new kind of receptive audience.  It is due to vast technological change that has led to a need to revaluate the ways in which media audiences are studied in modern society. The primary purpose or aim of Couldry’s text is to “consider the methodological issues involved in the research of the contemporary media audience.

The primary concepts and ideas raised by Couldry revolve around these changing media audiences. Primarily, the role of digital technology has had a profound impact on contemporary audiences. Over time, media audiences have become spatially dispersed. Couldry identifies three phases in the development of the media audience, but focuses on the most encapsulating term to describe today’s contemporary audience is the ‘diffused audience’. It is the ‘diffused audience’ that is the subject of talk in this reading.

With the total immersion of our lives and the permanent intertwinement of media and everyday life, we are presented with realisations. Reinforced by Abercrombie and Longhurt’s argument where,”the media and everyday life have become so closely interwoven that they are almost inseparable.”

The emergence of digital technology has led to a more interactive, mobile and responsive audience to which media producers must not attempt to capture.  Media today has shifted away from the temporal broadcast system that once appealed to the ‘mass audience’. In this attempt, audiences are now bombarded and surrounde­­d constantly by media. This is again reinforced by Abercrombie and Longhurt’s argument where, ‘being a member of an audience is no longer an exceptional event…rather it is constitutive of everyday life.”

But is this really a negative aspect of the ‘diffused audiences’? Although there is the age old argument of the media being a monolithic entity whose sole purpose is to manipulate and brainwash its audiences.  The ‘diffused audience’ has dispelled this notion, with media becoming more spatially orientated, resulting the reduced power of traditional media organisations.

Today, members of the media audience have the power to become media performers as Couldry suggests. With the redistribution of media audience viewership being split between multimillion dollar media organisations and everyday people armed with a $20 webcam. This break in authority may become the defining feature of the ‘diffused audience’.  Media researchers say that the media audience is ‘central to the way we understand and organise how the media operates.’ Perhaps this is true in many different ways.

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