WKU POP 201

Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Hearing vs. Listening

Posted by Drake Kizer on March 27, 2017

Today’s selection covered pages 153-182 in our Spreadable Media textbook. The reading kicked off chapter four, which is titled “What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?”, in a fashion that was surprisingly quite interesting and engaging to me. We have had a lengthy delay between readings out of the textbook, and that break was not unwelcome in my opinion. The textbook is always very dense and elevated in tone, and the articles that we’ve been reading lately have been so much easier and more enjoyable to read.

This excerpt covered a lot of material, but the section that stood out the most to me was labeled “Hearing versus Listening”. I actually did quite a bit of research in a communication studies course I took last semester about this very distinction, and to see this concept reappear in this context was refreshing to me as a student, as it called upon my prior knowledge. The book goes over the difference, which is important since the two terms are closely related, but not synonyms. Hearing is “the physical act of receiving a message”, and listening is “an active process of waiting for, concentrating on, and responding to a message.”

The text goes on to say that currently, companies and media entities facilitate a culture where they simply “hear” what audiences have to say, as opposed to a culture “that prioritizes “listening” to what audiences have to say”, and I could not agree more. Companies try to say that questions like “who is there?” and “how many of them are there?” are enough to satisfy the requirements of listening to their consumers, and that is untrue. Harvesting information and insights is not listening at all; rather, it is hearing, since it doesn’t achieve the active response that listening demands. Companies cannot go on “just gathering data”, and this means that they must start doing something with the information they collect. If these entities began “reaching out in response to what audiences are talking about”, then they would be on their way to not only hearing, but also listening.

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