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An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they are called "readers"), theatre, music (in which they are called "listeners"), video games (in which they are called "players"), or academics in any medium. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest clapping and criticism and reception.
Media audience studies have become a recognized part of the curriculum. Audience theory offers scholarly insight into audiences in general. These insights shape our knowledge of just how audiences affect and are affected by different forms of art. The biggest art form is the mass media. Films, video games, radio shows, software (and hardware) and other formats are affected by the audience and its reviews and recommendations.
In the age of easy Internet participation and citizen journalism, professional creators share space, and sometimes attention, with the public. American journalist Jeff Jarvis has said, "Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don't give the people control of media, and you will lose. Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will." Tom Curley, President of the Associated Press, similarly said, "The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place."
- 1 Types of audiences
- 2 Audience participation
- 3 References
Types of audiences
Particular (real) audiences
In rhetoric, particular audiences depend on circumstance and situation, and are characterized by the individuals that make up the audience. Particular audiences are subject to persuasion and engage with the ideas of the speaker. Ranging in size and composition, particular audiences can come together to form a "composite" audience of multiple particular groups.
An immediate audience is a type of particular audience that is composed of individuals who are face-to-face subjects with a speaker and a speaker’s rhetorical text or speech. This type of audience directly listens to, engages with, and consumes the rhetorical text in an unmediated fashion. In measuring immediate audience reception and feedback, (audience measurement), one can depend on personal interviews, applause, and verbal comments made during and after a rhetorical speech.
In contrast to immediate audiences, mediated audiences are composed of individuals who consume rhetorical texts in a manner that is different from the time or place in which the speaker presents a text. Audiences who consume texts or speeches through television, radio, and Internet are considered mediated audiences because those mediums separate the rhetor and the audience. Understanding the size and composition of mediated audiences can be difficult because mediums such as television, radio, and Internet can displace the audience from the time and circumstance of a rhetorical text or speech. In measuring mediated audience reception and feedback (a practice called audience measurement), one can depend on opinion polls and ratings, as well as comments and forums that may be featured on a website.
Theoretical (imagined) audiences
Theoretical audiences are audiences that are imagined for the purpose of helping the speaker compose or practice, or a critic to understand, a rhetorical text or speech.
Self as audience (self-deliberation)
When a rhetor deeply considers, questions, and deliberates over the content of the ideas they are conveying, it can be said that these individuals are addressing the audience of self, or self-deliberating. Scholars Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, in their book The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, argue that the rhetor "is in a better position than anyone else to test the value of his own arguments." The audience of self, while not serving as the ends to all rhetorical purpose or circumstance, nevertheless acts as a type of audience that not only operates as a function of self-help, but as instrument used to discover the available means of persuasion.
The universal audience is an imagined audience that serves as an ethical and argumentative test for the rhetor. This also requires the speaker to imagine a composite audience that contains individuals from diverse backgrounds and to discern whether or not the content of the rhetorical text or speech would appeal to individuals within that audience. Scholars Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca ascertain that the content addressed to a universal audience "must convince the reader that the reasons adduced are of a compelling character, that they are self-evident, and possess an absolute and timeless validity". The concept of the universal audience has received criticism for being idealistic because it can be considered as an impediment in achieving persuasive effect with particular audiences. Yet, it still may be useful as an ethical guide for a speaker and a critical tool for a reader or audience.
An ideal audience is a rhetor's imagined, intended audience. In creating a rhetorical text, a rhetor imagines a target audience, a group of individuals that will be addressed, persuaded, or affected by the speech or rhetorical text. This type of audience is not necessarily imagined as the most receptive audience, but as the future particular audience that the rhetor will engage with. Imagining such an audience allows a rhetor to formulate appeals that will grant success in engaging with the future particular audience. In considering an ideal audience, a rhetor can imagine future conditions of mediation, size, demographics, and shared beliefs among the audience to be persuaded.
