Week 3 Post
No matter how often I read about it, discuss it, try to teach it to various writing students, I never get tired of thinking/hearing/talking about audience. I tell my students every semester that if they learn only one thing in whatever class I’m teaching, I hope it will be something about audience—something about trying to think about and address the readers/listeners/viewers they will be trying to inform/move/persuade/impress with their texts.
The various things we’ve read thus far about the rhetorical situation (Bitzer and Vatz), user-friendliness and -centeredness (Johnson), and audience (Lunsford & Ede, Cooper, and Blakeslee) have led me to an assignment that I hope will help students see the value in thinking about audience—not just as an analytical tool for consuming texts, but also as a regular part of their own writing processes.
I plan on developing this assignment for our presentations on Thursday. For now, here’s an outline:
Assignment: Reverse Engineering
1. I will provide students with three images (subway and bus stop posters that are now also online) that make up a provocative public relations campaign. We will view these in class and discuss them briefly.
2. I’ll put the class in small groups (of three or four people).
3. I’ll ask each group to investigate, by working backwards from the PSAs, the rhetorical exigence that led to the campaign. I will ask each group to find, if not a single cause, at least the series of events that might have induced the organization behind the ads to act.
4. From this investigation, I’ll ask each group to speculate about the original target audience for the campaign.
5. Lastly, each group will produce a report (this could be text only or text and presentation software) that explains its investigation and the conclusions it has drawn.
As I said, I’ll have specifics about this on Thursday.