Audience Sensemaking: A Mapping Approach

Stephanie Edgerly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


How do audiences understand today’s high-choice media environment? This study focuses on the beginning stages of the sensemaking process and how audiences group, differentiate, and give meaning to various media organizations. Adopting a multidimensional scaling (MDS) approach, 13 media organizations are visually mapped by the implicit thoughts used to compare them. The output—a sensemaking map—is analyzed across two studies, with a mixed-method sequential explanatory design. Study one uses national survey data of U.S. adults (n = 1502) to generate and interpret an overall, aggregate sensemaking map. Study two combines this procedure with in-depth interviews of 18 U.S. adults, to identify distinct types of personal sensemaking maps and logic. Both studies point to the central role that assessments about media genre (news–entertainment) and political orientation (liberal–conservative) play in the sensemaking process. Ultimately, more attention should be paid to audience sensemaking about media, particularly as research about disinformation, media literacy, and news avoidance grow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-187
Number of pages23
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Audience studies
  • multidimensional scaling
  • news use
  • qualitative interviews
  • sensemaking
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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