Call for papers: Datafication of media (and) audiences


Special issue of MedieKultur: Journal of media and communication research

Guest editor: David Mathieu (Roskilde University)

Theme editor: Ana Jorge (Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Instituto Superior Miguel Torga)


Academic knowledge built over the last five decades on media audiences may be called into question by algorithmic recommendations, machine learning, platform design and new metrics that describe, anticipate and shape the audience’s every move. While we hold that audiences are selective in their choice of content (Katz et al., 1974), form communities of interpretation (Fish, 1980) and are freely giving their attention to public issues (Warner, 2002), it would appear that they are now increasingly being selected, calculated, interpreted and anticipated by media on the basis of a wide range of data provided more or less willingly and consciously. This datafication of media (and) audiences – i.e. the quantification of audience mediated experiences – is not to be understood simply as a new form of knowledge, but also as a new era in the commodification of audiences, challenging our understanding of audiences as an agentic and autonomous subjects. 

This special issue invites contributions that:

  • explore critically the tensions between, on the one hand, attempts at control and commodification made possible by the datafication of media (and) audiences, and on the other hand, the reactions and agentic possibilities of audiences to comply, avoid or cope with these attempts at control;
  • provide empirical basis to answer broad and worrying questions about the democratic and societal consequences of datafication, about its impact on media consumption, everyday and cultural life, by operationalizing media audiences as a key actor in mediated processes of datafication;
  • shed light on and theorise new forms of relation and mutual influence that link media with their audiences in the age of datafication.


Contributions can address, but are not limited to, these topics:

  • Type, nature and origin of data collected on media audiences and their purposes in media production and practice
  • Media practices made possible by data that contribute to the quantification, objectification and commodification of audiences      
  • Coping strategies and reactions of resistance or appropriation to datafication from the part of media audiences
  • Audiences’ experiences of normalization, trust, comfort, compliance, numbness, resignation, anxiety in the face of datafied media
  • Implications of data collection, aggregation, analysis, prediction, profiling and brokering on audience agency
  • Consequences of the quantification of human experience, the transformation of subjective experience into ‘objective’ knowledge, the algorithmic personalization and recommendation of media content on the mediated experiences and everyday life of audiences
  • The transformation of news practice, public connection and audience engagement in the age of datafication
  • The (lack of) transparency and accountability of data practices in media industries, and especially the challenges this poses for audiences’ capacity to read the media (their media literacy)
  • The new asymmetries and power relations that data practices may bring between media institutions and audiences, or between different segments of audiences
  • Cultural specificities of the processes of datafication of media and the reception by audiences, including cross-cultural variations 
  • Impact of datafication on theories and methodologies in media and audience research


Fish, S. (1980). Is There A Text in This Class, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U. Press.

Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. (1974). Ulilization of mass communication by the individual. In J. G. Blumler, & E. Katz (Eds.), The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research (pp. 19–32). Beverly Hills: Sage.

Warner, M. (2002). Publics and counterpublics (abbreviated version). Quarterly Journal of Speech, 88(4), 413–425.


Call for contributions and key dates:

Interested contributors to this special issue are first invited to provide an extended abstract of 500 words (excluding references) to with the subject ‘Datafication of media (and) audiences’. Following a first review process, invitations will be sent to provide a full paper of 6000-8000 words (including references) through the Open Journal System, which will then go under peer review following the usual procedure of the journal MedieKultur. Invitation to submit a full paper does not guarantee acceptance for final publication in the journal. Accepted languages of contribution are English and Danish.


January 15th 2020: Deadline for abstract submission

February 1st 2020: Invitation to submit a full paper

June 1st 2020: Submission of full paper

July 31st 2020: Notification of acceptance and/or revisions

August-October 2020: Revision period

October 31st 2020: Final submission


About the editors:

David Mathieu is associate professor at the Department of Communication & Arts at Roskilde University, Denmark. He chairs the Audience and Reception Studies section of the European Communication, Research and Education Association and is leader of the research group Audiences & Mediated life. His current work focuses on audience and reception research in the context of social media, digitalisation of communication and datafication of society.

Ana Jorge is Guest Assistant Professor at Universidade Católica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Instituto Superior Miguel Torga, Portugal. She is Vice-Chair of the Digital Culture and Communication section of ECREA.