Audience Analysis

Subject: Audience Analysis
From: Marilyn O'Leary <moleary -at- LSUVM -dot- SNCC -dot- LSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 07:47:43 -0600

Jill: Audience analysis is only part of the answers to your questions:

So, how do we get outside the box of our own experience when we analyze

How do we identify hidden alienating assumptions?

I work for an agency similar to yours where we are often asked to produce
documents on a broad range of science for a vast audience that ranges from
the average to the university researcher. Little way to analyze completely
or even sufficiently. I tak a step beyond audience analysis and force
myself to be conscious of my audience awareness - that is we need to think
about the interaction of the target audience (which you can learn about
from your experience, your technicians and trainers), the subject matter,
the document goal from the assigner's, audience's and writer's viewpoints,
and the writer's viewpoint on the subject. All come together in our
products yet we have only limited input and control over these forces and
we often forget about them. Consciousness is the key. Techniques like
going out with the trainers once in a while or piloting the product, or
even being an audience advocate for programmers makes a significant
difference, but it's insufficient unless you take that time to consiously
consider the audience. Bottom line - consciousness of your own viewpoint
and limitations relative to the subject and product and conscious notation
of the places where you would have difficulty explaining the product or
procedure orally to a stranger. If it's hard for your to explain, it's hard
for someone to understand. If the topic is controversial, think about e
every possible viewpoint. I think we are all sometimes guilty of becoming
so involved in the product or in the mechanics of document design that we
don't make ourselves stop and say "What will happen when these words are
read?" Marilyn

Marilyn Barrett O'Leary
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA
moleary -at- lsuvm -dot- sncc -dot- lsu -dot- edu

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