From Mass Propaganda to Civic Partivipation: Rethinking the Discourses of Audience Studies in Mainland China
Taking ‘audience’ as a floating signifier, this dissertation focuses on the articulation of ‘audience’ in China’s context over the past three decades. The basic research questions are as follows: (1) What kind of ‘audiences’ have been articulated in Chinese Communication Studies over the past three decades? (2) What societal factors contribute to the articulation of ‘audiences’ in Chinese mass communication studies? (3) Based on the case of audience studies, how do we evaluate the performance of Chinese Communication Studies? Within the theoretical framework of Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory and the qualitative methodological framework of discourse-theoretical analysis (DTA), which have been applied to ‘Western’ media audience research, this PhD attempts to scrutinise the articulation of ‘audience’ in China’s specific societal and academic contexts. The body of the empirical analysis contains three parts: 1/ The tradition of ‘mass line’, political transition, economic reform and the emergence of ‘audience’ (1978-1989); 2/ The 2nd wave of the economic reform and the expansion of ‘audience•consumer’ in the 1990s; 3/ Social transformation and the construction of ‘audience•market•public’ in the 2000s. In each part of the analysis, I will describe the characteristics of the societal and academic contexts of each era, including political transition and economic reform, the rise of civil society and the development of communication research, etc. In these contexts, based on the textual analysis of audience research papers on scholarly journals, the articulations of the active/passive, micro/macro and public/private dimensions of audience will be closely examined. The contributions of this PhD will be: 1/ seeing knowledge as discourse and integrating discourse theory with the sociology of knowledge; 2/ translating discourse theory into a way of analysing the knowledge construction of the ‘audience’; 3/ from this perspective, analysing Chinese scholarly texts on audience studies within China’s distinctive societal and academic contexts.