The Communication Transaction
 Sara
Henneberger
 Shifen Xu
 Curtis Franklin
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An introduction to the Active Audience theory
Background information on Active Audience
The philosophical foundation of Active
Audience
Topics for further research
Criticism of Active Audience
Applications of Active Audience theory
Questions and answers
Different audiences can understand a media
message but can have different responses to it.
Some people believe and accept the message,
others reject it using knowledge from their own
experience or can use processes of logic or other
rationales to criticize what is being said.
Miller and Philo, 2001
Effects Analysis—Hypodermic Needle Model
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Developed in the 1920s
The first theory to explain how mass audiences
might react to mass media
Information passes from media to audience
unmediated
The audience is passive
Limited Effects Paradigm
--Two-step Flow Theory
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Bring out by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson,
and Hazel Gaudet during a 1940 presidential
election campaign in The People's Choice
Opinion leaders & Social factors
Function Analysis
--Uses & Gratifications Theory
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1948, Lasswell suggests media texts have the
functions of surveillance, correlation,
entertainment and cultural transmission
1974, Blulmer and Katz expand the theory, state
individuals choose and use a text for the purpose
of diversion, personal relationships, personal
identity and surveillance.
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Deconstructionism
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Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural
Studies
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Jacques Derrida
Michel Foucault
Stuart Hall
The Obstinate Audience
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Raymond A. Bauer
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Obstinate Audience Theory
--Raymond A. Bauer
“one-way influence” “transactional model”
Bauer-Eberhart Study
--Audience can filter out, distort or fail to recognize perceptual
events which do not fit their points of view
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Zimmerman-Bauer Study
--Audience plays a large part in influencing the message
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Advertising Study
--People who like advertising found ads enjoyable while people
who don’t like advertising found ads annoying and offensive
Interpretative Analysis
--Reception Theory (Active Audience
Theory)
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1980s & 1990s
Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model of the
relationship between text and audience
Preferred reading
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1970s-1980s
Stuart Hall: encoding/decoding model
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1980s-1990s
David Morley: ‘Nationwide’ Audience
Dorothy Hobson: women viewers of soap opera Crossroads
Tania Modleski &Janice Radway: women consumers of soap opera
and romance
Ien Ang, Tamar Liebes & Elihu Katz
Kim Schroder & Jostein Gripsrud: international cross cultural
consumption of American drama series, such as Dallas and
Dynasty.
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British sociologist Stuart Hall proposed a
model of mass communication which
highlighted the importance of active
interpretation within relevant codes.
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Stuart Hall stressed the role of social
positioning in the interpretation of mass
media texts by different social groups.
Corner, 1983 & Hall, 1980
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Stuart Hall suggests three hypothetical
interpretative codes or positions for the reader
of a text :
--dominant (or 'hegemonic') reading
--negotiated reading
--oppositional ('counter
-hegemonic')
reading
Chandler, 2001
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John Corner’s definition
--the moment of encoding: 'the institutional practices
and organizational conditions and practices of
production'
--the moment of the text: 'the... symbolic construction,
arrangement and perhaps performance... The form and
content of what is published or broadcast'
--the moment of decoding: 'the moment of reception [or]
consumption... by... the reader/hearer/viewer' which
is regarded by most theorists as 'closer to a form of
"construction"' than to 'the passivity... suggested by the
term "reception"'.
Chandler, 2001
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Professor, Dept of Media and
Communications,
Goldsmiths, University of London
Field: Audiences, User research, Technical
rationality
Selected publications:
(2006) The Geography of the New: Media, Modernity and Technology
(2005) Media and Cultural Theory
(2000) Home Territories: media, mobility and identity
(2001) British Cultural
(1996) Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies
(1996) Spaces of Identity: global media, electronic landscapes and cultural boundaries
(1996) Cultural Studies and Communication
(1992) Television Audiences and Cultural Studies
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David Morley’s study of the former television program
Nationwide which was conducted at the Centre for
Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of
Birmingham between 1975 and 1979.
In this study, Morley’s major concern was 'with the extent to
which individual interpretation of programs could be shown to
vary systematically in relation to... socio-cultural background'
(1981b, p 56).
He was investigating 'the degree of complementarity between
the codes of the program and the interpretive codes of various
sociocultural groups... [and] the extent to which decodings take
place within the limits of the preferred (or dominant) manner in
which the message has been initially encoded' (1983, p. 106).
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Although it has many limitations, Morley's study of The
'Nationwide' Audience (published in 1980) has become one of
the most-widely cited studies of the television audience.
Morley, 1981& Morley, 1983
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Models of the “active audience”
Questions of cultural power
Global media and transnational audiences
Methodologies in audience research
Problems of essentialism in the conceptualization
of categories of audience members
The strengths and limitations of the
encoding/decoding model
Models of intellectual progress in the field
The new media and technologies of “newness”
Morley, 2006
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Audiences offer resistance against existing
meanings by creating their own meanings
Media is a “cultural battlefield” of resistance,
incorporation, hegemony, and oppression
Van Bauwel, 2006
structure
passive
resistance
practices of
power
incorporation
active
agency
Van Bauwel, 2006
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Concept of “resistance” influenced by Marxism
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Media producers and consumers should have coequal role in interpreting texts
Active audience theory has received harsh
criticism, in part because it seems to suggest
moral relativism
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If every meaning is up for negotiation, there are no
absolute meanings – and no universal truths
Can truth be “constructed”?
