From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they are called "readers"), theatre, music (in which they are called "listeners"), video games (in which they are called "players"), 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 audience studies have become a recognized part of the curriculum. 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. The biggest art form is the mass media. Films, video games, radio shows, software (and hardware) and other formats are affected by the audience and its reviews and recommendations.
In the age of easy Internet participation and citizen journalism, professional creators share space, and sometimes attention, with the public. American journalist Jeff Jarvis has said, "Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don't give the people control of media, and you will lose. Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will." Tom Curley, President of the Associated Press, similarly said, "The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place."
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 accompanies the motion picture and music 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 participation
In The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a Broadway theatre musical based on Charles Dickens's last, unfinished work, the audience must vote for whom 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".
Magic shows often rely on some audience participation. Psychological illusionist Derren Brown relies heavily on audience participation in his live shows.
Bloggers often allow their readers moderated or unmoderated comments sections.
Faux audience participation
The television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured a man and his robots who were held as imprisoned audience members and tortured by being forced to view "bad" movies; to retain their sanity, they talked throughout and heckled each one.
In a similar vein, the online site Television Without Pity has a stable of reviewers and recappers who speak the lingo of audience members rather than of scholars, and who sometimes act as though they, too, are being tortured.