Monday, October 22, 2012

The Nature of the Audience: Revisiting the Uses and Gratifications Approach

In the piece, The Nature of the Audience, author Ien Ang analyzes the uses and gratifications approach from another perspective. We have learned that the uses and gratifications approach asks the question “not what do the media do to people but, what do people do with the media?” This approach has been praised by many researchers who assume that it allows the audience to choose what media material they want to actively consume. Ang is now introducing important criticisms that researchers have overlooked. For example, one mentioned problem with the uses and gratifications approach is the fact that it remains individualistic. Ang writes, “the approach does not take into consideration that some uses of the media are not related to the pursuit of gratifications at all” (370). This criticism can be accounted for in numerous everyday situations. An example of this could take place in a classroom setting. A student that is a die-hard country music fan is scheduled to give a five-minute presentation on what they have learned from one of the assigned semester course projects. This individual student has decided to use Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over” as an opening theme to their slide show presentation. Many students in the class, in this case, are die-hard anti-country music individuals, who would rather starve for a week than listen to country music. Because they are a part of the class, they have no other option but to listen attentively if they do not want to be marked down. This example for instance, clearly depicts what Ang finds wrong with the uses and gratifications approach. The uses and gratifications approach is exploited as an effect that cannot appease audiences with different tastes, but caters only to a certain demographic at any given time.  

I think this criticism is an extremely interesting point presented by Ang. It makes me rethink how the mass media is organized and how audiences are made to seem completely satisfied with what is available. Through the uses and gratifications approach, it is assumed that nobody has any complaints about the specific media accessible. It also jumps to the conclusion that no one might want “alternative kinds of media output” when in reality, that is most probable (371). 

1 comment:

  1. Great recap of the Ang and her take on U&Gs, Karen. Indeed, media use is not always gratifying, and the second point is even more important--that U&Gs theory tends to overlook limitations in the kinds of media we have access to (at any given time). For example, just because I can enjoy an episode of Friends or Seinfeld doesn't mean I'm not still unhappy with the lack of representation for Asian-Americans in mainstream television.