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The media audience: Is it active or passive?


















Submitted as: Critical essay

Due Date: 11/05/20

ELA: Emma Flemming

Learning Group:

Word Count: 1700






Presently, the world has exposed individuals to various media forms making the presentation of a society to be solemnly associated with the audience’s attention to the media world. Present and past societies show that media consumption can permit the media audience to either be inactive or dynamic. Lack of audience participation in media makes the flow of information redundant (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016) There is also a dynamic relationship related to the makers of media writings and media audiences. Above all, media audiences are part of either consideredpassive,as per the hypodermic needle hypothesis (Gjoni, 2017), or in regards to Stuarts encoding/decoding theory considered to be more active (Mehrad, Eftekhar & Goltaji, 2020; Gjoni, 2017). Stuart splits media participation into decoder and encoder perspective in considering the aspect of passive or activeness in media (Hall, 2010). Nazi propaganda is a specific example of hypodermic needle hypothesis involving posters and radio broadcastswhich were embraced by a passive audience during the Second World War.  This essay argues that present-day audiences are typically more active-passive encoders and decoders of media messages, andexposed to many more interactive forms of media.

The example of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) aligns with the aspect that there is an expansion of the roles of mass media in politics, communication, social life, socialisation, and constructions of subjectivities. The people in New York 14th District expressed their subjective appeals that made AOC relevant in politics.  As indicated by Kellner (2020), media culture affirms that media is a functioning model, and the audience effectively share their views concerning the social affiliations and growing interests as specified by the general public.

The extent of media participation has changed over the past 100 years; the media was once considered to be mainly passive. According to Mehrad et al. (2020, p. 20), in the past, people believed “media communications to be a latent type of transmission of data.” In any case, presently, the consistent audit and sharing of data demonstrate that the media is a functioning type of correspondence (Mehrad et al., 2020). People are now creating and decoding media as individuals. Besides, they are changing the way that they encode media to suit the purpose of the audience and the type of media message to be aired to society. Individuals are also able to create interpretations about a particular media message by incorporating social contexts and personal beliefs, hence proving that present-day media is an active form of communication (Mehrad et al., 2020). In that manner, the present-day meaning of media participation shows more aspects of active media audiences than passive.

The idea of audience participation emphasises the theory of society as an active audience concerningproducers’perceptions regarding their audiences. It also influences the type of message to be communicated (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). Media messages and the creation of content delve into the constant rise of social media and the aspect that media participants are active creators of most media information (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). An earlyexampleof portraying that the media as an active form of communication was when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manipulated the media and shared propaganda concerning his popularity index (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). Most participants were passive in questioning the propaganda, leading to him winning the presidential election. A distinct lack of the popular vote shows that at the time, the media was passive (Jones, 2019). A small percentage of people who were active in sharing their views overwhelmed passive audiences (Gjoni, 2017). In that manner, the context of the discussion of Donald Trump’s campaign strategy shows that the media was passive until the time that Trump won the election. In that perspective, media audiences are both passive and active.

On the other hand, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Congress member in the New York 14thDistrict’s participation in media and how she ascended to power, shows that media audiences are active. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the first woman to be elected into Congress through a positive and authentic media portrayal (Ocasio-Cortez, 2018). She actively engaged in media as a form of communication and collecting views about the changes that were needing implementation for the benefit of the New York 14th District. Through active media participation, she has maintained her prominence on Twitter, communicating on the national agenda (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has contributed significantly to the progression of the nation through social media campaigns and aspects that have led to her beingstrongly associated with social media representation.

A brief history of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez can outline how active media audiences enabled her to ascend to the seat in Congress. Before ascending to power, AOC shared her history, family progression in the rogue political system, issues of lack of proper representation on the aspect of health insurance, and how life became a challenge when AOC’s father died (Ocasio-Cortez, 2018). Active participation of the audience who tested the credibility of her claims led to her being considered the most appropriate candidate for the New York 14th District Congress membership (Ocasio-Cortez, 2018). The support that Alexandria Cortez received using media campaigns shows that today, audiences are active participants in media. They actively contribute and refute texts and claims in media.

Active media audience was not widely accepted by the theorists of the first half of the 20th century. Hypodermic needle theory considers audiences to be somehow passive in some contexts (Hall, 2010). Hypodermic needle theory majorly emphasises that audiences are passive and as previously discussed, led to the success of Nazi WWII propaganda, and itseffectson the public. Asking the public to blindly accept the government agenda, and not share their personal views and opinions, and the public complying, led to disastrous consequences.  Similarly, some media texts do not allow individuals to share their views (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). In that manner, the media audience becomes passive in commenting on some posts.

