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A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination

First Edition

June 1998 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Audiences are problematic and, as such, the study of audiences has represented a key site of activity in the social sciences and humanities. In Audiences, the authors offer a timely review of the past 50 years of theoretical and methodological debate to argue the case for a paradigmatic shift in audience research. This shift, they argue, is necessitated by the emergence of the "diffused audience." Audience experience can no longer be simply classified as "simple" or "mass," for in modern, advanced capitalist societies, people are members of an audience all the time. Being a member of an audience is no longer an exceptional event, nor even an everyday event. Rather, it is constitutive of everyday life. That this is the case is attributable to the fact that our relationship with events and objects in the social world has changed. If the world is increasingly conceived as a spectacle, then so are the people within it, and we become both simultaneously performers and audience. This book offers an invaluable review of the literature and a new point of departure for audience research, and will be welcomed by all students of sociology, media, communication, and cultural studies.

Changing Audiences
Changing Paradigms of Research

Forms of the Audience
Spectacle and Narcissism
Imagination and Resources
Fans and Enthusiasts
The Spectacle/Performance Paradigm
Methods, Issues and Theories


`From a theoretical point of view, they provide a valuable update on how recent debates within cultural studies should alter the direction of critical audience research.... The considerable breadth of subject matter covered in this book is organized logically and presented in extremely readable prose.... The authors also provide a valuable service in differentiating among audience activity.... This book is worth reading for a number of reasons. It is the first introductory work of critical audience research that suggests how we can study the connection of media consumption in general with every day life, and it also goes beyond its competitors in showing how postmodern thinking can help us in the analysis of a "whole way of life"' - Journal of Communication

`This book brings the study of the audience into the centre of the study of electronic mediation, and the study of electronic mediation into the centre of the study of society and culture. In so doing it captures something of the inescapable intensity of the media in the late twentieth century in ways which are both accessible and provocative. It should be widely read' - Roger Silverstone

`Timely and refreshing....the authors successfully assert is that to understand audiences both method and theory must take account of wider social processes and not to isolate media use from the complex rhythms, patterns and practices of everyday life. In locating audiences within this wider framework they have laid down a formidable challenge for future research' - Framework

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