I came across this tweet this morning from digital health mogul Chris Boyer. He got me thinking about the idea of an audience.
It’s interesting how we all see the terms of public dialog. Of course, when I hear follower, I think Jim Jones and Kool-Aid.
I get the audience concern. We once lived in a world of listener and broadcaster. The broadcaster broadcasted, the listener listened. For some the term implies paternalism, a concept anathema to the libertarian bias of networked publics.
For many, audience implies size. We’ve been brainwashed by the industrial age belief that an audience has to be big. It’s interesting that John Steinbeck saw himself as writing for an audience of one.
Dan Gillmor has referred to all of us as the former audience. Those people who react to, participate in and even change a story as it evolves.
I’m okay with audience. But it depends on the context of what I’m doing.
I see two things in the public space: content and conversations. Either we are making and sharing stuff, or we’re talking about the stuff that other people make and share. When I create ideas or share them, they are distributed to a group of folks who have elected to listen to what I have to say. This could be seen as an audience or a group of followers. This is the one-to-many element of my public presence. When I’m having a conversation it’s a near-synchronous exchange and I tend not to see that person as my audience.
My Twitter feed is a good example. Some dialog, some narrowcasting. Some connection with friends and colleagues, some publishing for a select group.
Perhaps we see audience as somehow detached and anti-social. Some believe that social tools are all about the chit chat. Twitter as cocktail party. But new media are as much about publication as they are about repartee. Public media have evolved such that each of us, in the absence of any dialog, can be the broadcasters of our own ideas. We are, in effect, on stage when we publish.
So I suspect audiences are inevitable, whether we like it or not.
Do you have an audience, followers or both?