Where is the listener?: Changing conceptions of the audience in immersive radio and podcasting

Wincott, Abigail ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3162-644X (2022) Where is the listener?: Changing conceptions of the audience in immersive radio and podcasting. In: IAMCR Annual Conference 2022, 11-15 July 2022, Beijing China/Online.

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Abstract / Summary

Podcasts and radio are made for an ‘audience’. Or a ‘listener’. In VR we tend to talk about the ‘user’. The words reflect constructions of the role of that other who consumes our media. The concept of the ‘audience’ speaks of the mass broadcast age: collective, public, live, and always listening from outside. ‘Listener’ has always co-existed, suggesting an intimate address to the individual, more appropriate for certain times of day perhaps, and for on-demand listening. ‘User’ draws our attention to the new technology that must be operated, and perhaps implies interactivity.
As new media technologies are adopted, they present opportunities and trigger anxieties over the role of the listener/audience, and the kind of listening that is desirable. This is seen in strategies by current affairs podcasters to create a sense of live co-audiencing (Euritt, 2019) without broadcast.
Immersive, also called 3D or spatial audio is one such technology in increasing use in recent years and the focus of engineering research, but has received very little critical media studies attention. In conventional audio news, documentaries and features, whether broadcast or on-demand, the listener is disembodied and external to the sound scene, all-hearing but never themselves perceived. In a 3D sound scene, events happen around them, challenging producers to think about their placement and their role.
This paper is based on analysis of programmes that use immersive or 3D audio, their promotional materials and interviews with programme makers who use immersive audio in the UK, France, USA, Australia and Qatar. It examines industry discourses of the immersive listener and of immersive listening, including aspirations for enhanced empathy, attention and sense of adventure, but anxieties too over discomfort that can arise from eavesdropping or adopting an ‘unnatural’ position. These anxieties can lead producers of immersive audio to see certain techniques as ‘failed’ (Wincott, Martin and Richards 2021).
I argue before production and editorial norms are established in immersive audio, these fears, successes and ‘mistakes’ can tell us something interesting about changing ideas of the audience and listening to audio journalism and how technological change shifts these ideas. There are opportunities to deliberately harness discomfort, to play with distance and closeness, that could enrich factual storytelling in sound.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: podcast, radio, audio, journalism, listener, media studies, features
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Journalism
Communication > Media
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > Journalism
Depositing User: Abigail Wincott
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2022 14:03
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 14:03
URI: https://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/4671

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