This final section engages with one of the most fundamental aspects of critical media literacy – audience participation. In addition to unpacking ways in which audiences increasingly participate in the production and dissemination of media content, as well as their continued role in interpretation and reinterpretation, the discussion and exercises here address diversity and empowerment of audiences and perspectives. In asking questions about the role of audience in interpreting media messages the section focuses on topics of diversity (gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability). At the end, following a word association game, examples of online platforms for citizen activism, a critical reading exercise, you will learn how to produce an article outline on your own.
Overall, this section aims for you to:
Media rely on particular understandings held by their audiences in shaping and narrating news, for example, places and events they refer to, people they talk about, etc. For example, when media reports on a religious holiday they assume shared meanings attached to the festivities (baklava for Bayram, a tree for Christmas).
An important issue however pertains to the voices and experiences that might be left out. There is a noticeable tendency for media to assume who holds the authority to speak on behalf a larger group. For example, you may have noticed that when reporting on a waste or water problem in a village in Kosovo almost exclusively media speak to older men in the village.
On the other hand, increased interaction and participation of audiences has had immense effect in shaping and altering media reporting and narration. Audiences do not just passively accept what is provided to them. Although audiences always could remake the meaning of news and events, in today’s media landscape there is increased opportunity to shape the reporting itself. For example, www.kallxo.com is a national platform where citizens can report on issues relevant to them, ranging from corruption to illegal dumping. These kinds of platforms investigate stories while relying on citizens’ reports on offences and transgressions committed by institutions and citizens. As such they also are a means of empowerment for citizens. Examples such as this point to what is considered the democratizing potential of digital media.
On the other hand, in digital and especially social media we can end up consuming news and participating through platforms that reinforce our existing opinions. This way, audiences (the public) become split and polarized without communicating and exchanging perspectives.