Organizers: The Audience Network at Lancaster University (ANLU)

Confirmed Speaker: Prof. Annette Kuhn (Queen Mary University of London)

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 29 March 2024

Notification of Acceptance: 12 April 2024

Since its first engagements with television, radio, and popular culture (Williams 1974; Hall 1973; Ang 1985), audience studies have explored everyday media consumption through bottom-up approaches that merge critical and feminist theory with qualitative methods. In tackling the impact of globalization and digital media, the field has expanded and diversified its scope to capture a broader range of audience practices and positionings. In order to address the growing fragmentation of contemporary audiences (Livingstone 2007) the field has shifted its prevailing focus on the Anglo-American context to a polycentric geography that includes a wider spectrum of media cultures across the world. At the same time, research focusing on mainstream forms of media consumption goes hand in hand with the investigation of a diverse set of situated and niche practices. Scholarship on transnational (Athique 2016), migrant and diasporic audiences (Smets 2013; Hedge 2016) has also contributed to a much needed conversation around decolonization of methods and research agendas. Such diversification of topics, practices and objectives has also entailed a complexification of methodologies, which exceed the ‘traditional’ domains of media and cultural studies to include tools and methods from the digital humanities and data science, as well as a wider spectrum of qualitative methods (i.e., oral history, visual methods).  In 2017, the Deutsche Welle Akademie explored the challenges of audience research and media development. In their findings, they highlight that even though mixed methods approaches are often used in audience research, mixed methods designs are often misunderstood; and called universities to do the work of critical reflection on methods, as well as to offer sustained support and monitoring of implementation (Reineck et. al. 2017)

Outside of academia, the study of audiences has become a strategic branch in corporate and commercial research, particularly for marketing and branding (Mytton, Diem and van Dam 2016), with national bodies like Ofcom (2020, 2022) commissioning investigations to private companies instead of educational institutions. This raises broader questions about the incommensurability between theories of audience that inform professional industry practices and theories of audience used in empirical research, and points to the fact that audiences cannot be studied outside of their analytical construction (Ang 2002; Nightingale 1996).

All these considerations are relevant to the many subfields that constitute audience research today, which span from the historical inquiry on cinema-going (Kuhn 2002; Treveri-Gennari et al. 2024; Dass 2015; Li 2023) to the study of fandom, social media and digital audiences (Morrissey 2016; Booth 2010; Procter, Voss  and Lvov 2015; Al-Rawi 2017). Drawing from the liveliness and growing complexity of the field, this symposium aims to generate discussions around audience research with a specific attention to methods, the politics of location, ethics and inclusivity.

Proposals (300 words max) should be sent via this form We are especially interested in 15–20-minute papers – including work in progress – focusing on methodology in relation to specific projects but also in a more speculative fashion. Contributions from PGRs and Early Career Scholars are particularly welcome.

Possible areas include:

  • Feminist and Queer Methods
  • Audience Locations and Geographies
  • Historical Audiences
  • Digital Audiences
  • Decolonization of research methods and agendas
  • Institutional Audiences
  • Marketisation and commercialization of audience research
  • Reflexivity and Positionality
  • Audience Identities

This is a free event supported by the LICA Research Fund. Registration required. Light lunch provided.