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An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they are called the "reader"), theatre, music or academics in any medium. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest clapping and criticism and reception.

Media audiences are studied by academics in media audience studies. Audience theory offers scholarly insight into audiences in general. These insights shape our knowledge of just how audiences affect and are affected by different forms of art.

Audience participationEdit

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Some more advanced audience participation is most commonly found in performances which break the fourth wall. Examples include the traditional British pantomimes, stand-up comedy, and creative stage shows such as Blue Man Group

One of the most well-known examples of popular audience participation is the motion picture The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its earlier stage incarnation The Rocky Horror Show. The audience participation elements are often seen as the most important part of the picture, to the extent that the audio options on the DVD version include the option. In the audience participation for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the audience make "call backs", and yell at the screen at certain parts of the movie. Also, a number of props are thrown and used by the audience during certain parts of the film. These props include:

  • Rice - for the wedding scene
  • Water pistols - to simulate the rain that Brad and Janet are walking in
  • Toilet paper - when Dr. Scott enters the lab and Brad cries out "Great Scott!"
  • Noisemakers - used at the beginning of the creation scene
  • Confetti - used at the end of "I can make you a Man"
  • Toast - used at the dinner scene
  • Party hats - used at the dinner scene
  • Playing cards - used in "I'm going home"

Examples of audience participationEdit

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Another murder mystery is "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", a Broadway musical based on Charles Dickens's last, unfinished work. In it, the audience must vote for who they think the murderer is, as well as the real identity of the detective and the couple who end up together.

During the 1984 Summer Olympics, cards were inserted into the seats of the Olympic Stadium. The announcer gave a countdown to and told the audience to the raise the cards, revealing the flags of all the participating Nations.

Tony and Tina's Wedding is an example of a form of audience participation that engages the entire audience at once, staging a narrative set during a wedding in which the audience performs the role of "guests".

The British panel game QI often allows the audience to try to answer questions. Currently, the audience have won one show, and have come last in another.

Magic shows often rely on some audience participation. Psychological illusionist Derren Brown relies heavily on audience participation in his live shows.

Types of audiencesEdit

Particular (real) audiencesEdit

In rhetoric, particular audiences depend on circumstance and situation, and are characterized by the individuals that make up the audience. Particular audiences are subject to persuasion and engage with the ideas of the speaker. Ranging in size and composition, particular audiences can come together to form a "composite" audience of multiple particular groups.

Immediate audiencesEdit

An immediate audience is a type of particular audience that is composed of individuals who are face-to-face subjects with a speaker and a speaker’s rhetorical text or speech. This type of audience directly listens to, engages with, and consumes the rhetorical text in an unmediated fashion. In measuring immediate audience reception and feedback, (audience measurement), one can depend on personal interviews, applause, and verbal comments made during and after a rhetorical speech.

Mediated audiencesEdit

In contrast to immediate audiences, mediated audiences are composed of individuals who consume rhetorical texts in a manner that is different from the time or place in which the speaker presents a text. Audiences who consume texts or speeches through television, radio, and Internet are considered mediated audiences because those mediums separate the rhetor and the audience. Understanding the size and composition of mediated audiences can be difficult because mediums such as television, radio, and Internet can displace the audience from the time and circumstance of a rhetorical text or speech. In measuring mediated audience reception and feedback, (audience measurement), one can depend on opinion polls and ratings, as well as comments and forums that may be featured on a website.

Theoretical (imagined) audiencesEdit

Theoretical audiences are audiences that are imagined for the purpose of helping the speaker compose, or a critic to understand, a rhetorical text or speech.

Self as audience (self-deliberation)Edit

When a rhetor deeply considers, questions, and deliberates over the content of the ideas they are conveying, it can be said that these individuals are addressing the audience of self, or self-deliberating. Scholars Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, in their book The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation,[1] argue that the rhetor “is in a better position than anyone else to test the value of his own arguments." The audience of self, while not serving as the ends to all rhetorical purpose or circumstance, nevertheless acts as a type of audience that not only operates as a function of self-help, but as instrument used to discover the available means of persuasion.

