The Imitation Game as a Method for Testing Producers and Their Audience, Real and Imagined: A Proof of Concept

Philippe Ross


What do producers know about their audiences, how do they know it, and how does this knowledge inform their output? Recent research has tackled these questions as they relate to journalists and social media users, but few studies have put their knowledge to the test, never mind with the audience’s help. This study does so by conceptualizing the producers’ orientation to, and tacit knowledge of their audiences, and by introducing the Imitation Game methodology to media and communication studies. It reports on a study that tested whether Radio-Canada producers could pass as members of their audience to actual members acting as judges. In 12 imitation games comprising dialogue around 63 questions, producers convincingly mimicked audience members on knowledge, preference, and biographical questions, and nearly so on opinion questions. Their critical reflections and plausible accounts of reception practice generally confounded judges across question types, thus demonstrating the method’s promise.


imagined audience, production studies, tacit knowledge, Imitation Game

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