Re-audiencing: the challenge of re-purposing

Today in class we began discussing essay number two, our repurposing essay. Everyone brought in two-to-three previously written essays, and, splitting into groups, we all provided feedback for others’ topics.

Generally, most people were able to figure out a re-purposing medium. The options are pretty straightforward. Switching a creative piece, personal narrative, or academic essay into another of the three was the overall group response. But lurking underneath the change in presentation hid a more difficult challenge: a change in audience.

When most of us write a piece, we our argument and audience are intertwined, like a packaged deal. When we’re writing an academic paper, we tailor our writing directly to what we believe our professor wants. We choose our argument based on what we believe our professor will want. If someone’s writing a persuasive essay, our ideas are probably linked to persuade a certain audience.

And that’s how I feel about my current re-purposing project. Going into group meetings, I already knew what I wanted to re-purpose. Although it’s not getting published until Thursday, I write a column for The Michigan Daily, and I chose male eating disorders and body image issues for this week For reasons that I get into with the column–which you should totally read this Thursday–guys suffer from male eating disorders and body image issues in equal proportions as women. But here’s the problem; because men in society are pressed to “be tough,” it’s a topic that many times goes unnoticed.

So I wrote the column with the purpose of revealing this topic. But, when I really analyze my piece, I feel like my audience was everyone.

Now, in class today, Shelly told us that citing “the general audience” was rather unhelpful for this assignment. It doesn’t help you get the ball rolling in terms of processing who your new audience should be given your old audience. But I really was writing for everyone. I was writing for the people unaware of this problem and people who were suffering.

So when I’m told that I have to pick a different, specified audience, I get confused. Mostly because I feel like choosing an audience means that I’m forced to exclude some of my information.

I’ll give you an example. Thanks to one of my peers in group discussion, someone suggested I write a creative piece. If I choose the audience to be people unaware of male ED and Body issues, I feel like I’m cutting out some information. I’d have to write the story from the perspective of someone who was unaware of how dangerous their eating disorder was, and, throughout the piece, move them towards an understanding of how they have an unhealthy body image. That’s great, but I also think that would take a lot of time to set up, and I really want to focus time on exploring the variety of issues that men go through with eating disorders. I also don’t know if my audience has really changed from my original piece either.

However, if I choose the audience of men suffering from these disorders, I lose some of the shock value that I want to achieve with the piece. Since so many people reading this would be people unaware of male eating disorders, I’d really want them to be astounded at how many guys are suffering. But if I’m focusing on the guys suffering, it would have to center more on getting help, and I think that would undermine the biggest issue of male eating disorders: no one is talking about them. If a guy in the story starts talking about his problems to a therapist, the reader could easily assume that this is a standard practice for guys suffering.

I hope this complaining doesn’t sound whiny, but I feel like a lot of people were feeling the same way that I was. I just really wanted a place to express why I was frustrated. I knew it would help me think my issues out a little more (and it did) and hopefully my problems somehow helped you guys. Although I’m moving closer, I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to structure my piece, and that’s a major difficult of re-audiencing.

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