User Empowerment and Audience Commodification in a Commercial Television Context
This paper aims to provide insights into the concept of ‘user empowerment’ in current –digital and connected- media industries. We start by defining empowerment as a concept rooted in certain research traditions that focus on user behaviour and capabilities in dealing with digital and connected technologies and the production, aggregation, distribution and consumption of content. We then oppose ‘user empowerment’ to ‘audience commodification’, a concept that highlights how the audience and its members are exploited by the media industry through their usage of digital and connected technologies. This research tradition typically looks at the meso-level of media usage and how it is embedded in the media industries. In light of this paper on media innovations, we then argue that the concepts of ‘empowerment’ and ‘commodification’ are strongly embedded in the underlying social imaginaries. This helps us to redefine ‘user empowerment’ and ‘audience commodification’ as interactive processes underlying innovation within the (commercial) media industry. We use the case of Flemish commercial television to demonstrate this hypothesis.
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