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Example: Audience World Economic Forum 2003
A larger audience during a speech by Rajagopal Puthan Veetil

Audience (from Latin publicus "belonging to the people"; cf. coram publico "in front of the people", "public"; res publica "republic") is the collective term for the audience and listeners at performances in the theater , cinema , radio , television , in court proceedings , at exhibitions , lectures / speeches , concerts , circus events, festivals , etc. in addition to the audience and audience is also referred to the readership of literary performances as audience.

Further description

Words such as "public traffic" (on authorities) and "audience effective" (with the meaning " popular " also used for government decisions, administrative measures, even the pricing of goods) show that the word stands in general for the interested , sympathetic and opinionated general public . Characteristic aspects are:

  • Public : only the listeners and spectators at an event that is accessible to everyone form an audience, not the participants in a "closed to the public" assembly or meeting , not the audience ( auditorium ) of a closed academic lecture , not the participants in a closed academic lecture invited guests specific event.
  • Voluntariness : Officials at events, participants who are required to be present or who, like the accused and witnesses, are forced to attend a court hearing, do not belong to the audience. An audience that is not free to run away is not one.
  • Freedom of expression : An audience must also be free to express their approval or disapproval. In speeches, lectures, presentations etc., the audience has the opportunity to influence the course of events within certain limits. B. through questions and, especially in debates , through heckling .

Also for users / user ( multimedia ) information systems is the public term increasingly applied. The influence takes place here via interaction and navigation . See also media informatics .

Special groups


In the lives of people of earlier cultures, privacy and individualization were rarer goods than they are today: Social events were inevitably a matter of the clan, the reference group. The public of events was a welcome distraction in otherwise very fixed everyday routines. The natural curiosity and thirst for sensation of the people was satisfied both through demonstrations of power such as punishments and executions as well as through passive participation in ritual ceremonies. As far as artistic performances - especially music with clapping, dancing, singing - are concerned, one can assume that a separation of performers and listeners took place at the moment when the number of participants exceeded a certain number and thus the coordination of rhythm and melody foiled. The general trend towards specialization in human communities will also have played a role. We too know the spontaneous formation of audiences just like the very first people: Sensation-satisfying events such as accidents, riots etc. lead to crowds in which many largely passive consumers follow the processes as if on a virtual stage. The role of the audience is never completely passive; the feedback to the events can, however, be more or less direct, depending on the framework.

In ancient times , more space was built for spectators than for active participants at the amphitheater , stadium and hippodrome . In 1460 René d'Anjou's recommended in Forme et devis d'ung tournoi that the tournament area should be surrounded by a double fence in order to protect the (armed) knights from the large (unarmed) crowd of spectators.

Audience of speakers

Public speaking on forums for court hearings, information and agitation requires the speaker and his audience, an audience that is less condemned to passivity than in other forms. A good speaker will in any case pay attention to the reactions of his audience and adjust his contribution or at least its form if necessary.

Concert and theater audience

Audience at a rock concert

In contrast to the audience in front of the lectern, the theater audience is closer to the common consumer. Interaction is possible spontaneously in the form of expressions of approval or dislike, but must not directly influence the course on stage. In the course of civilizational development, rules were also created that suppress the immediacy of the reaction in favor of (or not) applause that is fixed at the end of a section.

Festivals with a very large audience

Cinema audience

With the virtualization of the contribution, the audience becomes a pure consumer , metaphorically from the artist's point of view also in front of the fourth wall . Interaction takes place among the spectators (if at all). One exception was the supporting film classic The Rooster is Dead , which made cinemas sing.

Audience criticism

Viewing the cinema cannot ignore the audience, their perception and their needs. Siegfried Kracauer later called his essay Film and Society (1927) The Little Shopgirls Go to the Cinema . Before considering the reception of individual films, it is first necessary to examine which people go to the cinema and why.

In his film In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni [We wander around in circles at night and are consumed by fire] Guy Debord sharply criticized today's cinema audience. This criticism, which was probably developed on the basis of the French audience, can also be transferred to the audience of the German art house cinemas.

“This audience, which has been so completely deprived of its freedom and which has tolerated all of this, deserves less than any other to be spared. With the traditional cynicism of those who know the human tendency to justify unrepentant insults, the manipulators of advertising today calmly proclaim that 'you go to the cinema if you love life'. But this life and this cinema count equally little; to that extent they can actually be exchanged at will.
The cinema audience, which was never very bourgeois and also hardly comes from the common people anymore, is now made up almost entirely of a single social class, which has otherwise become very broad; namely, the little technical assistants from the various branches of those ' services ' that today's production system so urgently needs: administration, control, maintenance, research, teaching, opinion-forming, entertainment and pseudo-criticism. That is probably enough to describe what they are. Certainly, with this audience that still goes to the cinema, you have to reckon with those who, because they are younger, only find themselves at the stage of superficial teaching in these various organizational work.
From the realism and the specifics of this famous system one can already recognize the personal abilities of the executive organs which it has developed. And in fact they are wrong here in everything and can only babble about lies. They are poor wage earners who consider themselves owners; deceived ignoramuses who believe they are educated, and dead people who think they have a seat and a voice. "

In the following, Debord shows in detail the depth and extent of the self-deception of the moviegoers and how visiting the cinema helps them to persist in this self-deception.

Feminist film theory has shown that the wishes and expectations of male and female viewers are by no means identical.

Television audience

In contrast to the traditional theater and cinema audience, the television audience is in a special situation. On the one hand, the television viewer finds himself isolated and separated from the mass of the audience ( dispersed audience ) mostly in private surroundings; a possibility of communication with other viewers / listeners is thus prevented. On the other hand, the medium of television offers the possibility of influencing the “course of action” that is on the threshold of interactivity . " Zapping " does not change the individual transmission, but it does change the individual perception . Although interactivity was already a characteristic of the public and speakers, the situation here is significantly different due to the indirect nature of the communication channels with the loss of direct social control. To speak of audience all developments beyond today's television ( interactive television ) will therefore possibly lead to a redefinition of the term “audience” or the introduction of a new term.


The plural Publika , borrowed from Latin, was newly included in the Duden dictionaries in 2013 with the note “rarely” due to the fact that there were not very numerous, but well-distributed documents.

See also



  • The audience - power in the parquet (ORF, 45 min., 2009, a film by Herbert Eisenschenk ; Vermeer film production Vienna)

Web links

Commons : Audience  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: audience  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Allen Guttmann : spectators sport . New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-231-06400-4
  2. ^ John McClelland: Re-defining the Limits: Sport in the Age of Galileo and the Scientific Revolution. Angela Teja, Arnd Krüger et al. (Ed.): Corpo e senso del limite - Sport and a sense of the body's limits. Hanover: NISH 2014, pp. 26–38. ISBN 978-3-932423-38-3