September 10, 2012

Audiences are REAL!

To be honest I had never really thought of the idea of a fictionalized audience before reading Walter Ong's The Writer's Audience is Always Fiction. According to Ong two major types of audience exist, an audience for orators and an audience for written text. Written text is more universal and can reach a greater audience both intellectually and geographically (this was especially true back in the 80's when the pice was written). Today however with the introduction of the internet, both orators and authors can reach audiences across the globe.

On page 11, Ong shares that writers must fictionalize an audience since no one is actually there to contribute feedback as they "listen". The author must think of an audience as a general whole, the real social, economic, and psychological state of possible readers. If one is unable to create an intended audience they should use the voice of past authors. The example Ong uses for this idea is Samuel Clemens' Tom Sawyer. The road for an audience is two-sided: first the writer must construct in his imagination an audience cast in some sort of role. Secondly, the audience must correspondingly fictionalize itself. The reader must play the role in which the author cast him, which seldom corresponds with his role in real life (p. 12).

I personally believe that casting an audience is extremely important before writing or speaking a piece. Knowing the audience you are attempting to reach will help you formulate your content in the best way possible for the reader/listener to grasp. I do no believe that the audience changes from written to oral text, just the way in which the text is presented. As an author/orator it is important to know the audience and to adjust accordingly.

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