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MEDA101 Theories of Media


MEDA216 - Media Audiences: Consumers, Creators, Citizens

Teaching organisation

Lecture, tutorials, workshops/online or on campus.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This capstone unit explores the varied approaches to audience scholarship; from early 20th century visualisations of mindless consumers, drip-fed by a continuous flow of ‘messages’, to the study of new media as a site of participatory culture and community. Particular emphasis is given to fans, whose online production practices may push the boundaries of genre, taste and copyright law. Students will demonstrate the skills acquired in this unit through the piloting and evaluation of their own audience research project.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and explain historical and contemporary approaches to the study of media audiences; (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Discuss the varied relationships that may occur between audiences, producers and texts; (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Use a selection of audience research methods to study an audience (or) user (or) fan subculture; and (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8)

LO4 - Evaluate and communicate the findings of audience research. (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Historical concepts of the media audience (i.e. passive receptors of messages)
  • Ratings, and the commodification of audiences
  • Citizenship, public opinion and the public/private sphere
  • New media, participatory culture, and the disruption of cultural monopolies
  • Fandom, and the pleasures of identification
  • Contemporary methodologies suitable for the study of media audiences

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students value tools of instruction that have immediate uses (Slade 2010, p37), and are seen to develop skills that employers will value (Nicol 2009, p36). One of those skills is research. In MEDA304, students will research and pilot their own audience research project and will therefore be able to demonstrate facility with basic data gathering techniques to a prospective employer.

Each tutorial will consist of two distinct types of activities that transition from skills of acquisition to skills of application. Students will be asked to analyse examples of media audience research before undertaking practical exercises which model the research technique in small groups. This will prepare students to deploy a selection of those techniques for their final assessment task without the same level of supervision.

This unit has Taught Ethics clearance.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In this unit, students will be asked to prepare assessment tasks appropriate to their year level. A range of assessment procedures will be used that combine to meet the learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit, consistent with University assessment requirements.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

A review of published audience studies themed around an audience product, practice or site.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

A research design for a student-led engagement with a ‘real-world’ audience


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

An evaluation of a report on the outcomes of audience research undertaken by students (which might include written, oral and audio-visual components, depending on the nature of the research undertaken and methodologies employed).


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Budarick, J & Han, G (eds.) 2017, Minorities and Media Producers, Industries, Audiences, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Burgess, J & Green, J 2014, Youtube: online video and participatory culture, Polity Press.

Chilisa, B 2011, Indigenous Research Methodologies, SAGE, Los Angeles.

Duffett, M 2014, Understanding Fandom: An Introduction to the Study of Media Fan Culture, Bloomsbury Academic.

Gauntlett, D 2011, Making is Connecting, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Hight, C, & Harindranath, R (eds.) 2017, Studying Digital Media Audiences : perspectives from Australasia, Routledge, New York.

Jenkins, H 2013, Textual Poachers: television fans & participatory culture (updated twentieth century edition), Routledge, New York.

Lee, A (ed.) 2014, A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom, McFarland & Company, North Carolina.

Mandiberg, M (ed.) 2012, The Social Media Reader, New York University Press, New York.

Nightingale, V (ed.) 2011, The Handbook of Media Audiences, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford

Stein, L & Busse, K (eds.) 2012, Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series, McFarland & Company, Jefferson.

Sullivan, J 2013, Media Audiences, Effects, Users, Institutions, Power, SAGE, California.

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