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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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18

From Audiences to Media Subjectivities

Mutants in the Interregnum

Jack Z. Bratich

ABSTRACT

In this chapter, Jack Bratich argues that, even as “the audience” is in crisis in the digital media era, we can still learn much from examining the construction of that audience. The audience itself is a convergence of discursive problematizations of what Bratich calls “media subjectivities.” This chapter explores a number of these problematizations in order to extract the specific dynamics of “the audience” that are still relevant, including relations between individuality and collectivity, activity and reactivity, composition and organization. Ultimately, Bratich argues, audience studies reaches a limit with the emergence of interactivity, but a limit that allows us to productively mine the past for new ways of thinking about media subjectivities.

The current media age has been described as one of transition and an interregnum, an in-between age marked by uncertainty, experimentation, and unpredictability (Jenkins, 2006; Levy, 1997). This era is one of transformation in which old categories disappear and new ones take their place. These assessments are often filled with optimism and a faith in progress. But in-between states are not solely times for improvement. Antonio Gramsci (1971) describes such states as a crisis in which “the old is dying and the new cannot yet be born: in this interregnum, morbid phenomena of the most varied kind come to pass” (pp. 32–33). The interregnum produces ...

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