Audience

As Kate Lacey has observed, there is “an inescapable collectivity suggested by the word ‘audience’” (2013, 13–14). Indeed, Raymond Williams’s Keywords, despite not including the term, analyzes what might be meant by the audience within an entry on “masses,” conveying the cultural and political ambivalences that have historically surrounded the mass audience. The “masses,” we are told, can be “a term of contempt in much conservative thought, but a positive term in much socialist thought” (Williams 1976/1983, 192). Where the former has often viewed mass audiences as lacking in good taste, rationality, and expertise, the latter has instead thought of the mass as standing in for “the people” and the “popular,” that is, acting as a force for democracy. Sonia Livingstone argues that “in audience research, both meanings of audience retain some purchase” (2005, 23)—sometimes audiences represent a problem to be criticized, and sometimes they are a force to …

This essay may be found on page 17 of the printed volume.

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