Audience Engagement

This week in the DH865 course we were delayed by a true Polar Vortex, hence a delay in this post. However, the focus of the week, audience engagement, is one that can never be delayed when creating a digital project (in my opinion). I argue that it should drive the research project, and be one of the very first aspects considered when designing the project. The intended audience should influence numerous decisions, especially in the design, including the style of language (how much jargon versus explanation is acceptable), use of graphics, and platform choice. I loved learning about the Mukurtu project specifically designed to preserve and share indigenous aboriginal knowledges with other tribe members. The article, “A Community of Relations: Mukurtu Hubs and Spokes” by Kimberly Christen, Alex Merrill and Michael Wynne, did an excellent job of demonstrating the specific design decisions to meet the needs of the intended audience who is concerned with sacred knowledges only to be viewed by certain people within the community. The tension in the digital age is noticeable with audience engagement considering that on the one hand most digital projects are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, but on the other hand, each project is not intended for every single person in the sense of utility and comprehensibility. Perhaps it may be best to be transparent about the intended audience while nodding to the fact that others can certainly view and potentially benefit from the project. I think Miriam Posner is particularly good about this with her blogs.

Considering my own audience, much of my work is for the world of academic. Philosophical engagement is more often full of jargon and nuanced argumentation styles that cater to other philosophers and academics. However, this is exactly a problem I see with the discipline. I think philosophy is most valuable when it is applicable beyond the walls of academia. This is my social justice orientation showing. Thus, my audience for digital projects is typically an academic one, but hopefully also a broader one when dealing with matters of social justice. Because I don’t yet have a area of specialization I can’t say much in terms of specifics, but in reference to recent digital humanities projects, I can say that my audience includes musicians (professional, academic, and otherwise), Christian/theology philosophers, Continental philosophers, and hopefully as I learn more, decolonial/anticolonial and feminist scholars. As a dual degree student pursuing a JD with an emphasis in immigration policy and reform, my audience may also come to include policy makers and/or individuals going through the immigration process.

In addition to various readings about audience and audience engagement, we read about the idea of creating project personas. As mentioned in class, this process has some benefits (especially for larger companies) but I think it would be uncomfortable and problematic to creating characters with backgrounds, epistemological standpoints, and livelihoods based on people you know for the sole purpose of company development. So, when thinking about possible personas for my digital work, I kept them generic in some sense, because any more specifics in terms of gender, race, class and so on again seems problematic.

  • My first persona is a music educator who teaches high school choir. This individual teaches for 6 hours a day, working with different choral ensembles to both teach students about music and theory, as well as bring students and the community together in collaborative concerts and events. This music educator has been teaching for 12 years and is quite familiar with the school and local community and is also up to date on the politics of music education. This individual’s goals are to teach students about music and theory principles, develop good singing techniques, foster team work and pride in collective music-making, and give back to the community. This individual would be affected by work in aesthetics and pedagogy in terms of how this individual teaches and perceives music and the role of theory.
  • A second persona is a typical Continental philosopher, tenure track at a small liberal arts college in the United States. This professor does conduct some research but is primarily focused on teaching philosophy courses like Applied Ethics, Continental Feminism, or Moral Psychology. This professor’s main concerns are to continue to be knowledgeable in the changing nature of these fields, receive tenure, and introduce important philosophical concepts like critical thinking, argumentation, writing skill improvement, and consideration of alternate perspectives.
  • A third persona is a immigration attorney working in a nonprofit. This attorney is early in the career and full of energy and passion, though certainly tired and worn down daily by the obstacles of the legal system. The attorney is constantly up to date on immigration policy and looking for ways to inform the local communities–both people in need of immigration services and those who do not–of the issues and nuances of immigration processes in the US.  The attorney has passion for social justice and is concerned with serving immigrants, refugees, and undocumented people, as well as educating larger communities.

Bearing these possible personas in mind, I want to be transparent about my own values and interests, because I think they deserve to know this. I recognize that these are three very different personas so not all of my research fits for each space. Therefore, I will continue to be conscientious of language choice and academic references. As a first year, I look forward to continuing my studies so that I can then be more specific and understanding about who my audience will be. Until then, these are a broad series of considerations for possible future digital projects.


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