audience determinism

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Compare authorial determinism; textual determinism.

1. In relation to the interpretation of texts that are separated from their authors (e.g. published books and broadcasts), the notion that the last word rests with the readership, since, as Socrates notes in Plato's Phaedrus (c.370 bc), the author cannot answer back. Ultimately, then, readers rather than authors determine the meaning of texts. However, texts cannot mean whatever we want them to mean—a reader needs textual evidence and support from an interpretive community for their interpretation to be taken seriously.

2. An extreme social determinist position relating to the decoding of texts which reduces individual decodings to a direct consequence of social class position. A more moderate stance is that access to different codes is influenced by social position and that this might influence how texts are interpreted (Morley).

3. With regard to the mass media, the voluntarist stance opposed to media determinism, whereby instead of media being presented as doing things to people the emphasis is on people doing things with media. See also uses and gratifications.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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