Developing 'CEDAR': Consortium on Emerging Directions in Audience Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Media and Communication

Abstract

1. Overview - Bringing together academics from 14 European countries and stakeholders from the European Broadcasting Union (EU level) and Creative Skillset (UK level), CEDAR (Consortium on Emerging Directions in Audience Research) will enhance knowledge in communication studies and related fields in the humanities and social sciences. It will (1) map key emerging trends in the practices of media audiences in a networked and globalised world and (2) use established tools of foresight analysis to draw out a cross-disciplinary research agenda for the study of audiences in 2030. CEDAR will be the first attempted foresight-analysis exercise on audiences and also the first research consortium in the field mobilizing the work of early-career academics. CEDAR will build knowledge and also capacities of an entire generation of academics, while facilitating the exchange of knowledge across disciplinary, conceptual and inter-sector boundaries.

2 The critical problem- Media audiences are not solely a domain of interest for media researchers, for audiences are also families and individuals, communities and groups, publics, citizens, consumers, etc. The activities of audiences inside and outside the home have interested sociologists (e.g. families as viewers), cultural theorists (e.g. television responses amongst ethnic groups), political scientists (e.g. audiences as protestors, opinion providers, voters), educators (e.g. media literacies), the government and the media itself. Findings about audiences (existing in a dedicated sub-field of media studies) have clear implications across sectors and disciplines, but many of these have not been drawn out to their fullest and communicated clearly outside the field. Despite decades of empirical evidence, many assumptions are made about the attitudes, tastes and preferences of audiences in all their different capacities, and as audiences are changing rapidly in a multimedia world, concerns about the (often perceived) vulnerability of audiences abound in the media. Stakeholders in policy and industry have little idea of the findings from 6 decades of critical academic research. Equally, the consolidation of current findings and trends in the field is a task yet to be undertaken as the academic wheel seems to be reinvented too often.

3 Research Questions and Agenda- The network will answer two questions: First, what are the key emerging themes in the experiences and practices of audiences in a networked and global world? To answer this, the network will devote half of its workshops to conduct an analytical theme-mapping of 4 research clusters covering the field of audience research. This exercise goes beyond the consolidation of existing research for it will ignite the task of foresight-analysis to ask - what is a future agenda for the field 15 years from today? To respond, we will conduct a foresight analysis exercise using the outcomes of theme-mapping and established tools such as expert panels and scenario building.

4 Timeliness- The project is particularly timely as it addresses academic questions as well as contemporary public policy concerns, for instance on perceived audience vulnerabilities (see OFCOM Broadcasting Code), media literacy emphases on cultural education and engagement for all (Henley, 2012; Tripney, et. al 2010), young people as audiences and participants in civic culture (see European council on young people), and the uptake of new interfaces, designs and platforms.

5 Consortium structure- The consortium comprises (a) a knowledge-producing core of academics from 14 European countries (b) a mentoring periphery of 13 senior academics (c) two collaborating organisations - The European Broadcasting Unit (EU level) and Creative Skillset (UK level) and (d) two coordinators, Dr Das of the University of Leicester (principal investigator) and Dr Ytre-Arne of the University of Bergen in Norway (co-investigator).

Planned Impact

(1) European policy and industry professionals working with audiences (European Broadcasting Union): The network has developed a key collaboration at the European level. The European Broadcasting Union has agreed to be a partner for the consortium and enriches the consortium by providing the perspectives of European public service broadcasters. Learning from, catering to and understanding audiences as viewers and producers of media content lies at the heart of the activities of EBU and the consortium will be deeply enriched by learning from their research priorities and responding to these priorities from within academia. In discussion with EBU, the Coordinators have learnt of its significant experience with audiences in addition to excellent contacts with broadcasters, their awareness of broadcaster needs in terms of audience research and also conduct our own projects and analysis in Geneva. One of the key objectives of the Consortium in its partnership with EBU is to obtain a more practice-based perspective on audiences, and better understand the links between research and practice in the field. EBU has found the initiative relevant for them so that they might have access to the community of researchers the network is trying to build and activate. The network will aim to present their work at EBU conferences and invite EBU to present themselves at the network workshops, especially the foresight analysis ones. In addition, the network will produce specific research output briefs for them.
(2) National policy and industry professionals working with audiences (Creative Skillset): The consortium has already written to national non-academic users explaining its aims and scope and discussing ways in which to be involved with them. Creative Skillset, of UK, has joined hands with the network and brings with it the perspective of creatively talented people in training to join media and cultural production. Creative Skillset, in discussion with the Coordinators have said they are interested in addressing the gaps in audience research in the UK and wish to enable the network to get in a dialogue with the creative industry. Creative Skillset have informed us that they have conducted some research themselves, mostly focusing on diversity within the creative industry, and now they would like to take it a step further to work with audiences. Here lies the chief area for the network to contribute in the form of invited presentations at Skillset and the network workshops but also tailor-made outputs of research.
(3) Public bodies: A third aim of the network is to develop relationships with public institutions which work with audiences. The British Film Institute is one of the examples of bodies the Network will create a dialogue with to both gain an understanding of audience diversities and share its insights.
(4) Tools for public engagement -To encourage those who will benefit from the project to make a contribution as the research progresses, the project makes use of consultation and participation methods where end-users are involved in the project right from design up till dissemination. An advisory board comprising senior academics, representatives from EBU, Skillset and other public bodies will be set up with whom the network will consult from time to time at key points in the process. The network uses a deliberative workshop with participants in its second year of running which is multi-stakeholder in nature. A cross-sector 'Open Space' is also planned which will bring together researchers, with practitioners as the network develops future scenarios as part of its foresight exercise. This will be particularly useful to invite creative thinking, open discussion and a sense of community. Finally, the network will seek the AHRC's inputs in designing effective communication material which will disseminate academic findings as a non-technical report.

