In The Citizen Audience, Richard Butsch explores the cultural and political history of audiences in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. He demonstrates that, while attitudes toward audiences have shifted over time, Americans have always judged audiences against standards of good citizenship.
From descriptions of tightly packed crowds in early American theaters to the contemporary reports of distant, anonymous Internet audiences, Butsch examines how audiences were represented in contemporary discourse. He explores a broad range of sources on theater, movies, propaganda, advertising, broadcast journalism, and much more. Butsch discovers that audiences were characterized according to three recurrent motifs: as crowds and as isolated individuals in a mass, both of which were considered bad, and as publics which were considered ideal audiences. These images were based on and reinforced class and other social hierarchies. At times though, subordinate groups challenged their negative characterization in these images, and countered with their own interpretations.
A remarkable work of cultural criticism and media history, this book is essential reading for anyone seeking an historical understanding of how audiences, media and entertainment function in the American cultural and political imagination.
'It is indispensable to everyone who cares about public life, politics, and the future. Historians should not miss this quality analysis.' - The Journal of American History
'Richard Butsch…has changed the way I think about audiences.' - Oscar H. Gandy, Jr., AEJMC's Hot Topics in Journalism and Mass Communication
'The Citizen Audience does the important work not only of discussing historically noteworthy conceptions of audiences as crowds, publics, and individuals, but also of pointing out the limits of each theorization of civic audiences.' - Theatre Journal
'Briskly written and offering telling examples, the book provides the first theoretically sophisticated discussion of the primary orientations toward past US audiences for all major media… Highly recommended.' - CHOICE
Introduction: The Politics of Audiences in America I. Crowds 1. Theater Audiences, Crowds and Publics 2. From Crowds to Masses: Movies, Radio and Advertising II.Publics 3. From Cultivated Individual to Public Citizen 4. Broadcast Publics III. Individuals 5. Mass Media, Mass Man 6. Media Effects and Passive Audiences 7. Boob Tube, Fans and Addicts: Pathological Audiences IV. Epilogue