Audience – a word whose etymology suggests auditory qualities; sound and hearing. Once upon a time, one received an audience with a prince or potentate, and had the ear – the attention – of power.
What of the modern audience? Is anybody listening anymore? We all clamor for attention, seek to be on stage, to be seen, noticed, observed. But heard? Have we lost the expectation that anyone will hear us, understand our words? Do we even write for an audience anymore, expect a response, engage in discourse and dialogue? Or are we just shouting haplessly into the abyss, hearing only the ringing echo of our own voice?
Modern media like Twitter prompt the masses to produce sound, but not to actually write – to consider a receptor, an ideal reader…An audience. Social media are the literary equivalent of shouting out a jeer or expletive in a crowded stadium; a plea more than a parlance, more pathetic than profound.
I often wonder about the modern audience, whether those who randomly wash up upon these mediated and melancholy musings really “hear” anything at all. The nature of searching for information on the Internets means that the audience is no longer a kind of passive presence, forcing an awareness of the need for clarity and competence in the writer, but rather an active force, a driven soul, searching for answers that it already knows, discovering ideas it has already had. The modern audience finds what it wants, often in the most pointed and particular terms. We as writers, bloggers, wordsmiths, are merely churning out language like monkeys banging on a typewriter, hoping that someone stops and momentarily hears us.
But a real audience? That, I think, is too much to hope for anymore…