Social Contract

In The Craft of Research “Engaging Sources” I found the part about creating a role for the reader and audience to be an interesting concept. It is something I never thought about too much when writing in the past. In this reading it explains that it is not just the reader that judges the writer, but “a thoughtful writer has in advanced also judged her readers, by imagining who they are, what they are like, what they know, what they need and want”. Every writer creates a role for its readers because it is something that is inevitable.  While it is unavoidable, the writer is still left with freedom because, it is up to authors in deciding what role they choose for the audience and whom they are trying to target.  Yet, the reading also stresses the importance of the burden on the writer. If the author miscasts his/her audience then he or she will ultimately loose the audience and their willingness to read. In order to avoid this from happening, it is our job as the researcher and writer to establish a relationship with the reader that will make them want to continue to read. I found it to be most intriguing that this could be accomplished through the concept a “social contract” between the writer and the reader. As the writer, you must cast them in a role they are willing to accept, but at the same time you have to create a role for yourself that matches. If you do not do this then you are breaking the contract between the two of you and will also loose the reader’s attention.

Personally, when I write I do acknowledge the type of audience I am writing for, but I have never thought about the role I have created for them. Yet, according to this reading it is inevitable that I have established a role in my writing for my readers. However, I find this idea of the social contract between me and the reader to be something that could be helpful to keep in mind especially for the re-purposing assignment. I think it would also be interesting to reread some old writing of mine and look at the audience I was targeting and to see if I actually upheld my part of the social contract.

4 thoughts to “Social Contract”

  1. Brandon,

    I completely agree with everything you discussed in your post. I had the same reaction after doing the reading, and it really made me think about how I position myself as a writer. The concept of a “social contract” between readers and writers was something that I had never really considered before. I had of course thought about who my readers would be, but never fully considered how they would be thinking about or interpreting my writing. I also never thought about the fact that as a writer, I also had to create a role for myself. Depending on what I am writing, I may take on several different roles. This idea of creating a role for my readers as well as myself is something that I definitely want to try to incorporate into my own writing in the future.

  2. Brandon, when you looked back at old readings, did you see your audience (or the audience you subconsciously wrote for)? Who have you decided to target for your re-purposing?

    You said, “Yet, the reading also stresses the importance of the burden on the writer. If the author miscasts his/her audience then he or she will ultimately lose the audience and their willingness to read.” I agree with this, but do you also think that the writer will lose the respect of the reader? Maybe lose some rapport?

    1. When looking back at most of my writing the writing has tended to be more for the academic audience. I am hoping to expand further than this audience and plan to do this for my repurposing assignment. I am still deciding between writing a letter to an international figure or the UN and writing an op-ed for a newspaper like the NY Times. I plan to explore these two options further in a blog post.

      I think that if the author miscast its audience it depends on who the reader is. If this is an article in a newspaper, the reader may not read past the first few lines if they don’t feel a relationship or involved in the article. So in this case there is no respect to really loose, because no relationship was ever formed. Yet, if this is something that the audience is forced to read, then it may be possible for the reader to loose respect for the writer.

  3. Brandon- I agree with your thinking on the give/take relationship with the writer and the reader. I think that when I think about writing for an audience I write to them, not expecting them to think back, or think a certain way. I more tailor my words and how I phrase the paper in order to relate to the group I am writing for. Writing as you describe seems much more daunting and a larger responsibility as a writer. Thank you for pointing out this relationship, as I will have to seriously consider it in my repurposing project. I guess it also depends if you want to have a relationship with your reader or not…
    Thanks! Lots of good ideas…

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