Week 11: Choose Your Own Adventure
Week 11 Reading Response
I focused this week on the Blakeslee reading in the Spilka book. The idea of writing for audiences in the digital age is what this class is all about, so it really made sense to me as a topic for exploration. Two ideas came through for me: the idea of audience reading choice, and the concept of knowing your reader.
At the outset Blakeslee states, “We have yet to re examine the notion of audience to determine if anything is changing or needs to change in response to the field’s shift to digital communication” (p. 200). This, I think, is a valid argument. Text documents and digital documents are sofundamentally different, that it’s hard to imagine it not having an impact.
One of the ideas that struck me as I was reading this was that, as readers use digital texts, they “become participants, control outcomes, and shape the text itself” (p. 215). She quotes Landow’s argument that, “the nonlinear nature of hypertext empowers the reader, whose choices make a uniquetext” (p.215).
The reason it stuck out to me is because it reminded me of a book fad that existed during the 80s. Choose your own adventure stories were books where you read the story up to a certain point, and then you got to a pivotal part of the story where you had make a choice. After choosing you would flip to the page that would continue your story, depending on the choice you made. I don’t remember how many endings they would have, but I would re-read those books over and over to follow all the paths.
Blakeslee’s discussion of hypertexts reminded me of that genre, and made me realize how pretty much hyperlinks are “choose your own adventure” stories times about a billion. Comparing it to a little, 150 page book made me realize, again, how mind-blowing the internet is with all its anticipatory hyperlinking, banner ads, and sidebar ads.
Knowing Your Reader
That anticipation of reader needs is another thing that provoked a lot of thought. One of the most fitting quotes was, “You don’t know what you don’t know” (p.208). Anticipating reader needs can be very difficult, especially if you aren’t able to have direct contact with that audience. One of Blakeslee’s participants reaffirms the idea that, “One of my first concerns about an audience is that no one knows who it is. That’s an impossible situation to be in. We need to get somebody at the client, a stakeholder, to agree who the audiences are” (p.210). It is crucial to know and agree upon who these people are in order to tailor a useful message. She makes a good point, but the same was true with print.
Although she admits that much work needs to be done, she asserts that that writers need to take as much care identifying their digital audiences as they did learning about their print audiences. She advocates the idea of creating personas to obtain, “the kind of nformation about readers that writers are seeking” (p. 207). She also discusses, “interaction, especially with actual readers” (p. 208), so the writer can get an idea of user background, context of use, and perceived user needs.
I am glad that she discussed the fact that not every writer has the choice to meet their readers. In my experience, I’ve had it both ways. At the travel company where I worked I spoke with customers all the time. I even went on familiarization trips with actual customers. In the other job at a continuing education company for attorneys, I never even met one of our customers. I feel that I delivered better copy at the travel company because I met and made friendships with some of our “personas.”
It’s been a rough week, so this is all I have for creative this time around: