I have written you down, now you will live forever
According to the Clive Thompson article, “we compose some 3.6 trillion words every day on email and social media – the equivalent of 36 million books.” This blew me away. 36 million books a day?! That’s insane! Then I started thinking about who we write for, and if that can influence what we write.
After thinking for a while, I realized that I feel audience absolutely influences content creation… most of the time. For example, if I am writing an email to my supervisor, it will have a completely different tone than if I am shooting off an email to one of my friends. If I am updating my Facebook status, I will use a completely different style and attitude than if I am writing a research paper for school. And the main thing that differs in each case is the audience: if I am writing something to a person in some form of authority (professor, supervisor), I am going to use professional language and double (maybe even triple) check my grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If I am writing something for fun (a personal email, a status my friends will see), I may be less inclined to recheck carefully how it sounds, and I am more likely to use slang, emojis, or excessive punctuation (yes, I sometimes tend to over-emphasize with question marks and exclamation points, I just can’t help myself). So I suppose I do bow to “the audience effect” (Thompson, 2013).
However, this is not always going to be the case. There will always be exceptions. There are some things I prepare for the same way no matter what I expect from the audience. For example, a live presentation. The first two things that come to mind are my weekly toddler story times, and the booktalks I prepare for my teen program, Pizza and Paperbacks (bribe them with pizza, make them talk about books, you get the gist). For story time, I always prep a general outline beforehand, with a list of songs, books, fingerplays, and stretches I want to incorporate. I put them in a rough order, but it’s not something I’m married to, I will change things and add them as I go, depending on the audience… So I guess I’m still letting audience dictate how I create my story time: it usually tends to go something like the more people there are, the less book reading there is (more songs though, definitely more songs). My story times range from 30-70 people (parents and toddlers included), so I have to let the audience decide how my time is best spent. So maybe that is not the best example… On the other hand, the booktalks. I think this is a solid example of not letting my audience affect my creation (the booktalk). Each month I host my book club, and I know I need to present two booktalks to get it started. So, a couple of days before the event, I think about what I’ve read recently, and I pick my two favorite books, and write booktalks. Since it’s for teens, I do try to pick YA books. So I suppose audience is limiting my book selection a little. Hmm. Aside from that though, I don’t try to tailor it too much to the group. I get up to 15 teens, both genders (lately twice as many boys as girls), but my only goal is to try to cover various genres throughout the year. When I prepped a booktalk for the summer reading workshop, I used the exact same process as I do for my teens, even though I was presenting to adults, and I am currently developing a one-hour workshop session where I will be booktalking a variety of books, and I am preparing the same way I would for any booktalks with any audience.
So I think the point I am trying to make in this rambling post is this: for the most part, I do believe audience influences content creation, but there will always be an exception to the rule. Whether it is something you’re writing, performing, or presenting, you want to know your audience so you can create something that will hold their interest. You don’t want to go through all of this work, and have no one interested in what you have to share.
Thompson, C. (2013, September). Thinking out loud: How successful networks nurture good ideas. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2013/09/how-successful-networks-nurture-good-ideas-2/all/