Publications

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Kaun, Anne (2016) 'In search of the invisible (audiences)' in Participations

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Mathieu D (2015) Audience research beyond the hermeneutics of suspicion in International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics

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Pavlícková, Tereza (2016) Produsage as experience and interpretation' in Participations

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Vesnic-Alujevic L (2018) The Future of Audiences

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Vesnic-Alujevic, Lucia (2016) Digital audiences' disempowerment: Participation or free labour' in Participations

 
Description CEDAR's first phase of work was published as a 13 article strong special issue and its second, on-going phase is projected to become the network's edited book Audiences 2030: A Foresight Analysis.Since inception the network came together to map trends, gaps and priorities emerging over the past decade in the transforming field of audience and audience studies. In Phase 1, the network conducted a set of exercises to establish 4 hubs of transformation which have characterised the field of audiences over the last decade. These four pivotal axes along which audiences and the field have transformed, are, we suggest - Audiences in their role as users of networked platforms; Audiences as producers of content; Audiences as people whose work is often co-opted by larger players; and Audiences and their capacities for action.

Finding 1: Audiences of digital media are displaying a variety of strategies and competences to cope with increasingly complex, connected, intrusive media
1. Audiences are increasingly confronted with intrusive and automated digital media as evident from the very latest technologies.
2. Audiences are developing new coping strategies (sense-making, appropriation) to deal with the formative and intrusive interfaces of digital media and much of this is research in fields outside audience studies.
3. Newer literacies are being developed, which shift attention towards the operating of digital media platforms and addresses their political and ethical implications

Finding 2: Small, not just large, acts of audience production are punctuating existing flows of content
 
1. Audience practices increasingly include small acts of productive engagement with media content and that these small acts are now beginning to generate interest in the field
2. Some productive practices more frequently supplement and broaden and challenge mainstream media content than others, and ther eis shift of focus from the lesson that we are not all producers now, towards distinguishing and finessing our understanding of different degrees of productive activity.
3. There is an increased use of technology in story-telling by minority audiences and research is focusing on the political significance of the digital exchange of discourses and narratives

Finding 3: Acts of audience production are being sought, shaped and co-opted by larger bodies

1. The creative participation of audiences in glocalisation is being managed/co-opted by global players
2. Digital media platform design shaping content and audience agency into computable data (metrification)
3. Media industries are encouraging and appropriating audiences productive engagement for their purposes

Finding 4: Audiences' emerging micro-politics are finding ethical significance and shaping collective action
 
1. An emerging micro-politics of Small-scale, everyday, individual actions are finding political/ethical significance
2. Listening is involving new modes of receptivity entailing constant switches between background attention to active reception, and research is investigating it's political implications
3. Some audiences are channelizing their emotions and literacies into social movements and organized action

In Phase 2, which on-going (2017) - CEDAR is conducting a foresight analysis exercise. Three principles guide our 3 methods for our foresight exercise. First CEDAR will base its vision of the future on the analysis and understanding of current and historic trends and events in the field- this leads us to our trend-mapping exercise Next CEDAR will take into account a variety of views from outside academia to develop these visions of the future. This leads us to a 14 country wide stakeholder consultation exercise that we have kicked off recently. Finally, CEDAR will aim for a consistent description of possible future situations for audiences in 2030 and for each such situation CEDAR will produce an implication for both audiences and those who research them. These leads us to a scenario building exercise.
Exploitation Route Our foresight exercise is the first in the field of audience analysis and as such would work very well as a blueprint for large research teams trying to adopt the same method/with the same ambitions within the field and across media and cultural studies in general.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.cedarahrc.com