Beyond borders

Mobile, two-way communication may define the future of consumer interactivity with companies

The audience is experiencing a process of deep transformation; its fragmentation but also its reconstitution into shapes that only a few years ago were unthinkable obliges us to question the very existence of the audience itself. Or, at least, of the audience as we have tried to represent it in the past. To belong to an audience represents a criterion of cultural reference, and it cannot be limited to the simple action of “watching” television or consuming the products of any other medium. Consequently, to study the audience means to take into consideration different contexts and multiple activities of cultural consumption. From the research perspective it is a matter of trying to understand if, for example, the home is still the most meaningful place in which to study the audience (as the earliest ethnographic research maintained). Or maybe there are other places where people become audience members? Nick Couldry’s question (2005) on this topic is very important: is there only one site for studying the audience “close-up” or is the point, precisely, to study the linkages between many sites in contemporary culture in order to grasp the contemporary audience? (Couldry 2005: 186). The idea of an audience composed of a determinate number of people listening to or watching media events in a precise moment is now only one of many possibilities. Several research papers have pointed out that the audiencing process is also active in many experiences of consumption that do not take place in a specific moment and a predictable physical space. For example, what kind of audience is the one made up of travellers on the tube watching TV programs while they are waiting for trains? And what about iPod users or mobile film viewers? They are, in any event, delocalised audiences whose main feature lies in the logic of “involvement” and sometimes of “performativity”. And even of “participation”?

Michele Sorice

Michele Sorice is professor of media studies at the University of Lugano, Switzerland and of media research at the University of Rome, La Sapienza, Italy. He also teaches communication theory at Luiss University, Rome, and is invited professor at Pontifical Gregorian University. Sorice is visiting professor in several European universities, director of the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies (Crisc-Cmcs) based at the University of Rome, and author/editor of several books in the field of media and audience studies.