Today’s audiences have become much more active in their consumption of media. Unlike the past where audiences were passive by simply absorbing what was being thrown at them, today they are actively interacting with the media in a variety of ways.
To begin, we must understand that people approach the media with different expectations because there are many different ways in which we use and gain pleasure from media text. For example, a business elite may read the New York Times thinking it will inform them on current events; whereas, a young student may simply read it with the intention and hope of looking intelligent when talking to their professors.
The audience member and/or consumer of media is no longer a reader/listener/viewer, but rather a user. He or she is much more engaged and their relationship to the media has become more two-way rather than one-way. For example, with the emergence of the Internet and the continuous technological advancements made in media, there has been a change in the method of absorbing the news. People used to just look at the front page of a newspaper and read what was in front of them; however, now they are able to look on the New York Times website and click on different links to navigate through the site and extract information. With the invention of the hyperlink on online news websites has come a sense of open space without any linearity to it. This is a new mode of knowledge allows users to actively select information that interests them without it being pre-categorized.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ryan Raffa
Audience members and media users have also become very interactive with each other with the start of user generated content such as Wikipedia that has created a sense of “Do It Yourself” culture. This has created a sort of collective intelligence whereby users are actively combining ideas and adding back into something together. We are now all apart of a “crowd” where we used to be “strangers” to eachothers’ ideas but now are all part of one community. Communities are now in both the real and media world, with older communities simply getting stronger with the invention of social networks and users that actively take advantage of these.