Politics and Active Audience
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What determines audience members’ political
opinions?
According to John Zaller:
“Political sophistication” including political knowledge,
interest, and intellectual engagement in politics
 Ideological or partisan leanings
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The greater one’s political sophistication, the more
likely she/he is to comprehend and retain political
news provided by the media, and to filter the news
through predispositional attitudes, leading to
specific opinions
Zaller, 1992
Politics and Active Audience
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Lodge et al. found that “political sophisticates”
who were asked to evaluate complex political
issues drew upon information stored in their
memory – not just the information they were
presented with.
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“Political sophisticates” are those who scored
highest on a test of factual political knowledge
Lodge et al., 1989
Politics and Active Audience
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According to Zaller, political sophisticates are
also the most susceptible to biases
Although people filter political news through
their own “belief filter,” the media still
helped shape those foundational orientations
in the first place
Zaller, 1992
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The way the media frames stories can determine
which opinion are expressed
Non-verbal cues and genre are more effective in
shaping attitudes and eliciting specific opinions
than “reason”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsP-YdOLAu4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMLoElp_s5c&fe
ature=related
Zaller, 1992
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“Super girl” phenomenon
400 million viewers for the final episode
8 million votes in the final episode
Active audience in shaping
China’s democracy?
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Media plays a crucial role in creating our belief
foundations – do our opinions reflect the biases
of the media? Even when we play the role of
“active audience,” are we just reflecting
something we picked up on in the media?
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Some audiences are inactive – they attribute no
meaning to what they see, resulting in
meaningless media use
May be difficult for audiences to fairly evaluate
media messages when many of their core
beliefs are already rooted in them
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Some media texts very transparent – how
many “meanings” can they really have?
Concept of “active audience” may be very
different – or nonexistent – in other cultures
If every media text is open to reinterpretation,
slippery slope to moral relativism
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Has the active audience approach
overestimated the capacity of audiences to
construct their own meanings?
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Can we equate an active audience with a resisting
public?
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Media plays a crucial role in creating our belief
foundations – do our opinions reflect the biases
of the media? Even when we play the role of
“active audience,” are we just reflecting
something we picked up on in the media?
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Is active audience theory Anglo-centric? How
do you think it might work (or not work) in
different cultures?
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If every media text is open to interpretation,
what happens to the idea of “absolute truth”?
Can “truth” be constructed by the audience?
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Chandler, D. (2001). Semiotics for Beginners. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2007 from
http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/sem08c.html
Connor, G. (2001). Audience. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2001 from
http://www.mediaed.org.uk/posted_documents/Audience.html#The%
20active%20audience
Delli Carpini, M. (2004). Mediating democratic engagement: the impact of
communications on citizens’ involvement in political civic life. In L. Kaid
(Ed.), Handbook of Political Communication Research. Mahwah, New Jersey:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Lodge, M., McGraw, K.M. & Stroh, P. (1989). An impression-driven
model of candidate evaluation. American Political Science Review, 83, 399419.
Morley, D. (1993). Active audience theory: pendulums and pitfalls. Journal
of Communication, 43(4), Autumn.
Morley, D . (1980). The ‘nationwide’ audience. London: BFI.
Morley, D. (1981b). Interpreting television: In popular culture and everyday life.
Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
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Selmer, D. (2000). The obstinate audience theory. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2007
from http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/Speech/rccs/theory18.htm
Van Bauwel, S. (2006). Rearticulating resistance as concept in the field of
media studies: a case study on the resistance against hegemonic gender
identities in popular visual culture. Conference Papers – International
Communication Association.
Zaller, J. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Morley, D. (Eds). (1983). “Culture transformations: The politics of
Resistance’. In David, H., & Walton, P (Eds.), Language, image, media.
Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Morley, D. (2006). Unanswered questions in audience research. The
Communication Review, 9, 101-121.
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Bauer, Raymond A. "The Obstinate Audience: The Influence Process from the Point of View of
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and Donald F. Roberts. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1971. 326-346.
Bauer, Raymond A., Stephen A. Greyser, Donald L. Kanter, William M. Weilbacher and Alice
E. Courtney. Advertising in America. Boston: Harvard, 1968.
Bauer, Raymond A., ed. "Detection and Anticipation of Impact: The Nature of the Task" Social
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Bauer, Raymond A. "Risk Handling in Drug Adoption: The Role of Company Preference."
Public Opinion Quarterly 25 (1961): 546-559.
Bauer, Raymond A. "The Initiative of the Audience." Journal of Advertising Research 3 (1963): 2-7.
Bauer R.A. and Claire Zimmerman. "The Effects of an Audience on What is Remembered."
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Bauer, Raymond A. "Communication as a Transaction: A Comment on 'On the Concept of
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