IAMCR 2012 - Audience Section Call for Papers

erythrina_caffraThe Audience Section invites submissions for its open sessions at the IAMCR to be held in Durban (South Africa) 2012 from July 15-19. The conference theme for 2012 is ‘South-North conversations’.

The Audience Section invites papers within this overall theme and which reflect the Section's interest in new approaches and thinking to audience research in a global context.
The Section encourages and aims to inspire greater interest in exploring and understanding audiences in diverse settings, and the contextualized power balances and imbalances that characterize these settings.


The nature of audiences as critical interpreters and producers, ethnographic approaches to researching them and their embeddedness in the power logics of everyday life, and the extent to which traditional classifications of audiences (masses, publics and markets) are being challenged by the fluidity and ephemeral nature of virtual and mobile audiences are important concerns.

Also the relationship between audiences and technological affordances, limiting and/or enabling their empowerment, the struggle for an increased semantic democracy and ways of dealing with glocalized or translocalized media content are on the agenda of the Audience Section.

Finally, the Section gives special attention to reassessing the theories, methods and issues that inform practices of audience researchers. The Section also encompasses investigations of the appropriateness of 'Western' and 'non-Western' theories and methods in this diversity of settings.


In addition to the open call for papers, we would like to invite papers and proposals for panels which address the following themes:

  1. Embedded audiences

    The contextualisation of audiencehood in everyday life has opened up audience studies to look at the audience as radically embedded, also in space. The strong emphasis on the cultural turn has in some cases diverted our attention from an equally significant movement, which has been labelled the spatial turn. Falkheimer and Jansson's core questions (in Geographies of Communication: The Spatial Turn in Media Studies) touch upon the key issues of this spatial turn for communication and media studies scholars: how does communication produce space and how does space produce communication. The translation to audience studies raises questions about the geography and spatiality of audiencehood: How do audiences relate to private and public spaces, how does the local, cultural, national (and the translocal, transcultural and transnational) relate to audiencehood, how are audiences embedded and embodied in urban cultures, and how do audiences function in online, networked, liminal and alternative spaces?

  2. Resistant audiences, critical audiences, networked audiences

    Central to the audience research tradition has been a commitment to examining forms of resistance and opposition exhibited by audiences. Much of the seminal work of audience studies was forged in a time of economic crisis through the 1970s and 1980s when forms of audience resistance revealed deep-seated social tensions and a charged political environment. Are similar patterns evident in the current global economic crisis? The locus of resistance has shifted from the ideal-interpretative to the material-productive. How does this affect the nature of resistance? How do audiences network and join forces in alternative interpretative communities? How is the resistant and critical audience manifest across today’s more complex media landscape? How do media organizations and professionals deal with the resistant and critical audiences? And how is resistance, at the level of the ideal-interpretative and the material-productive incorporated and transformed into compliance? We invite papers that look across the full spectrum of audience experience and examine diverse accounts of readings, modes of engagement and mediation of audience relationships with the wider society.

  3. Decentralizing the audience

    Audience studies have often implicitly centralized mediated experiences while at the same time contextualizing, qualifying and decentralizing the role of media in people’s everyday lives. This tension has lead to an over-emphasis on audience activity, both at the level of media consumption and media (self-production), while more passive and indifferent media uses and referential interpretations are under-theorized and under-researched. We invite papers that focus on the everyday passiveness of (some) media audiences and their acceptance of or indifference to the media frameworks that are offered to them. Moreover, we also call for papers that theorize or research the sometimes limited importance attributed to media in the everyday life of audience members.

  4. Children as audiences

    Children and young people represent are a hugely important constituency for today’s media and are frequently seen to be in the vanguard of new audience trends and emerging practices of consumption and engagement. As a distinct audience grouping, children are the focus of special public policy provisions including codes regarding media content, professional guidelines regarding children as subjects and participants in the media, and a host of initiatives designed to foster citizenship and creativity through media literacy. Empirical work on children as audiences remains scarce however and in this stream we invite papers that explore audience experience from the child’s perspective, and that examine opportunities, risks, and challenges faced by children in the current media environment. Questions might include the extent to which media literacies are evident in children’s audience practices  or how agency supported or strengthened through civil society, educational or governmental action?

Proposals for papers under any of the above can be made by submitting an abstract of between 300-500 words long through the Conference website. Each abstract must include title, name(s), affiliation, institutional address and email address of author(s).  Proposals for panels, containing details of each paper, are also welcome.  IAMCR accepts presentations in English, French and Spanish. However, it is requested that abstracts, if at all possible, be submitted in English.

For more on the submission of abstracts, registration, theme, location, etc., please go to http://iamcr2011istanbul.com.

Guidelines for Abstracts

Abstracts should be 300-500 words in length.

All abstract submissions must be made centrally via the Open Conference System (OCS).


  • February 14, 2012:  Submission of abstracts (papers will be assessed by double blind review of abstracts).
  • March 12, 2012: announcement of acceptances.
  • June 10, 2012: Full papers due.

For enquiries or further information, please contact:

Section Head: Nico Carpentier
Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Free University of Brussels
Centre for Studies on Media and Culture (CeMeSO)
Pleinlaan 2 - B-1050 Brussels - Belgium
Deputy Head: Brian O’Neill
School of Media
Dublin Institute of Technology
Aungier Street - Dublin 2 - Ireland
Deputy Head: Toshie Takahashi
Dept. of Communication and Media Studies
Rikkyo University
3-34-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku,
Tokyo 171-8501, Japan