Understanding Variation in Audience Engagement and Response: An Application of the Composite Model to Receptions of Avatar (2009)

Although much research documents variations in viewers' responses to screen media, the basis for divergent receptions remains relatively poorly understood and inadequately conceptualized. One possible theoretical schema is offered in the composite multidimensional model, which charts 4 distinct modes of reception that shape the specific form and content of audience responses in different contexts. In this study, the core distinctions charted in the composite model were tested in a Q methodology study of cross-cultural receptions of Avatar (2009). 120 respondents from 27 countries modeled their subjective responses to this polysemic text by rank-ordering 32 items and then commenting on their selections. Through factor analysis, 4 discrete responses toward Avatar were identified among participants, accounting for 74% of all respondents. Each factor clearly reflects key elements of the transparent, referential, mediated, and discursive modes identified in the composite model, indicating that the model is reasonably accurate in identifying broad distinctions in the underlying approaches to meaning-making that can be adopted by different viewers. Suggestive associations between viewers' subjective orientations and demographic characteristics, social group memberships, and discursive affiliations were also documented.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Michelle, C., Davis, C.H. & Vladica, F. (2012). Understanding variation in audience engagement and response: an application of the composite model to receptions of Avatar (2009). The Communication Review, 15(2), 106-143.