Maris, Elena Rosa

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  • Publication
    Desperately Seeking The Producer: Audiences, Identity, And The Margins Of The Internet
    (2018-01-01) Maris, Elena Rosa
    Ang (1991) noted that for media industries, “…television audiences remain extremely difficult to define, attract and keep. The institutions must forever ‘desperately seek the audience’” (p. ix). I contend that just as often, media audiences “desperately” seek the producers and industries that create media content. I argue that focusing on how audiences imagine media industries and the possibilities and limitations for influencing them and the content they produce, is vital to understanding audience/industry interactions and influence. Further, these constructions provide a lens through which to examine the impact of identity and technology on these phenomena. I articulate, deploy and argue for the utility of an “imagined industry” analytic framework meant to demonstrate the concept’s value in revealing nuanced results and implications that reflect the complexities of audience/industry interactions in the digital age. The dissertation examines two audience groups that organize online to influence media industries: the heavily LGBTQ and feminist fan group “Xena Movie Campaign” (XMC), and the Christian-conservative activist group “One Million Moms” (OMM). The project is a comparative case study; methods include historical analysis, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and analysis of online content and trade and popular press. Findings reveal both groups share the following primary “imaginings” of media industries: (1) “the industry is exclusive, insular and motivated by profit,” (2) “the industry is wrong,” and (3) “the industry is risk-averse.” Based on these imaginings (informed by very different ideologies), both groups design and deploy digital tactics to influence media industries. I describe these tactics and industrial responses. I conclude that scholars must look beyond traditional approaches to active audiences. I argue for a focus on social constructions and against a preoccupation with efficacy. Finally, I highlight that the ideologically opposed groups identify as similarly marginalized by their imagined industries, thus demonstrating increased confusion over the location of “center” and “margin” online. I provide a provocation to queer theory that to resist co-optation in the digital age, it must sharply define its goals, tactics and parameters.