Active Audiences & the Construction of Meaning

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Active Audiences & the Construction of Meaning
"Media messages are central to everyday lives... Audiences are active interpreters of meaning." "Audiences interpret media in diverse ways.”(255-256). People in the media industry believe that the audience is a mass of passive readers who accept media messages uncritically. Nevertheless, the audiences actively take part in the interpretation of media texts which is an essential process when media messages start meaning something to people who assign their own implication to the texts. Sometimes audiences can interpret the message in the same way as intended by the producers, but sometimes they construct meaning that is very different. People interpret media texts in all types of social settings. Therefore, media has become a significant part of the social life. Since audiences are active receivers of media texts, they can change media messages by collective action such as prohibition of certain media texts, campaigns that show audiences’ disapproval of media products, public writing of letters of complaint regarding media, foundation of independent media that criticize main media but also supply audiences with alternative perspectives. Audiences from different races, ethnicities, genders and social classes construct various interpretations of the same media message. So, media texts are characterized by polysemy, they have multiple meanings. According to John Fiske (1986) there is abundance of meaning embedded in the media texts. Therefore, media messages are structured in a way that enables people to make different readings and interpret them actively, not simply to accept the dominant interpretation. People have agency but there is no structure. However, people from different social backgrounds construct various interpretations of same media texts. Social statuses shape audience members’ viewpoints, interests and attitudes towards media. As a result, people must be aware of their agency- the opportunity to...
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