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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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3

Studying Audiences with Sense-Making Methodology

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard and Brenda Dervin

ABSTRACT

The field of audience or media reception studies is concerned with questions of what, when, where, how, and why people engage with media products. Across divergent fields of inquiry, research has focused on understanding how aspects of the media product, the person consuming the product, and the situation impact outcomes of reception. Amid the various options available for defining the audience and for labeling audiences on the basis of the media products they engage with, at the core of any concept of the audience are human beings attempting to make sense of their everyday lives. Woven into the fabric of people's everyday lives, the media are an integral part of audiences' attempts to make sense of the different worlds they inhabit. Dervin's sense-making methodology provides a theoretical and methodological approach to understanding audiences at the evolving time–space intersections of individual, collective, and situated dimensions. This methodology allows scholars to understand human beings' sense-making processes in the midst of contexts that constitute their daily lives, both as individuals and as parts of a collective. The chapter discusses examples of research that use the sense-making approach to study audiences' modes of “engaging” with gendered media and with virtual worlds in order to illustrate how knowledge of audiences gained via this methodology can enrich the existing ...

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