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MFCO406 Audience Studies


An overview of the field of audience studies as it relates to film, media and communication.

Audiences are a central concern of the mass media industries, which have developed a number of assessment methods. Despite this, it has proven difficult - if not impossible - for these methods to accurately or consistently measure what it is that they originally set out to measure: how audiences make use of texts. The paper, therefore, considers what is at issue, the main approaches and their presuppositions. We will also explore why the study of audiences has become so problematic by examining different ways in which the audience have been imagined as an object of study and the difficulties of assessing what it is that people think or feel - consciously or unconsciously - about what they read, listen to and see.

Paper title Audience Studies
Paper code MFCO406
Subject Media, Film and Communication
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,142.40
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,661.93

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54 300-level MFCO points
May not be credited together with MFCO 407 passed in 2012, 2014, 2015 or 2016.
Teaching staff
Convenor and Lecturer: Dr Davinia Thornley
Paper Structure
This class is structured according to three modules:
  • A historical overview of audience studies
  • Research and participation weeks, including practice in focus group methodology and the presentation of relevant case studies
  • Discussion around what it means to engage with audiences, recognising the social context of viewing
  • Seminar presentation 40% (10% each for 2 class presentations; 10% each for 2 materials/meetings)
  • Seminar contribution 24%
  • Major research essay 36% (6% proposal; 30% essay)
Teaching Arrangements
The paper is delivered through seminars. There are also screenings on selected weeks. Students are expected to participate in and lead discussion and take an active part in class sessions as independent learners.
Essential: Course reader.

Highly Recommended: Gibaldi, Joseph: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (2009).
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will
  • Obtain an understanding of the general importance of the study of audiences to media and film studies and be able to contextualise this historically and cross-culturally
  • Gain a clear appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the main theories of audiences and media reception
  • Learn how to examine the presuppositions of different theoretical approaches and become familiar with handling mutually contradictory arguments
  • Have had the opportunity to analyse the relationship between academic writing on audiences and the experience of being a member of an audience

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system

Film Screening

Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 14:00-16:50 9-12, 18-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 11:00-13:50 9-12, 18-22