MC402      Half Unit
The Audience in Media and Communications

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Sonia Livingstone


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Data, Networks and Society, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Marketing, MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Research), MSc in Politics and Communication and MSc in Strategic Communications. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

In order to accommodate academic staff research leave and sabbaticals, and in order to maintain smaller seminar group sizes, this course is capped, meaning that there is a limit to the number of students who can be accepted.

Course content

This course examines a variety of social, cultural and psychological issues as they relate to the audiences for mass and social media. It analyses people's everyday engagement with a mediated world. We will review the history of audiences and audience research from the vantage point of the present digital age, also examining key theories of audiences’ and users’ interpretation, engagement, fandom and creativity in a global and cross-media perspective. Students will be encouraged to read widely, to forge links with other aspects of media, communications and cultural studies in order to critically examine the positioning of audiences and users within the field, and to debate the nature and future of audiences in a changing media landscape.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to complete advance reading, prepare seminar presentations, and submit one essay of 1,500 words.

Indicative reading

  • Abercrombie, N. & Longhurst, B. (1998) Audiences: A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination, Sage.
  • Athique, A. (2016) Transnational Audiences: Media Reception on a Global Scale. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Barker, M. (2018) Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, Volume 15 issue 1 (or other volumes).
  • Brooker, W. & Jermyn, D. (Eds.) (2003) The Audience Studies Reader, Routledge.
  • Butsch, R., & Livingstone, S. (Eds.) (2013) Meanings of Audiences: Comparative discourses, Routledge; chapter 1 at
  • Hill, A. (2018) Media Experiences: Engaging with drama and reality television. London, Routledge.
  • Nightingale, V. (ed.) (2011) The Handbook of Media Audiences, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Sender, K. (2012). The makeover: Reality television and reflexive audiences. New York: New York University Press.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 19.2
Merit 56.2
Pass 22.1
Fail 2.5

Teachers' comment

This course critically investigates the nature and the future of audiences in our ever changing media environment.

Students' comments

"I enjoyed the involvement of guest lecturers - it made the course varied and interesting. I also appreciated the activities that made us pool our personal experience on Moodle."

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2020/21: 82

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills