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An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they are called "readers"), theatre, music (in which they are called "listeners"), video games (in which they are called "players"), or academics in any medium. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest clapping and criticism and reception.
Media audience studies have become a recognized part of the curriculum. Audience theory offers scholarly insight into audiences in general. These insights shape our knowledge of just how audiences affect and are affected by different forms of art. The biggest art form is the mass media. Films, video games, radio shows, software (and hardware), and other formats are affected by the audience and its reviews and recommendations.
In the age of easy Internet participation and citizen journalism, professional creators share space, and sometimes attention, with the public. American journalist Jeff Jarvis said, "Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don't give the people control of media, and you will lose. Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will." Tom Curley, President of the Associated Press, similarly said, "The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place."
In rhetoric, some audiences depend on circumstance and situation, and are characterized by the individuals that make up the audience. Sometimes these audiences are subject to persuasion and engage with the ideas of the speaker. Ranging in size and composition, this audience may come together and form a "composite" of multiple groups.
An immediate audience is a type of audience that is composed of individuals who are face-to-face subjects with a speaker and a speaker's rhetorical text or speech. This audience directly listens to, engages with, and consumes the rhetorical text in an unmediated fashion. In measuring immediate audience reception and feedback, (audience measurement), one can depend on personal interviews, applause, and verbal comments made during and after a rhetorical speech.
In contrast to immediate audiences, mediated audiences are composed of individuals who consume rhetorical texts in a manner that is different from the time or place in which a speaker presents text. Audiences who consume texts or speeches through television, radio and Internet are considered mediated audiences because those mediums separate the rhetor and the audience. Understanding the size and composition of mediated audiences can be difficult because mediums such as television, radio, and Internet can displace the audience from the time and circumstance of a rhetorical text or speech. In measuring mediated audience reception and feedback (a practice called audience measurement), one can depend on opinion polls and ratings, as well as comments and forums that may be featured on a website.
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