Robert R. Johnson began his article “Audience Involved: Toward a Participatory Model of Writing” with a foreword, in which he wrote, “Ultimately…I am speaking about power: the potential power of technical communicators and rhetoricians to be not only advocates for users and readers, but also to be agents for change in corporate and academic contexts.” In this article, Johnson stressed the importance of an audience involved in the text production process, which is often an element overlooked.
What is an Audience Involved?
I found this article to be particularly interesting because, throughout all of my college experience, I have rarely heard this discussed. I have learned to think about the audience and consider who I am writing to or for, but involving the audience in the actual process is a definitely a less common theme. This is something that needs to be resolved, especially in technical communication. As Johnson wrote, “After all, in technical communication, our audiences generally are “real.” We often work with the actual people who will receive the products of our writing.”
To explain his ideal image of audience, Johnson introduced the term “audience involved.” An audience involved would be an active participant and collaborator in the writing process. I believe that this is the way to create the ultimate reader-centered document. If the audience has a say in the process, the result will be something that is more customized and specific to them than if the writers had gone off of assumptions, data, and analyses of audience.
Johnson wrote about two implications of involved audiences. The first was that it could bring to light different genres, which might otherwise have been left unchecked. The writer might have chosen the completely wrong genre for that specific audience, for example. The second was that technical communication students could become directly engaged in the public sphere in their efforts to involve audiences in their work. Both of these implications, in my opinion, would be greatly appreciated in the work of technical writers and their audiences. Choosing the correct genre will lead to more efficient and usable documentation for the audience, and students engaging with their audiences will give them an understanding of how to collaborate with their users while implementing what they have learned in class. Additionally, it will help identify the audience-involved production process that I have very infrequently experienced as a student.
Having an audience involved would further enhance the function of technical communication as a mediator between different groups of people for different purposes. It would connect writers more with the people that they are trying to write for, and enable them to have a better understanding of their work. As Johnson wrote, “Audiences actually in the classroom and in the collaborative processes of writing: imagine the possibilities.”
Johnson, Robert R. “Audience Involved: Toward A Participatory Model of Writing”. Computers and Composition 14.3 (1997): 361-376. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.