Audiences and Agency

 

The media industry is rapidly changing and now more than ever, Audiences have agency over how they consume and receive the media. There used to be tight control over what we saw and heard in the media because the media industry was traditionally controlled by media institutions and governments. The internet has given audiences more choice in the media they consume and for the first time, their own voice in the media. Here are some examples of ways that audiences have agency over the media they consume:

  • Social media activism - audiences are globally connected and able to spread messages via social media instantly. This has caused revolutionary ideas to spread faster and we have seen more and more revolutionary movements as a result. A famous example of this is the #arabspring revolution that started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread across the Middle East over the following years.

Fandoms - audiences have found and built online fandom communities that exert such power they can literally affect the very media they are fans of. some examples of positive fandoms include Family Guy fans that helped revive the series when it was cancelled after 2 seasons because of positive DVD sales. Or Firefly fans that were so disappointed after the cancellation of season 1 that a movie (titled 'Serenity', 2005) was made to conclude the storyline. Toxic fandoms are fans that have a negative effect on the media industry, such as Star Wars fans that hated the character of Jar Jar Binks so much that he was practically written out of 2005's Revenge of the Sith

Online outrage - In the past, there was no real means for a collective audience to express their views loud enough to really be heard. However, the internet has given audiences a platform to share their views en masse. The collective amount of likes or dislikes on a YouTube video, or on Rotten Tomatoes, can actually have a significant effect on the producers of the media. One such example is the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer that premiered in April 2019.  The audience reception toward the design of Sonic was almost unanimously negative, so much so that the film's director, Jeff Fowler tweeted that paramount would delay the release of the film and completely re-design Sonic. This example of an audience exerting agency over Hollywood is almost unheard of.

The BTS Army and the Transformative Power of Fandom As Activism

After shutting down a Dallas Police Department app and donating more than $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s clear that K-pop fans are a legitimate force to be reckoned with. But this shouldn’t exactly be a surprise—fervent fan bases have always been particularly equipped to force change

read article 

User review revolution - as outlines in the Two Step Flow Theory, audiences are far more likely to engage with a product/the media  If the message flows through an opinion leader. In the case of user review websites and apps, user reviews have become fundamental to audience reception. Websites and apps like Uber, AirBnb, Zomato, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Rotten Tomatoes operate solely based on the power of user reviews and this is slowly chaining the media industry. Films are beginning to include rotten tomato's scores in their advertising campaigns. In fact, some movies have failed at the box office, based on their rotten tomatoes scores. The national research group found that 7/10 people would not see a movie based on a poor rotten tomatoes score

Social influencers - the rise of influential people on social media marks a paradigm shift in audience agency and their relationship with the media. For the first time, any person can manipulate the media to influence others. This was traditionally a privilege that only powerful media owners had. Seemingly once everyday people have built a following on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. For example, influencers such as  PewDiePie, Casey Neistat, Logan and Jake Paul, Jenna Marbles etc all build very successful careers by leveraging the power of followers on social media. The advertising industry have recently harnessed the power of influencers by paying them to vlog about their products.

Citizen journalism, also known as collaborative media,[1]: 61  participatory journalism,[2] democratic journalism,[3] guerrilla journalism[4] or street journalism,[5] is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information

wikipedia 

The tension between Agency & Control

Tension between these two ideas – agency and control can be seen in many different audience relationships with the media. Many social media platforms sell the illusion of agency to an audience when in fact their use of the system is tightly controlled. In turn, some audiences enjoy subverting the systems of mediums or platforms to give themselves more agency. Media institutions are often fighting for more agency in how they interact with the different regulation systems that attempt to control them

Changing modes of media distribution

 

The globalisation of media content has caused extreme changes in long established industries. For decades audiences got their news from newspapers, then radio and television. Nowadays, you can get your news from almost anywhere. Big record companies no longer have control over the music industry. Independent movie making has boomed with users creating and releasing content online. Steam has opened up a huge market for independent video game titles. Podcasts are becoming even more popular than radio stations. Just have a look at these examples below:

Since the beginnings of mass media communication, it was theorised that the media was powerful and audiences had little agency over the media's control and influence. However, this relationship between audiences and the media is not as top down as it once was. In an increasingly connected and globalised world, the dynamics of the relationship between audiences and the media has shifted dramatically. Audiences are now more freely able to review, share, discuss, create, evaluate, distribute and consume the media in ways that were never possible.

