This paper argues that material valuation devices used in consumer research rely on moralized cultural techniques. The paper focuses in detail on one such valuation device, namely audience simulators, and recovers the deeply ascetic and disciplinary nature of this set of techniques. Audience simulation, and in particular the Continuous Response Measurement of media audiences (CRM) allows estimating audience reactions to movies and commercials by simulating the response these offerings would receive in ‘real’ life. The paper traces this simulation method and the material valuation devices it is made up of, namely push-buttons, dials, and polygraphs, back to interwar prediction systems for the success of radio shows. The simulation and valuation practices that perform CRM reveal a genealogy that links audience research to an ethics of religious training. While CRM settings ostensibly aim at audience simulation and programme valuation, they also rely on essentially pre-modern cultural techniques such as monastic pace-setting, congregational judgement, and confession.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 23 Feb 2021.
- Cultural techniques
- Jury method
- Economic theology