Platformisation and Personalisation: The Making of "Contingent" Online Audiences

Wark, Scott. 2024. Platformisation and Personalisation: The Making of "Contingent" Online Audiences. In: Annette Hill and Peter Lunt, eds. The Routledge Companion to Media Audiences. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9781032214665 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Digital platforms have become a major means of distributing media content to media audiences. They also facilitate the collection of personal and behavioural data. This data allows platforms to provide personalised recommendations – while also facilitating new modes of automated audience construction. This chapter introduces the concept of “contingent” online audiences to explain this process. Contingent online audiences are temporary audiences that are assembled using platform-driven personalising techniques. Using “audience imaginaries” as a conceptual frame, this chapter argues that contingent online audiences challenge the basic “figure” at the core of platform-driven personalisation. This figure is not an “audience of one,” but instead what Sophie Day, Celia Lury, and Helen Ward call a “fractal person”: a partial “person” distributed across many contingent online audiences. To illustrate, this chapter analyses the BookTok phenomenon. Using TikTok’s powerful recommendation algorithm, BookTok influencers have arguably created new, young literature audiences. This phenomenon illustrates how the large-volume production of targeted, personalised, and marginal audiences organised around fractal persons can have a profound effect on audience construction and media consumption. The concept of the contingent online audience provides us with an audience imaginary and associated figure to study media audiences in an age of platform-driven personalisation.

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Book Section

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“This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in ‘The Routledge Companion to Media Audiences’ on 17 September 2024, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.”

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


9 April 2024Accepted
17 September 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

09 May 2024 13:19

Last Modified:

09 May 2024 15:46


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