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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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17

Beyond the Active Audience

Exploring New Media Audiences and the Limits of Cultural Production

Shayla Thiel-Stern

ABSTRACT

The digital media landscape presents unprecedented opportunity for research on media audiences, as the latter navigate and make sense of the new media. Although studies on how audiences make sense of news, information, and commercial discourses are very important, scholarship must take into account that – particularly in the era of Web 2.0 – the audience is neither “passive” nor simply “active” in how it makes sense of the media. Rather, the new media have almost fully collapsed the differences between audience and producer. This chapter applies Bourdieu's understanding of cultural production to the study of new media audiences, reflexively focusing on research on girls' use of one interactive media tool: instant messaging. However, the chapter also acknowledges how patriarchal hegemonic structures within the “old” media, the corporatization of the Internet, and issues of access prevent a universal interpretation of any new media audience; and, although spaces of resistance are available through the audience's power to produce cultural artifacts, the scope of this resistance is still limited.

In a popular painting, The Treachery of Images, by René Magritte, a pipe is famously pictured floating above the phrase Ceci n'est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe”) presenting a paradox and inviting its viewers to question further the notion of what is represented ...

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