Who’s the Audience?

I read an article about using blogs in college classes (Kerawalla, L., Minocha, S., Kirkup, G., and Conole, G. 2009. An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 31-42.) Like the other article about using blogs with fifth graders, there is further evidence that considerations of audience and community are important considerations for blogging. So, I’m thinking more and more about audience and about community in my blogging. When these authors speak about audience, they are speaking about who it is that the blogger is writing for. When they speak about community, they are speaking about the people who become engaged in conversation with the blogger through comments. (Obviously there’s overlap, because anyone who becomes a part of the blogger’s community is already a part of the blogger’s audience. Isn’t it hilarious how we academics split hairs in terms of the meanings of words?)

These are areas that have a totally new meaning to me in the world of blog-writing as compared to the traditional academic writing that I’ve been involved in most of my life. With a traditional academic article, I need to write in a way that convinces about 3 experts that what I’ve written is worth publishing. Then, after the article has been accepted for publication in an academic journal, it almost doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. It certainly isn’t easy to measure how many people actually do read it. Sure, an academic journal may have a circulation of 75,000, but we all know that not everyone who receives a copy actually reads it. It’s as if the only audience that really matters is those 3 reviewers who recommend for or against publication.

In the world of blogging, there are no gatekeepers deciding whether or not my work is worth publishing. But, once it is out there, I can gauge in real time how many people read it. With traditional academic writing, getting an article published is a bit like bringing home a trophy mount from a hunting safari.

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We academics talk about how many publications we’ve had; we don’t talk about how many readers we have. Again, I find this hilarious.

Writing in an engaging way that actually hooks real people and interests them in reading your stuff seems to me to be a much more authentic way of writing than what’s expected in the traditional academic journal. Wouldn’t you agree?

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2 thoughts on “Who’s the Audience?

  1. I recently read an academic paper that surprised me with how well written it was. It’s called “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” The subject matter was very interesting, but it was really brought alive by the engaging writing style. It was written in 1956, and from what I understand it’s a classic in the field of psychology. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend reading it.

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