Thursday, October 9, 2008

Audience and Online Interaction Spaces

Lately I've been realizing how much participating as an author in online interaction spaces (like Facebook and this blog) is helping to deepen my thoughts about audience from the writer's perspective.

Take Facebook for instance. On my profile, friends and acquaintances from various stages of my life collide. I'm used to thinking about them differently, and now they're here, in one space. This gives new perspective to what "writing for a wide audience" means.

Or take the fact that I import this blog into Facebook as well as posting the items here. It makes me aware that others may also be reading this in a different context--e.g., feed readers--and that makes me try to keep those contexts in mind when I write things, knowing that, for instance, people might be seeing two different sets of comments on my posts, or none at all, depending on where they might be reading it.

These sorts of things make me aware of how much I modulate my communication on a daily basis depending on who I'm speaking to and how they're receiving that communication. And as a writer, these thoughts further sensitize me to the nuances of the idea about audience, which is such an important aspect of what we consider as authors.

Walter Ong* says that writers always imagine a particular kind of audience for their writing, and then give their readers roles to step into. It's fascinating to me how these online venues challenge, stretch, and concretize those imaginary audiences, potentially making both author and audience aware how much those roles are a shifting landscape, and how much the audience also creates roles for communicators to step into.

Anyone else have any noticings about audience, whether from online or offline venues?

*In his excellent essay "The Writer's Audience Is Always a Fiction"


Person of Consequence said...

I've noticed that new fledgling blog is changing how I communicate on a wide-scale too. First, there's the simple matter that I'm telling some of the same stories, but now they're typed instead of spoken. I've got a completely different overall tone when I write than when I speak, And in a small way, that's changing both the individual stories themselves and how I tell stories in general.
Another issue is the audience one. I'm used to repeating a story multiple times to different people, depending on who I talk to in a given day. And the story can incorporate variation and change depending on how I'm feeling at that moment, or exactly who my audience is. Suddenly, thanks to the blog, the story's going out to potentially everyone I know rather than to single individuals. And now whenever I want to talk about something I posted, I have to ask first "Have you read my blog?" (which is SO incredibly narcissistic, or at least seems that way.) and change my comments accordingly.
And lastly, it's also made me more analytical towards my writing. In this post for example, why did I keep using "story" rather than post or conversation?

Deborah Leiter said...

Oh person of consequence,

Thank you so much for your insightful comments. Very good stuff.