Discourses about Audiences: International Comparisons

 

Call for Proposals

We seek proposals from media scholars to study the representations of audiences and the association of audiences with particular categories and characterizations in non-western societies and pre-modern Europe. We use “western” to indicate culture rather than geography. In that sense, it contrasts to all societies not based upon western traditions, including not only “eastern” societies but also societies south of the equator.

We plan to publish the studies in special issues of journals and as an edited book, in multiple languages. We also plan to organize an international conference where the authors will present and discuss their work.

In our books, The Citizen Audience and Audiences and Publics, we have explored representations of audiences and the categories used to characterize them. These explorations have been within the context of modern democracies in Western Europe and North America. In Western discourse, audiences have been variously considered crowds, publics, mass and consumers, active or passive, additive or selective, vulnerable and suggestible or critical and creative, educated or ignorant, high or low brow, and characterized differently on the basis of their presumed race, class, sex and age.

These debates and these categories sometimes have been adopted and applied to audiences in non-Western cultures. The conjoined terms "audiences and publics," for example, have begun to be used by scholars across the globe. But there is no reason to assume that such Western categories and associations apply, or apply in the same way, in non-western societies. At a time when global and regional media (satellite, television/radio, recording, mobile phone, internet) saturate even remote populations and cultures, we have no comparative empirical studies to discover what categories are indigenous to individual non-western cultures, and to reveal how they differ and change.

We should be investigating whether the idea of a public or other terms associated with audiences in western Europe and North America actually fit the indigenous discourses on audiences in non-Western cultures. Each culture likely has a different and interesting history. We think that such a comparative study of discourse on media and audiences could bring new insights into global media as well as Western discourse and scholarship on media and audiences, and be of immense value to government policymakers and media practitioners as well.

The project will explore specifically non-Western languages and cultures, and as a whole, will compare their discourses on audiences. In this globalized world this will sometimes be a marginal distinction, given the bleeding of Western ideas through borders and cultural boundaries. We would like applicants to go beyond non-Western incorporations of Western terms about audiences that accompanied their adoption of media technology and texts, to explore their discourses on indigenous practices that identifiably involve audiences. With this foundation, then applicants would investigate the application of these indigenous discourses to media audiences as these media spread through these societies.

From all applicants, we will select 10-15 scholars to research discourses in their proposed culture and language, looking at these both before and since their contact with Western culture and the spread of twentieth and twenty-first century media. We expect to include:

1. Studies on discourses in major languages of the world, e.g. Chinese, Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, Urdu, etc.,

2. Studies on cultures and languages less integrated into globalization and more remote from Western influence, and

3. A study of a major medieval European culture and language before democracy and publics became associated with audiences.

Applicants should be fluent in the language and generally familiar with the media/audience history of the culture they propose to study. For their research, they will study the representations in that culture and language, examining its historical development of discourses as media are introduced into that culture through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with special consideration to the lexicon used to characterize media audiences. Junior as well as senior scholars are welcome, as long as each demonstrates his/her capabilities for this research.

Proposals should be in English and include a preliminary research plan of no more than 3 single-spaced pages, specifying the cultural/linguistic context and describing the plan of research. as well as current vitae of the applicant(s). Send proposals as email attachments to both Butsch@rider.edu and S.Livingstone@lse.ac.uk.

We look forward to reading your proposals.

 

Richard Butsch

Professor of Sociology, American Studies, and Film and Media Studies, Rider University, USA

Sonia Livingstone

Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics, UK

 

Last updated 15 December 2010