Introduction: The places and spaces of news audiences

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Having the means to access “news” at any moment without much hassle likely changes the experience of journalism for many people. Beyond this, one might even say that the way we interact with information on a daily basis transforms through this phenomenon. Considering such changes in what is often referred to as “everyday life” provides a useful starting point for research into media use. It guides us towards a number of considerations, from how we structure our day through certain habits and patterns of media consumption; to the development of technology and the formation of new rituals; to shifting dynamics of communicative flows across societies and their impact; and to the processes whereby the emergent becomes the familiar. Obviously such analyses are not bound to the disciplinary confines of media studies and the term, “everyday life”, enjoys a rich, if vague and complicated, 20th century history. Indeed, a quick Google Scholar search of “everyday life” takes us on whirlwind interdisciplinary tour of academia, from sociology to cultural studies, psychology to political science, anthropology to economics. There is good reason for this, in that thinking through consistency and change – patterns and disruptions – across the passage of time forms the analytic foundation for much scientific research. But while “everyday life” adorns the cover of many a noted book (e.g. Goffman 1959; de Certeau 1984), a comparable term is almost nowhere to be found. “Everywhere life” not only draws the Google equivalent of a blank stare, even writing it down or saying it aloud feels a little awkward. This is almost certainly no discursive anomaly but is rather indicative of the subjugation of spatial thinking to temporal analysis within academia (Soja 1989). While space has been “treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical. Time, on the other hand was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic” (Foucault 1980, 70). Journalism studies is not immune from this tendency. Yet if we want to understand much of what makes media use meaningful for people, it is important to accentuate not only its everydayness, but its everywhereness as well. This special issue on the places and spaces of news audiences presents an initial attempt to do this; to see how the everyday digital geographies of contemporary media, communication, and information flows intersect with the everywhere “lived” geographies of individuals, and how this impacts audience perceptions of news, of storytelling, of journalism. The past few decades have seen a tremendous increase in the number of different devices and platforms through which we can get journalism – from tablets to smartphones, Twitter, online news, and so forth – and the different possible places and moments of news consumption have multiplied in concert. Although it is not certain just how robust traditional practices such as reading newspapers or watching the evening news will be in the future, to whatever extent they may have been stable in the past, what does seem clear is that old audience habits are certainly becoming de-ritualized and it is unclear what will replace them (Broersma and Peters 2012). As consumptive possibilities gradually spread to any conceivable instant and every potential location we desire, it seems fairly self-evident that conceptualising the news media diet of audiences as something clearly distinguishable from other mediated forms of communication is problematic. Similarly, as the temporal and spatial architectures of media use are increasingly unshackled from the distributional constraints of unidirectional, programmatic mass media, audiences are slowing catching up to the possibilities. This changing ecology of digital media may appear quite disruptive, its scale and impact being perceived most strongly early on in its introduction (until such emerging practices and ways of living with media become habitual and taken-for-granted). Coming to grips with the impact this has on journalism requires a scholarship attuned to these different spatio-termporal affordances.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Places and Spaces of News Audiences
EditorsChris Peters
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2016
Article number(Article reprint)
ISBN (Print)9781138691919
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
SeriesJournalism Studies: Theory and Practice

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