Spectatorship and Audience Research: Modes of Reception Beyond, Through, and Between Disciplines

Convenors: Cassandra Silver, Jenny Salisbury, Scott Mealey, and Kelsey Jacobson

(from the original call for papers)

Spectatorship and audience research offers a unique bridge between multiple performance disciplines. In studying audiences, we can ask fresh questions about the nature of performance itself and what constitutes the act of spectatorship across areas as diverse as film, museum studies, gaming, sports, and politics. Emma Keltie insists, for instance, that in considering the relationships between performance and audience, “it is essential to examine the links between power, structure, agency, the culture industry as an institution of ideological reproduction and the agentic possibilities of audience engagement” (2017, 13). Accordingly, in this seminar, we will aim to explore how we might approach spectatorship as a field of study in an increasingly diverse range of media modalities.Potential topics for consideration include:

  • How do we perceive and engage; how do we (or indeed do we at all) delimit the actions that constitute spectatorship?
  • Which audiences continue to be marginalized? How might their increased presence shift our conception of spectatorship? How do ‘prosumers’ negotiate accessibility?
  • How do we come to understand the divergent and emergent groups of individuals we call an audience? What research methodologies allow us to engage with these groups and individuals accurately and ethically?
  • Do emergent technologies complicate the unique claims on liveness in performance reception? What avenues might this open in inter-disciplinary research? How might spectators perceive differently in the future in light of these developing technologies?
  • What are the dramaturgies of theatre with participant-spectators? How do artists negotiate the ethical and political implications of what might be considered audience-labour?

At our session, participants will share their perspective on multi-disciplinary spectatorship in any of the fields of performance, theatre, sport, politics, fan culture, gaming, film, etc. in short (500-750 word) presentations, followed by targeted small-group discussions responding to the presentations.