An implied audience is an imaginary audience determined by an auditor or reader as the text's constructed audience. The implied audience is not the actual audience, but the one that can be inferred by reading or analyzing the text. Communications scholar Edwin Black, in his essay, The Second Persona, presents the theoretical concept of the implied audience using the idea of two personae. The first persona is the implied rhetoric (the idea of the speaker formed by the audience) and the second persona is the implied audience (the idea of the audience formed by and utilized for persuasion in the speech situation). A critic could also determine what the text wants that audience to become or do after the rhetorical situation.
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Some more advanced audience participation is most commonly found in performances which break the fourth wall. Examples include the traditional British pantomimes, stand-up comedy, and creative stage shows such as Blue Man Group.
One of the most well-known examples of popular audience participation accompanies the motion picture and music The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its earlier stage incarnation The Rocky Horror Show. The audience participation elements are often seen as the most important part of the picture, to the extent that the audio options on the DVD version include the option.
Examples of audience participation
In the audience participation for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the audience make "call backs", and yell at the screen at certain parts of the movie. Also, a number of props are thrown and used by the audience during certain parts of the film. These props include:
- Rice - for the wedding scene
- Water pistols - to simulate the rain that Brad and Janet are walking in
- Toilet paper - when Dr. Scott enters the lab and Brad cries out "Great Scott!"
- Noisemakers - used at the beginning of the creation scene
- Confetti - used at the end of "I can make you a Man"
- Toast - used at the dinner scene
- Party hats - used at the dinner scene
- Playing cards - used in "I'm going home"
In British pantomime performances, the audience is a crucial element of the show expected to perform certain tasks, such as:
- Interacting with an "audience friend", a character often designed to be comedic and sympathetic, such as Buttons from Cinderella. Typical interactions include calls from the character with subsequent responses (e.g. Buttons: "Hiya gang!" Audience: "Hiya Buttons!")
- Booing and hissing at the villain
- Back and forth arguments, usually composed of simple, repetitive phrases (e.g. Character: "No there isn't!" Audience: "Yes there is!")
- "Ghost gags", where the audience yells loudly to inform the character of imminent danger, usually whilst the character is completely aloof.
In The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a Broadway theatre musical based on Charles Dickens's last, unfinished work, the audience must vote for whom they think the murderer is, as well as the real identity of the detective and the couple who end up together.
During the 1984 Summer Olympics, cards were inserted into the seats of the Olympic Stadium. The announcer gave a countdown to and told the audience to the raise the cards, revealing the flags of all the participating Nations.
Tony and Tina's Wedding is an example of a form of audience participation that engages the entire audience at once, staging a narrative set during a wedding in which the audience performs the role of "guests".
Magic shows often rely on some audience participation. Psychological illusionist Derren Brown relies heavily on audience participation in his live shows.
Bloggers often allow their readers moderated or unmoderated comments sections.
Faux audience participation
The television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured a man and his robots who were held as imprisoned audience members and tortured by being forced to view "bad" movies; to retain their sanity, they talked throughout and heckled each one.
In a similar vein, the online site Television Without Pity has a stable of reviewers and recappers who speak the lingo of audience members rather than of scholars, and who sometimes act as though they, too, are being tortured.
- Rosen, Jay (June 27, 2006). "The People Formerly Known as the Audience". Press Think. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
- Perelman, Chaim; L. Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969). The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
- Black, Edwin (1998). "The Second Persona". In John Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill, editors. Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. New York: Guilford. pp. 331–340. ISBN 1-572-30401-4.
- "Audience Participation in Pantomime". h2g2. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: We fall to pieces". Television Without Pity. May 6, 2002. Retrieved August 6, 2012. "Everybody hurts...sometimes. The only question remaining is: who's hurting the most? Is it Anya, Xander, Buffy, and Spike for having to live this crap, or [recapper] Ace for having to watch it?"
- Steinmetz, John. How to Enjoy a Live Concert. [S.l.]: Naxos, [199-?]. 51 p., with ill.