Parameters of Media Engagement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Engagement is a tricky term to pin down, shifting meaning in the media industries, across political communication and within popular culture. But the definition of engagement matters, as new currencies circulate in academic and industry discourses. The argument put forward here is that media engagement is a term that has been used in a strategic way within the media industries to capture social media analytics and ratings performance, thus instrumentally using a reductive meaning of engagement as a measurement of interest. We argue for a new definition of the term as an energising internal force; engagement is a subjective experience, protean in character, driven by affect yet always retaining some elements of rationality. We theorize media engagement as linking the personal, the socio-cultural, and the political, and these elements serve as a horizon in the parameters of media engagement. A matrix of five parameters offers a model for analysing engagement in relation to media contexts, motivations, modalities, intensities, and consequences. The parameters of media engagement highlight the trajectories of engagement, including the build up to engagement, the moment and place of engagement itself, and also what happens beyond engagement, such as participation and social activism, or fan production and user generated content. This way of conceptualising and contextualising media engagement offers analytic purchase for empirical research and reflexive theorisation that is attentive to the nexus of relations at the heart of engagement. We illustrate the empirical utility of this theoretical trajectory with an example from professional wrestling and populism. In such a way, media engagement can be a useful analytic term to map and understand how and why engagement matters to people in the context of political and cultural spheres.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Media Studies


  • media engagement, media audiences, media and political engagement
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalMedia Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov 3
Publication categoryResearch