Row X blog by Hannah Grannemann
I wish I had known the term “audiencing” during my arts management career. Fumbling with my words in meetings, I tried to get others to see audiences as more than ATMs, obstacles to work around, or sleepy citizens in need of moral awakening. Joining a noisy, packed lobby, I also couldn’t find words to describe the buzzy post-show feeling of elation on opening night after having been present when performers and audience had become enmeshed, creating a new energy together.
“Audiencing” is a word that communicates that the audience is working during an arts experience, Matthew Reason told me in an interview. “That work is multiple: The audience is working at interpreting. It’s working at the social experience of being with the other people in the venue, engaging with the conflicting etiquettes of that. It’s working emotionally. It’s working empathetically. The audience is working hard at being a part of that vital dyad of performer and audience. So audiencing mirrors performing.”
Turning “audience” into a verb conveys what an audience does as active rather than passive, somewhere in the space between listening/watching and fully participating. As Ben Walmsley put it, “It’s the doing bit of being an audience member…’being’ in all of the active senses. The multi-sensory, multi-dimensional act of going to see a show. [Audiencing] gives it an active sound that ‘being an audience member’ really fails to do.” The term “audiencing”, Lynne Conner said, is a “political statement” that places the audience “at the center of the arts experience, and therefore, the art”.
Audiencing is explored deeply in a new book, the Routledge Companion to Audiences and the Performing Arts, edited by Matthew Reason, Lynne Conner (of ArtsJournal’s We the Audience blog), Ben Walmsley, and Katya Johanson. It’s a collection of chapters, interviews, and short pieces from about 60 contributors that is the first major collection on audience research. Reason, the lead editor, hopes the Companion will a “signal that moment of arrival” of audience research as a distinct and robust field of study by including researchers from around the world and in “disciplines ranging from the humanities to the sciences, philosophical traditions through to policy practices, through to arts makers and arts marketeers, as well as academics, all talking about audiences.”
I’m thrilled to have four guest posts here on Row X from Matthew, Lynne, Ben, and Katya. Each post highlights the ideas and writers in each of the four sections of the Companion.
Too Little Heterogeneity?: Histories, Theories and Questions of Social Justice by Lynne Conner
Why Audience Research Matters, and Why It Matters Now: Policies, Politics and Practices by Ben Walmsley
Our Methods Make Our World: Methods, Methodologies and Understanding Audiences by Matthew Reason
Shorts: Adventures in Thinking About Audiences by Katya Johanson
For the next several weeks I’ll be posting about what I read in the Companion that I think will interest the arts practitioners reading Row X. Short excerpts of video interviews with each of the editors and will be shared LinkedIn and Twitter. Links to video excerpts will appear on Row X, too. Follow along in this series and join in with your own views and experiences.
“Ethics in Audience Research: By the Book or on the Hop?” by Katya Johanson and Hilary Glow, a chapter from the Companion, is available for free to everyone. Follow this link, then click on “Open access content is available for this title”.
For the artists and arts managers reading Row X and ArtsJournal, especially in the United States, the Companion shows the richness and potential of broadening our thinking about audiences whose purpose is primarily to provide money and support for art-making to understanding – really understanding – the experience audiences have.
Shift your focus to “audiencing” and get that opening night feeling again.
 Now widely used by audience researchers, John Fiske first used the term in a 1992 paper called “Audiencing: A cultural studies approach to watching television”.
Trevor O’Donnell says
Can you please explain what an arts “marketeer” is?
Hannah Grannemann says
Hi Trevor, I believe he is referring to people who work in arts marketing.
Trevor O’Donnell says
I’ve been an arts marketing professional for over 35 years and have never encountered the word. I’d never use it to refer to myself or any of my worthy colleagues. You might want to encourage your associates to say “marketer” or “marketing professional” instead.
Hannah Grannemann says
I wouldn’t presume to tell my colleagues what terms to use. Also, “marketeer” is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here’s a blog post from a UK creative agency comparing its use to “marketer”.
Trevor O'Donnell says
Looks like a UK thing.
Let’s hope it stays there!