Universal audienceEdit

The universal audience is an imagined audience that serves as an ethical and argumentative test for the rhetor. It requires the speaker to imagine a composite audience that contains individuals from diverse backgrounds and to discern whether or not the content of the rhetorical text or speech would appeal to individuals within that audience. Scholars Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca ascertain that the content addressed to a universal audience "must convince the reader that the reasons adduced are of a compelling character, that they are self-evident, and possess an absolute and timeless validity".[2] The concept of the universal audience has received criticism for being idealistic because it can be considered as an impediment in achieving persuasive effect with particular audiences. Yet, it still may be useful as an ethical guide for a speaker and a critical tool for a reader or audience.

Ideal audienceEdit

An ideal audience is a rhetor's imagined, intended audience. In creating a rhetorical text, a rhetor imagines a target audience, a group of individuals that will be addressed, persuaded, or affected by the speech or rhetorical text. This type of audience is not necessarily imagined as the most receptive audience, but as the future particular audience that the rhetor will engage with. Imagining such an audience allows a rhetor to formulate appeals that will grant success in engaging with the future particular audience. In considering an ideal audience, a rhetor can imagine future conditions of mediation, size, demographics, and shared beliefs among the audience to be persuaded.

Implied audienceEdit

An implied audience is an imaginary audience determined by an auditor or reader as the text’s constructed audience. The implied audience is not the actual audience, but the one that can be inferred by reading or analyzing the text. Communications scholar Edwin Black, in his essay, The Second Persona[3] presents the theoretical concept of the implied audience using the idea of two personas. The first persona is the implied rhetor (the idea of the speaker formed by the audience) and the second persona is the implied audience (the idea of the audience formed by and utilized for persuasion in the speech situation). A critic could also determine what the text wants that audience to become or do after the rhetorical situation.

Internet audienceEdit

An internet audience refers to one or millions of potential viewers of any one video, clip or channel on a website. The amount of members of this audience can fluctuate depending on how many views the video has received. Video sharing website YouTube now gets more than two billion hits daily [4] and these hits are all contributing to the growing members of YouTube's global audience. A Youtuber who frequently refers to his 'audience' is Toby "Tobuscus" Turner, one of YouTube's many partners. Turner takes his audience to new places every day in his "LazyVlogs" after his "Intros of Darkness then Redness then Whiteness", followed by sentimental. Example: "AUDIENCE?! What are you doing editationificating Wikipedia, audience? That is precarious".

An internet audience can generally be split up into four groups:

The Casual Viewer - a person or persons who surf the net looking at random clips with very little aim in mind

The Casual Commenter - a person or persons who much like a Casual Viewer look at random clips, the difference being that a Casual Commenter will occasionally commit to a video by expressing his.her views in the comments section, they may also have a small amount of subscriptions to a channel on YouTube or possibly one of the many other viewing sites.

The Regular Viewer - a person or persons who subscribe to many channels on the aforesaid viewing sites and watches and comments on videos with regularity, they will often make references to other channels or previous videos made by the same user and their comments delve into greater detail than a Casual Commenter. This group will often be highly opinionated and as such are easily goaded by 'Trolls'

The Troll - A troll is a person or persons who post spiteful or vindictive comments in order to goad other viewers into argument, often trolls will not believe in what they are saying and are only commenting for the personal satisfaction of annoying others. A more detailed term for them would be an Internet Sociopath as they seem to take pleasure in an activity frown upon by the majority or physical and internet societies. Trolls do not discriminate on which videos they post on, however they tend to be draw to videos with high Special Effects content or Videos which express political views as viewers on these videos tend to be more strongly opinionated and as such are more easily drawn into the Troll's Trap.


  1. Perelman, Chaim and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1961. Print.
  2. Perelman, Chaim and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1961. Print.
  3. Black, Edwin. "The Second Persona." Quarterly Journal of Speech 56.2 (1970): 109-119. Print.
  4. Maggie Shiels, Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

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