You’ve planned a movie night with your close friends, you’re 20 minutes into the film and one of your friends is scrolling through instagram on their phone. Do you consider this to be rude or is this the new norm?
Being apart of an audience seems to have a few ‘un-spoken rules’ that come with it and with technology growing at the rate it is today, these rules are constantly changing.
Although we are consuming media practically all day, we don’t seem to think too deep into the way we behave as part of an audience.
When looking into ‘audience culture’, the lounge room is a perfect example. When TV began occurring in family lounge rooms, it was watched on a small screen in a dark room and the whole family would pay their undivided attention to it. Now days, it would be common to walk into a family’s living room where the TV is on, but everyone is laying on the lounge watching their own individual device’s.
There also used to be a limited amount of TV channels to choose from and everyone would have to decide on one. Now with everyone having their own devices and there being so much available to us all times, each member of the family can watch whatever they want.
When I begin to think of times that I have been apart of an audience, what stands out initially is concerts and festivals. However, I think the times that I feel truely absorbed in media is when I’m curled up on the couch, with a cup of tea, surrounded by people I love (my friends or family) and we are watching a movie together.
This scenario is rare but when it happens, it’s special. Everyone is freshly showered and is happy to be relaxing after a busy day. We are so wrapped up in our own lives, so it’s really nice to come together into the one space and share the same experience. Even though we may not be verbally communicating with each other, we are sharing the same viewing experience. Perhaps once the movie is done, we discuss what we thought and share our different perspectives on the movie.
The introduction of a second screen is something that Wilson speaks about in his 2016 research paper. He explains it as a phenomenon and says that it unsettles our understanding of what an audience is. He writes about how the development of technology has changed the traditional living room into a ‘digital media hub in which families still gather in front of the TV set.’ He says that smart phones and tablets have created a nation of media multi-taskers. He also explains that research has shown that families are still gathering in front of the TV, however they’re doing their own thing on their devices.
For me personally, if it was an average night of the week, I would find this type of behaviour not only acceptable, but normal. However if we had planned to have a movie night, I would generally consider it to be rude if someone were to go on their phone during the movie. Now that media has turned so individual and isolated, theres something old fashioned and significant about doing something like this.
Wilson, S., 2016. In the living room: Second screens and TV audiences. Television & new media, 17(2), pp.174-191.