Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


MEDA101 - Theories of Media or MEDA104 Screen, Sound and Society


MEDA216 - Media Audiences: Consumers, Creators, Citizens

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 this unit, 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 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.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The goal of this unit is to lead students through the process of designing their own honours-level audience research project, for which they will informally pilot one research instrument. An evaluation of this pilot will be presented as Assignment 3 and could form the basis of an honours application, should the student be interested in pursuing it.

In order to get there, students will first select a topic, survey the academic literature on that topic, and formulate a research question (presented as assignment 1). Once students know WHO they are wanting to research, and WHAT they wish to find out, the next step is to work out HOW they will go about it (presented as assignment 2).

Biggs (1989, pp17-18) argues that motivation is key to deep learning, and that students are more likely to be motivated when they are involved in the planning of a task; when there is a sense of “ownership”. In MEDA304 students will be invited to develop a research project around an audience product, practice, site or subculture (within taught ethics guidelines) that reflects their own interests and obsessions.

To meet the learning outcomes of this unit students must pass assessment three, which is an evaluation of and report on the outcomes of audience research.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

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

This formative task will encourage a critical engagement with published scholarly research (LO1) into the various engagements that exist between audiences, producers and texts (LO2).


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

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

This formative task will help students to establish a research methodology (LO3) for their proposed audience research project, and to place that methodology within an ethical framework.


LO1, LO2, LO3

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

3. An evaluation of and 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).

In this summative task, students will demonstrate an ability to gather and communicate the results of research via an informal pilot. All learning outcomes are demonstrated via successful completion of this task.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

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

Representative texts and references

Cultural Protocols

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Cultural Protocols for Indigenous Reporting in the Media

Australia Council, Protocols for Using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts,

Terri Janke, Pathways and Protocols: A Filmmaker’s guide to Working With Indigenous People, Culture and Concepts, Screen Australia,


Aarons, H 2021, A Practical Introduction to Survey Design: A Beginner's Guide, SAGE, Los Angeles.

Berger, A 2020, Media and Communication Research Methods, 5th edn., SAGE, Thousand Oaks.

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

Cyr, J 2019, Focus Groups for the Social Science Researcher, Cambridge University Press.

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

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

Kwaymullina, A (2016) “Research, Ethics and Indigenous Peoples: An Australian Indigenous perspective on three threshold considerations,” AlterNative, 12.4, pp. 437-449.

Mytton, G, Diem, P & van Dam, P 2016, Media Audience Research: A Guide For Professionals, 3rd edn., SAGE, California.

Sullivan, J 2020, Media Audiences: Effects, Users, Institutions, and Power, 2nd edn., SAGE, Thousand Oaks.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples 2nd ed. London & New York: Zed Books, 2012.

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