In Dialogue: Jenkins and Ong

“. . . Yes, we cannot forget about audiences, but you also have to take into account how audiences are accessing works. A writer’s intention doesn’t cut off the world from it.”

“But doesn’t it? If that which the writer is communicating is niche, specialized to a degree that hinders it unknowable to a large amount of the population, that in effect ‘censors’ it.”

“True, but the specific audience for whom the original media was intended for isn’t always crystal clear. Given the accessibility that the internet provides and the spreadability therein, who’s to say that the information contained in an original work–that specialized/niche document as you say, and distill it to a level of broader appeal and understandability.”

“Does that end-product–the distillation–still retain the original intentionality? I daresay that it does not. While the information may be better understood by a greater number of people the precision is lost, the speciality of it is lost. Talking about the intricacies of heart surgery in laymen’s terms for example can prove useful for those who are receiving the surgery, those who will be performing the surgery however, may wish to have the full level of understanding.”

“I suppose so. It’s interesting to consider that the original intention is sometimes lost in the process of making things more accessible.”

“Too true. In your book you mention the idea of media reaching audiences by proxy and that in this process those media are in fact exposed to a greater number of people than intended.”

“Yes, I looked specifically at the television industry and the manner in which piracy has an effect on monetization.”

“Of course everything in the entertainment industry revolves around how to make the most money.”

“To a certain degree that is true, but also there are other ways of making money that don’t necessarily place it as the primary objective. In some respects, piracy is a good thing. It demonstrates that there is an audience actively seeking out a given television show. It is a demonstrator of demand and of a market. While the show itself isn’t being consumed directly by the audience in the traditional sense, they are most probably the ones who are purchasing tactile goods: DVDs, apparel, and the like.”

“Would you say that the media being generated therefore isn’t based so much on the authorship’s desire to communicate a given idea, but rather with the goal of identifying an undiscovered market/audience?”

“It can be dangerous to make generalizations in this area, but I don’t think its over exaggerating to say that the entertainment industry is less concerned with entertainment and more concerned with maintaining a specific audience.”

“How interesting. . . The same could be said about cultures of primary orality. They relied on formulas and parables in order to communicate. I suppose, looking back to our discussion of information distillation, the same thing occurred in those cultures. An idea itself couldn’t be effectively communicated in a manner that would be understood so formulas were used to keep everything understandable. With the advent of writing and the eventual development of writing we became able to specialize and to cover all realms of study in greater depth.”

“Mmm. I wonder where censorship plays into all of this. At the point we’re at today, information is so easily accessible. I’m sure you can relate to the ease that the internet has placed with regards to researching and accessing information. Inherent in this accessibility is the capacity to limit what information presents itself. Censorship can take many forms–there is the intentional blocking of media/data/access, but there is also the censorship that takes place as a result of lacking access to technological resources . Lesser developed nations remain “stuck” because the infrastructure that would allow for an access to all the information in the world has yet to be developed”

“There’s also the censorship that takes place on a personal level. As people, we share only what we think is necessary or suitable in a given situation. A mother who’s just discovered she only has so many months to live may decided to withhold this information from her children, but would assumedly share it with her husband. In the same way, as rhetoricians, we choose what information to present in the media in order to emphasize specific points.”

“Definitely. What we present to others tends to portray our individually-held ideologies. Look at social media. People ‘like’ certain posts, they share certain articles that highlight those held beliefs. We’ve become a culture that spreads information through our own networks. We talk about producers trying to reach audiences effectively when, it actuality, it is us the consumers, the general public, who are spreading media through our networks and therefore redefining what it means to be an “audience.”

“Ah . . .”

“We’re coming full circle here: people may not always be the ones who are generating the content, they might not even be participating in the networks that they use online. Take a Harry Potter fan. They may like the books, watched to movies, maybe even have liked it on their Facebook page. Their having been exposed to the Harry Potter universe makes them fair game for all the more media that play off of this franchise. It really is about not only identifying and audience and maintaining an audience, its about creating a community that engages with itself and sustains itself. For every one individual who actively writes fan-fiction on a Harry Potter fan site, there are several more who come across it because it has either been shared with them (I’m thinking about those click-bait Harry Potter quizzes you see) or they’ve come across it out of interest.”

“It’s not just about getting an audience then, it’s about creating a community that engages with the media on varying levels, not just the direct/root source. JK Rowling remain successful because the community that the Harry Potter Books created generated a cultural paradigm within our culture, without that grasp I’m sure she wouldn’t be where she is today.

“That’s exactly it. Nothing can be looked at in isolation because everything is linked.”


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