Oh, how the audience has changed!
In our Digital Literacy reading this week, I found much interesting content, and I got stuck on the idea of audience in the digital age from Chapter 8. Now with technology allowing writing in the digital age readily accessible to potentially all Internet users or to anyone who can access an online document, this much broader sense of audience really does cause some serious consideration for technical communicators. Who, exactly, are they trying to reach and why? Are they friends, fans, or followers? The idea of considering the target audience has taken on new meaning in our Internet, user-driven, and social media run online world these days.
I found that the five case studies offered to us by Blakeslee were helpful in gaining an understanding when thinking about the much bigger “audience” a tech writer now must consider. She notes, ” …we still need to approach audiences as contextual, unique, and particular, just as we have been doing all along” (202). This finding made me think of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” I cannot help but think that audiences will always be very specific, very particular, and very clear in what they want. I think this line sums it up nicely, “Such evidence also points to the need to tease out the unique and complex characteristics of modern digital audiences” (202). It seems that digital communicators these days, much like in days past, should still seriously consider their audience and its needs to really reach the users.
This idea of heuristics was brand new to me; “the digital environment gives writers various mechanisms, or heuristics, for this learning–in other words, it provides them with alternative methods for understanding user needs and a means to solicit user feedback during both early and later phases of learning and research; it also helps them respond to and interact with users” (204). It is this new age of interaction that really has me intrigued with today’s digital communication age. The entire concept of audience in the online arena has changed with the way we can and do interact with each other on the Internet. Now, digital communicators work in a world where they know their audience might prefer interaction and the opportunity to offer feedback right away compared to earlier days where this was not necessarily possible. The audience of today is a bit more demanding.
With the demands and desires of audiences today, digital communicators who realize that this process is much more user driven today will benefit and be able to target and retain their audiences. Those who ignore their audience needs or oversimplify their needs will not achieve success at reaching their audience. It must be acknowledged that digital audiences are complex and will require a bit more than what we might have called an audience in former days.
I think the audience has more power today than ever before to affect how digital communicators must write. Noted by Blakeslee are three very important ideas about how digital communicators must continue to gain a contextualized understanding of their audiences, and I think it is worth it here to point them out again:
- 1) need to know how readers will read and interact with their documents
- 2) need to know how and in what contexts readers with use their documents and
- 3) need to know what expectations readers will bring to their digital documents
I am not sure that in the past authors in the print or early digital realm really considered point three very much. However, in this time of heavy user interaction, those who fail to realize and address the expectations brought by the reader will not reach them the same way others might.
Audience has really opened up quite a bit with the Internet and its power of interaction and immediate feedback.