Aleit Veenstra, Universiteit Antwerpen



Philippe Meers, Universiteit Antwerpen

Daniël Biltereyst, Universiteit Gent


The Project

‘Screen(ing) Audiences’ is a project that researches contemporary film consumption and experience amongst young Flemish audiences (aged 16-18). These audiences grew up in a digitalized media environment, with film being more prominent and accessible than it ever has been. It is amongst them, that we explore whether media use and consumption has changed. Film, we argue, has transformed from one of the central stand-alone media practices, into the first link in a multimedia chain that includes screens as big as the cinema and as small as the mobile phone. Not only the screens have changed though, so has access. Where only a few decades ago film was merely accessible through the cinema, today film can be downloaded, streamed, rented, bought, seen on television and, of course, watched in the cinema, just to name a few options. The changes could not be bigger with research on the young Flemish film audiences conducted a little over a decade ago by Philippe Meers. Or could they?


The Objectives

With the research project ‘Screen(ing) Audiences’ we tap into the debate between, on the one hand, the ‘agency of the audiences’ and, on the other hand, the ‘structures imposed on the audiences’. Once the internet became platform-based (around 2005), no expert knowledge was required to contribute online. A wide body of literature emerged, celebrating the agency of the audiences that were no longer subjected to (powerful) media conglomerates who decided what to screen when and to whom. According to this argument, a new media environment had emerged. It would not take long before the first critiques emerged, directing our gaze towards structural limitations such as the power of and over media platforms (both within and outside the digital environment), the degree to which audiences would indeed participate in this new media environment, how (former) experiences with media shape experiences and how social context (such as income, education etc.) shapes film consumption (e.g. a preference for Hollywood, European or national film). Put shortly, the ‘newness’ of the contemporary media environment is questioned. From this debate, it becomes clear that there is an urgent need for in-depth investigations of lived experiences of film consumption in a digitized media environment.


The Research

The research project ‘Screen(ing) Audiences’ is designed in three phases and takes four years (2013-2017). First, we conduct a survey, for which a representative sample will be drawn of 1000 Flemish respondents aged 16-18. In the second phase of the research, we conduct 30 interviews with respondents that indicated willing to participate in further research while filling out the questionnaire. Each interview consists of two parts: one part individually, the second part in the social context of the family. These findings are then confronted with the survey results in the integration phase. Through (integrating) these two studies, we obtain a complex and rich view on the reality of young people and their cinema culture. Moreover, by doing so, we are firmly contributing on European film culture studies.


Funding Statement

This project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), 2013-2017.



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