Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience.” In Gillespie, M. (Ed) Media Audiences. Open Uni Press, 2005, 184-196 and 210-220

The main point that I believe Nick Couldry is endeavouring to make in this Chapter is the extension of the audience and its implications on what we consider characteristics of audience and how these should be studied. He makes the point that this “theoretical shift, inevitably, has methodological implications.” (p. 184). The audience has extended and therefore the methods of evaluating and studying must follow.

Couldry refers to three phases in the development of audience that were proposed by Abercrombie and Longhurst- the simple audience, the mass audience and the diffused audience (p. 186). However, Couldry does not agree entirely with Abercrombie and Longhurst. He prefers the term “extended” to “diffused” (p. 196). Our society is in the last stage where the scope of the audience has widened to such a degree that it no longer makes sense to study the “direct interactions of audience with a text…but something much bigger: the whole media ‘culture’” (p.187). Today’s culture is so flooded with media that “everyone becomes an audience all the time” (p.190) and therefore to study audience we must study everyday life.

 

According to Abercrombie and Longhurst, more people are inclined to “see themselves are performers” (p. 191) and this raises a recurring theme in media studies: the blurring of the distinction between producer and consumers, or in this case performer and audience. Has this led to our desire to watch “others ‘like us’” (p. 194) perform and thus the continuing existence of reality television?

 

Couldry explores what happens when this desire is taken to extremes with his accounts in “A webcam in every bedroom?” (p. 217). The proliferation of surveillance technologies in our life mean that we are often not completely certain who is watching us, monitoring us and recording our actions and therefore can never completely comprehend who are audience is, which I find slightly disconcerting. But this is the nature of a modern, extended audience. They are no longer confined to sitting in front of the television and no longer confined to consumption. As a result “being a member of a media audience is becoming a different experience from what it was in the past” (p. 219).

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