Audience as Community

Flickr: Spiderpops

Flickr: Spiderpops

So I read Dean Shareski’s post Why Audience Matters earlier today and just finished reading Clarence’s follow up post and thought I’d add to the conversation as well.

Dean does a great job talking about the different roles an audience can play and I’d like to extend his list.

Audience as Community

Your audience becomes a community when audience members start to repeatedly visits your blog or site. A community forms around your content. A community that becomes interested in what you have to say, follows your thoughts, or ideas, and is committed to you in some way. Be it an RSS feed, a “friend” or a “follower”. A community becomes powerful as there is a sense of purpose to your writing. There are people waiting to hear from you. Take the president/prime mister of any country, or a blog like TechCrunch. A community will wait for your words, wants to know what you have to say, and relays on you for information and ideas.

Very few students see audience as community in the educational/creation space. Although they totally understand it in Facebook, hence the reason you MUST update your profile so many times a day…the community is waiting for it!

A community of followers or readers is a powerful learning tool. It’s the reason why some of us in the blogosphere continue to blog. We have a community of people that we feel obligated to blog for. Whether true or not, there is a sense of obligation to people who have bookmarked your site or have your RSS feed. Audience as Community allows you to engage that audience into becoming what Dean calls an “Audience of Co-Learners“, or an “Audience of Teachers“. I believe before you can have either of those audiences you need to have an audience as community. Only after you have turned your audience into a community can you make something of them, empower them to help you, to teach you, to learn with you. Without that community they are just an “Audience as Eyeballs“. Much of this thinking comes from Seth Godin’s book Tribes which I highly recommend (the audio book via iTunes or Audible is my favorite).

Both Clarence and Dean talk about students and their views on audience. I also like Chrissy Hellyer’s comment on Clarence’s blog about age being an issue.

Yes….5th graders still check their Whos Amung Us maps to see if they have any new readers. Audience as Eyeballs is motivation for them…as I have found it for 4th and 3rd graders as well. Audience as Eyeballs also seems to work on YouTube no matter what the age. As the comments on most videos aren’t worth reading, the actual eyeballs on your video count.

Clarence does make a great point about students coming into our classrooms already with global connections via Facebook, XBox live, etc. Many of these connections are Audience as Community. That is there is a community of player around a game on the XBox, or any MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game).

I do believe we need to be teaching students the importance of audience. Whether it’s looking for a job, applying to a university, or blogging your thinking in school. Understanding audience and the power of creating a community around your content is something we should be teaching, should be discussing in our classrooms. The power of an audience brought Hitler to power, and at the same time elected President Obama. Audience is a powerful thing…from brands, to words, to videos, to music…..audience is worth studying.

Clarence for example has branded his classroom with Idea Hive and continues to build a community around his classroom both with his students who blog within and the classrooms they connect with around the world. An Audience as Community that leads to co-learning and teaching.

Of course teachers need to understand audience as well. Audience as Community is important for any teacher. Your community of parents can be powerful allies or enemy depending on how you engage them….or lack of engagement within a space…be it your classroom or class website.

Do we take time to teach students about Audience? The power they have both positively and negatively? Do we talk about how audience is changing do to the connectiveness of the web? Are we helping students to create positive audience interactions that help to form a community and lead to learning? I sure hope so….because audience matters.