In the second half of the 20th century, theorists began to give audiences engagement more considerable attention (Hall, 2010). They considered the theories of passive media audiences to be inconsistentregarding the present-day perspective of media audiences. According to (Hall, 2010), the theory of encoding/decoding proves the fact that audiences can derive theirmeaning regarding media. It is an aspect that makes them active participants in the media. Halls theories of media as an active audience rather than a passive onewasessential in promoting the idea of active media audiences and led to wider widely discussion (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). Communication is now explained in terms of encoding and decoding of media messages. Decoding is the concept of how the audience tries to understand and interpret media texts and compare them with the context of the media information instead of concentrating on the producers of the data (Hall 2010). In that manner, there are different ways in which media information can be decoded by the audience and negotiated according to the opposition or perspective of the audience (Hall 2010).

According to the concept of decoding/encoding theory of the media, “negotiated readings” are an aspect by which the “reader interprets a piece of particular information with an element of agreeing or disagreeing” with some parts of the information concerning their contexts (Hall, 2010, p. 570). Readers can completely disagree with encoded messages, as portrayed in most of the media text on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today’s media encoding and decoding enable participants to outline their perspective on whether they accept or defer with information published on the media platform. In that manner, the media audience becomes more active than passive in matters associated with the current society.

Inpresent-day society, audiences are continually becoming more active in showing their participationthrough communication processes on the internet and media platforms (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). Notably, media texts producers can no longer encode texts that do not show careful consideration of the interpretation of the information to the receiver. Readers on media platforms can comment on messages or texts on most of the online news sites. In that manner, the audience has the mandate to differ with the opinion outlined on media platforms by the media text producers.

On the other hand, hypodermic needle theory typically emphasises that media audiences are passive, as the past methods of encoding messages on media allowedconsumers little chance to share their comments and perspectives. However, the present-day perspective shows that encoding and decoding theory is the most appropriate in defining the media audience as active participants. Therefore, media audiences are more active than passive participants in the transformation of messages and sharing of opinions concerning particular information (Astigarraga-Agirre, 2016). The theory is justified in the way New Yorkersenabled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ascend into Congressthrough participation in the media campaign, as she is an active participant on Twitter (O’Shaughnessy, Stadler & Casey, 2016). Today, the world is sophisticated, and audience participation is continuously changing with regards to the creators of media. Audiences are undoubtedly capable of showing actual participation in the media by commenting, liking, or disliking media texts.

Media audiences are typically not restrained to a particular category; thus, the present-day audiences generally are more active than being passive encoders and decoders of media messages. Theencoding/decoding approach supportsthe notion of media audiences to beactiveparticipants. However, the models of the definition are more profound in defining the moments that make an individual be either a passive or an active audience. It has been outlined that in the first half of the 20th century, audiences were passive participants by default due to the decimation of media information. The world is sophisticated, and audience participation is continuously changing with regards to the creators of media. In Nazi Germany, the media was controlled and passivelyaccepted by the public, much as it is in modern-day China. Today, in most countries, the choice of being passive regarding media is the choice of the audience. Today’s media text producers publish information knowing that the active participation of other media audiences will contribute to it by either accepting or refuting their claims. It has beenestablished that media messages and the formation of content delve into the steady ascent of web-based associations and the viewpoint that media members are dynamic makers of most media data. Thus, media audiences are more productive than passive.





Astigarraga-Agirre, I., 2016. Active audience? Interaction of young people with television and online video content.

Kellner, D., 2020. Critical Perspectives on Television from the Frankfurt School to the Politics of Representation. A Companion to Television, pp.15-37.

Gjoni, E., 2017. From Passive Viewers to Content Generators: Audience Role on TV Programs and Online Media. Journalism7(2), pp.63-77.

Hall, S., 2010. Encoding, decoding 1. Social Theory: Power and identity in the global era2, pp.569-599.

J Jones, E., 2019. The hypodermic needle theory at work. Proceedings for Mediated Minds2(2).

Mehrad, J., Eftekhar, Z., and Goltaji, M., 2020. Vaccinating Users against the Hypodermic Needle Theory of Social Media: Libraries and Improving Media Literacy. International Journal of Information Science and Management (IJISM)18(1), pp.17-24.

Ocasio-Cortez, A., 2018. Twitter Post. June 23, 2018, 8:30 PM. Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from

Stadler, J., O’Shaughnessy, M., and Casey, S., 2016. Media and Society. Oxford University Press.

6 pages / 1650 words Harvard

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