Researchers face a challenge in capturing the variety of people’s relationships with a range of media and communications technologies. The concept of audience participation is useful in exploring connections between production, content and reception in multimedia environments. In a talk show members of the public participate in the production itself, as guests interviewed by the host, as a studio audience, and watching, listening, interacting with the show on TV, radio, mobile and web. This concept also captures the way new communication technologies give people opportunities for making and sharing their own media content, such as documentaries created and produced by members of the public and uploaded to the web where they can be downloaded to personal computers, mobiles and iPods. Audience participation addresses the complex dynamics of cultural practices. Being an audience can be like participating in a show. A public performance,

exhibition, or event shows people’s cultural practices. At an agricultural show, for example, people make jams, or grow vegetables to compete in prizes. A public demonstration can be a platform for people’s professional or amateur interests in cars or airplanes. At a variety show there are a range of performance styles from dance routines, songs, or comedy acts, to physical feats like juggling or acrobatics. A show includes the production of performances, sometimes by the performers themselves, more often by others working backstage, such as the producers of television or radio programmes. A show can go on without an audience, for example there are full dress rehearsals which help performers and producers to perfect a production. But a show is designed to work best with an audience, showcasing talent, skills and interests, to the public, family and friends, who in turn show their reactions through appreciation, criticism and interaction. There is a style of entertainment and communication where the performer and

audience create the show together. In an analysis of qualitative audience research the idea of the audience as the show is explored in relation to historical and

contemporary examples from public entertainment, in particular stage magic and medium demonstrations which involve a high degree of audience participation. A medium, or psychic, who performs in public needs an audience not only to watch or listen, but to actually make the performance happen. A magician or medium performs entertainment that is based on audience participation. Most singers or actors can still perform even if there is no audience, but a magician or medium must have an audience because their form of communication and entertainment is created with a high degree of public participation. As this woman said: ‘people produce beliefs’ (51-year-old female secretary). An audience with a medium co-produces belief in spirit communication; an audience with a magician coproduces a sense of wonder. In a very real sense the audience is the show.