Wiring the Audience

This source preferred by Julian McDougall

Authors: McDougall, J.


Journal: Participations: journal of audience and reception studies

Volume: 7

Issue: 1

Pages: 73-101

ISSN: 1749-8716

This essay explores the conditions of possibility for ‘remixing’ Morley’s Nationwide Study (1980) in the context of the debate around Media Studies 2.0 (Merrin, 2008) through a study of The Wire’s reception amongst groups of viewers situated in various domains of English education. In so doing it makes two further and bolder interventions. Firstly, Morley’s emphasis on the preferred reading as ‘encoded’ in production is shifted to view the distribution of such a set of ‘messages’ as constructed in ‘discerning decoding’ as secondary encoding by online fan-critics. And the aspect of the Media 2.0 thesis that deals with the use (Gauntlett, 2007) of visual and ‘creative’ research methods for working with media audiences - and the attendant ‘othering’ of more orthodox ways of collecting data - is ‘remixed’ also by the use of a multi-modal range of methods, so that the article engages with the difference made by the researcher to the social practice of representing reception.

The meanings given to The Wire provide an example of ‘convergence culture’ (Jenkins, 2006) due to these ideas circulating as a hybrid between the ‘post broadcast mediasphere’, and the programme’s traditional narrative form – a very long, slowly developing and complex multi- series story. This research investigates how five groups of people attribute meaning to The Wire in relation to a range of social practices. In a deliberate ‘remixing’ of both Morley’s focus group approach and Gauntlett’s preference for metaphorical modelling, a different research method is used to yield data from each participant group – interviews, blogging, video making, visual mapping and biography. The outcomes of this ‘multimodal’ work inform a strategy for ‘doing culture’ so as to connect audience research to the contemporary ‘remix culture’.

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