  • We have access to media on demand, when we want it, at the time that suits us. This has seen the rise of internet streaming and the fall of typical commercial and pay television.

  • The choice of content has ballooned and the accessibility of devices to consume that content on has increased. This has meant a drop in the tradition notion of a family all consuming the media from the one device (radio or TV)

  • We can have our say with the media we consume. We can post comments, review and rate our media content. This has seen a huge rise in the influence of movie reviews, and the shakeup of long established industries like hotels and taxis.

Our power to exert agency has certainly effected our relationship with the media and its ability to shape opinions and values. However, that isn't to say that the media is no longer influential. It is the modes in which the media is able to influence that have shifted dramatically. Anyone can write news articles online, so the ability for the news (or fake news) to influence is more apparent than ever. Advertising industries now target their advertising towards the individual based on their data, or push their products through influencers, making their advertising far more successful. So while audiences now exert more supposed agency in the relationship between themselves and the media, who really has the control?

We can analyse the dynamic and changing relationship between media and audiences by looking at the changing ways the media is produced, distributed, consumed and received.


Lets break down what each of there words means:


PRODUCTION - the making of media products. This has been changing and evolving with the rise of platforms like Steam, Soundcloud, Garageband, etc. Now more than ever, audiences are producing their own media products
DISTRIBUTION - the process of releasing and distributing a media product to the general public. This used to be very top-down... meaning that distribution was usually handled by media owners such as record labels and production studios. However the internet is a platform on which anything can be distributed and shared.
CONSUMPTION - this is the manner in which audiences 'take in' a media product.  Whether we binge watch a series on Netflix or Disney+ or go to the movies with friends, buy a record at a music store or access any song ever recorded via Spotify or Apple Music. The way in which audiences consume is always changing.
RECEPTION - this is the way we engage with and react to the media. Whether that be through ratings, liking or disliking or writing reviews (think about Rotten Tomatoes!) Audiences now have tremendous agency in the way they receive their media.


CHANGING MODES OF PRODUCTION
The globalisation of media content has caused extreme changes in long established industries. For decades audiences got their news from newspapers, then radio and television. Nowadays, you can get your news from almost anywhere. Big record companies no longer have control over the music industry. Independent movie making has boomed with users creating and releasing content online. Steam has opened up a huge market for independent video game titles. Podcasts are becoming even more popular than radio stations. Just have a look at these examples belo

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road: Lil Nas X was able to bypass record labels and rocket his country single 'Old Town Road' to the number one song in the US by cleverly using social media to his advantage. By pushing his Soundcloud track on Reddit and encouraging it to become a meme on TikTok, Lil Nas X was able to successfully bypass the traditional modes of distribution for music.
​This is a perfect example of how media globalisation has opened up new modes of distribution for artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


​EPIC games and Fortnite: Recently, Fortnite has dominated the cultural zeitgeist and changed the way video games are being made, distributed and received. Unlike most triple A titles, Fortnite is free-to-play. It makes its money by offering in game upgrades (also knows as micro transactions). However, Fornights success can be largely measured by the developer, EPIC games, ability to keep the game culturally relevant. They keep the game constantly updated and often include internet memes in the game design and create community events such as online in-game concerts. 

 

 

CHANGING MODES OF DISTRIBUTION
Throughout the 20th century the media was traditionally distributed by globilised institutions. It was an expensive process. Newspapers needed printing presses and a network of distributors to create and share their papers. Television was broadcast via a cost-prohibitive array of infrastructure including towers and satellites.  However, the rise of web 2.0 and new technologies have made it very simple for the audience to share and distribute their own or other people's content.

