Statement of Aims
The aim of this Journal is to become a focal point for research, debate and publication on all aspects of the study of audiences for cultural and media products and practices. The term 'audience’ is used as widely as possible, and with no intended theoretical attachments. It therefore includes readers, listeners, viewers, whole body participants; and receptive and interactive modes of engagement. In what follows, the expression 'audience research’ should be understood as a shorthand for the gamut of kinds of experience and relationship implied in the above.
The Journal is being established on the following key grounds: we believe that audience research, conceived this widely, is of enormous potential importance and value, yet at present it is in many respects under-developed and under-recognised. Even where important work has already been done, and published, audience research struggles for recognition, while at the same time often untested claims and assumptions about 'audiences’ are used, sometimes influentially, within both public and academic debates.
Audience research is by its very nature complicated. It involves the examination of the ways in which people find many different kinds of meaning and pleasure, in response to communicative and participative processes involving the use of symbol systems, narratives, forms of talk and knowledge, the full range of sensory modes of experiencing and complex semiotic arrays. The people who engage in these complexes encounter them within social and cultural environments and historical moments. And the researchers themselves inevitably belong within intellectual, cultural and political traditions, which play roles both in the formulation and understanding of the research process, and in how those researched may respond to research situations.
All this means that methods of research, and conceptualisations of the processes involved, are also complex. And many approaches have things of importance to contribute to our understanding. The Journal is therefore founded on a principle of welcoming contributions from different fields (at the least, all areas of media research, including new media; dramatic and performance; literary; music and dance; museums and heritage; folklore studies; and media and cultural educational practices), and different disciplinary and methodological traditions.
We recognise that at least the following have had important things to say about audiences and reception processes: sociology, psychology, anthropology, linguistics/discourse theory, folkloristics, cultural and media studies. We also recognise that important sectoral work has been developed in a considerable number of areas outside the current 'mainstream’ of media audience research: for example, museum and heritage studies; literary studies; educational studies. Within each of these, a range of both quantitative and qualitative methods have been usefully developed and deployed.
We also recognise that there are important traditions of research into audiences within sectors other than academia. For various purposes, governmental and para-governmental bodies have from time to time promoted research, to lay the foundation of policy-initiatives. A wide range of commercial and marketing organisations conduct audience research of different kinds as part of their operations. Public opinion polling organisations have often included elements of audience research within their work. Cultural practitioners from time to time conduct audience research in connection with their output, their venues, and their programmes.
There will inevitably be from time conflicts of interest and approach between the Journal and its academic constituency, on the one hand, and other research bodies, and it is essential that the Journal retains a critical integrity. However, at the same time, it is a founding commitment of the Journal that in principle all these have much to learn from each other. At present there is hardly any dialogue between them. We want the Journal to make some contribution to developing such dialogues, although we recognise that the task is hard, and that it will undoubtedly take a long time, and many individual initiatives to enable this to happen.
Given these broad objectives, the remit of Participations will be to:
- Promote the intellectual presence, recognition and authority of studies of audiences and reception processes, understood in the broadest possible sense.
- Reach across between disciplinary fields, with the intention of promoting inclusion of research interests and traditions in all areas of cultural production and practice, including: all areas of media research, including new media; dramatic and performance; literary; music and dance; museums and heritage; folklore studies; and educational practices in relation to all of these.
- Research and recover the history of such researches, both re-presenting and critically evaluating the various sources and approaches that have contributed to the development of the field.
- Engage with the multiple motives (academic, policy, commercial, developmental) at work within the field.
- Keep abreast of current work in the field, where possible publishing new work, otherwise reviewing and evaluating developments.
- Recognise and engage with the diverse national and regional traditions of work in the field.
Engage critically with the uses to which audience research has been and is put.
The Journal will seek friendly and cooperative relations with as many other Journals as possible in cognate and overlapping areas, with a view to promoting mutual awareness, dialogue and possible cross-referral of submissions as appropriate. The Journal will also seek friendly and supportive relations with other web-journals, with a view to sharing experience on effective means of development.
Participations actively encourages the members of its own Board and Advisory Board to submit their work to the Journal. However, in order to ensure that all such work is subject to the same scrutiny as other submissions, in these cases acceptance cannot be based on less than two reports from experts who are not members of the Editorial Board and, wherever possible, will include one report from a person who is a member of neither the Editorial nor the Advisory Board.
The Journal will operate as far as is possible on the basis of email submissions (with a preference for attachments in Word, as standard). Articles and other materials may be submitted therefore as email attachments. Referees will normally receive submissions by this route. Reports on submissions will normally be submitted by the same method. Because of the centrality of this, all participants in this process are asked to take all reasonable steps to ensure that attachments do not carry viruses within them.
The Journal will seek means other than its web publication to promote both dialogue within, and wider recognition of, this field of work. Initiatives may include:
- organising conferences specific to audience and reception studies;
- organising panels and presentations at other cognate conferences;
- promoting interventions in relevant debates;
- giving support and encouragement to research collaborations;
- and making submissions to research funding and policy-making bodies with regard to audience research matters.