I never really thought about creating a role for my reader, or building a relationship with them. In a sense, I was subconsciously recognizing this situation but no one had ever brought it to my attention. We always ask questions like “Who is your audience?” or “Who are you trying to reach?” but sometimes in asking these questions we get caught up in looking at the larger demographic rather than thinking about the individual. This piece helped me to visualize an actual person, in my target audience, physically reading my research and reacting to the words. Do they feel a connection to the text? Or rather, do we, the writer and reader, have a connection? By playing these roles I can create a “social contract” that guides us both in carrying out our roles. This agreement: “I’ll do my part if you do yours,” takes information sharing and makes it a human experience rather than a purely academic one. And admittedly, I shamelessly fell in love with this reference to Sociological theory because I’m a passionate Sociology major!
In addition to this social contract, it’s important to entertain the reader with your knowledge. Simply spewing information is not enough. A Presentation is only as compelling as the presenter presents it to the audience and there is no difference here. In particular, I learned from the the Zeppelin Club example. I tend to assume that my reader is already interested in my topic, because I am, but you can’t assume that everyone is an eager member of the Zeppelin club. Instead, offering fresh and interesting information will serve to attract the aloof as well as the eager– it’s better to be safe than sorry (I usually don’t like using cliches in my writing but that one seemed so fitting!) Anyway, using hooks like new information will be a breath of fresh air, and will be evidence of you holding up your end of the social contract.
One thing that I’d like to push back on is the “Organize and Plan” portion of sharing your writing in a group. I think interactive group facilitation is important, and constructive, but I’m not sure that it needs to be so structured. Often times my best feedback is in a more casual and laid back setting where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and having them work as a conversation, rather than specific feedback. When it seems more like a creative group brain-storm, it can be more natural. And, I think the writing process should be more organic, anyway. Dividing and delegating for revision can be useful in very large groups, but for the purposes of this class I think respectful, free-flowing, conversation can be perfectly helpful.
In many ways, casting yourself, and the reader in different roles can help to visualize, and better execute your research. Once you see your argument as your script between writer and reader, the two can be connected by the strength of the representation of the material. Reaching out to the reader by upholding your end of the bargain as an engaging writer can be a challenge–but a vital realization in enhancing your argument.