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A new look at numbers: For a sociology of audience quantification

Abstract : Our paper reports on the first development of an international comparative project on Television Audience Measurement. Our claim is that administrative audience research has been either neglected by Academics (who rarely refer to ratings), or taken to task strictly as an powerful instrument of control (most famously by Bourdieu), or, finally, quoted in a naïve, positivist manner as a faithful reflection of audiences (e.g. by many media historians). We present a project inspired by the sociology of quantification (Desrosières, Porter), inspired by Actor Network Theory, in order to understand, how, at different times, in different national context, very different methods can produced quantifications of the audience which are widely quoted and function as trusted mediators, for all their shortcomings. More precisely, we focus on the invention and diffusion of the peoplemeter, which still remains the "state of the art" technology for television audience measurement, on a global scale. How did this happen? What were the multi-faceted reasons for this? How has the peoplemeter overcome the many national crises surround its implementation and questioning the validity of data? This historical and comparative analysis on the dominant tool of audience quantification is directly linked to reflection on innovative process in media field. It rises questions on the processing, actors and target of the innovation: by which procedure all television firms (or quite all) adopt such a normative tool in order to organise their market? How do they assert its validity? The peoplemeter leans on which definition or redefinition of the public?
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Contributor : Cécile Méadel <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 9:11:50 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:52:29 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-00652176, version 1


Jérôme Bourdon, Cécile Méadel. A new look at numbers: For a sociology of audience quantification. COST Action IS0906: Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies, Apr 2011, Zaghreb, Croatia. ⟨hal-00652176⟩



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