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Unanswered Questions in Audience Research

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As its title implies, this article explores a number of unanswered questions and outstanding issues in contemporary audience research. These include: models of the “active audience”; questions of cultural power; global media and transnational audiences; methodologies in audience research; problems of essentialism in the conceptualization of categories of audience members; the strengths and limitations of the encoding/decoding model; models of intellectual progress in the field; the new media and technologies of “newness.” My title is derived from Bertolt Brecht's “Anecdotes of Mr Keuner” in which he extols the virtue of thinking up questions to which we do not have answers (Brecht, 1966). Working from this principle, rather than trying to formulate solutions to the problems of our field, my contribution here is based on questions in media audience research to which I, at least, do not have the answers, as a way of taking stock of what exactly it is that we think we now know about the field.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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