Henry Jekins, a media and communications professor and author of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture defines this as 'participatory culture.' This is a culture of spreading, sharing, engaging with and extending upon media products. Audiences may share media online, parody it, memeify it, talk about it, review it, react to it, etc. It is the audience that determines the value of the media. If it doesn't spread, its dead.

Watch the video to the right where Henry Jenkins discusses spreadable media and participatory culture.

The most viral video of all time???
Henry Jenkins mentions the example of Kony 2012. This was a 30 minute video created by the charity 'Invisable Children' in 2012 to try to bring awareness of African warlord Joseph Kony. This became one of the most viral videos of all time. People didn't just share the video, but they became obsessed with Joseph Kony. They donated money, rallied, protested, graffitied, put up posters and eventually Joseph Kony became so famous he became a joke, a meme.  This is the ultimate example of participatory culture and spreadable media. In the end, it was the audience that distributed the message and turned it into a cultural phenomenon

CHANGING MODES OF CONSUMPTION AND RECEPTION

  • The manner in which audiences consume and receive their media is constantly changing. Lets look at television as an example. How have our consumption habits changed over the past 10 years with the rise of technologies and online platforms ?

  • Scheduled vs on demand. In the past we had to watch television at a scheduled time. However, online VOD services like Netflix have allowed us to watch our content at any time we wish

  • Small screen vs big screen. The popularity of smartphones has meant that most media content is viewed on smaller screens and is of a shorter duration in order to cater to our new media viewing environment. We are constantly distracted so shorter content tends to be our preference for what we consume.

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  • Viewing vs Binging. in order to cater for our shorter attention spans and appetite for on demand content, TV series are now usually released all at once causing audiences to binge watch an entire series in a short amount of time.

  • Convenience vs inconvenience. The COVID19 pandemic has cause a change in viewing habits for movie going audiences. Some audiences are far less likely to go to a cinema to consume their films. Movie studios are regularly releasing their blockbusters online at the same time as in cinemas to cater for our appetite to view media within the home.

The dynamic and changing relationship between audiences and the media

Since the beginnings of mass media communication, it was theorised that the media was powerful and audiences had little agency over the media's control and influence. However, this relationship between audiences and the media is not as top down as it once was. In an increasingly connected and globalised world, the dynamics of the relationship between audiences and the media has shifted dramatically. Audiences are now more freely able to review, share, discuss, create, evaluate, distribute and consume the media in ways that were never possible.

  • We have access to media on demand, when we want it, at the time that suits us. This has seen the rise of internet streaming and the fall of typical commercial and pay television.

  • The choice of content has ballooned and the accessibility of devices to consume that content on has increased. This has meant a drop in the tradition notion of a family all consuming the media from the one device (radio or TV)

  • We can have our say with the media we consume. We can post comments, review and rate our media content. This has seen a huge rise in the influence of movie reviews, and the shapeup of long established industries like hotels and taxis.

Our power to exert agency has certainly effected our relationship with the media and its ability to shape opinions and values. However, that isn't to say that the media is no longer influential. It is the modes in which the media is able to influence that have shifted dramatically. Anyone can write news articles online, so the ability for the news (or fake news) to influence is more apparent than ever. Advertising industries now target their advertising towards the individual based on their data, or push their products through influencers, making their advertising far more successful. So while audiences now exert more supposed agency in the relationship between themselves and the media, who really has the control?

Questions to  complete from this section 

Describe what is meant by the term agency and control of the media?

Discuss how the relationship between audiences and media has changed over time. Consider factors such as the production, distribution and/or consumption and reception of media.  

from the 2021 Media Exam 

Analyse  one example in which audiences exercise agency over the media in the contemporary media landscape, and explain how this example conveys the dynamic and changing relationship between the media and its audience