I’ve had a great time engaging in blogging for audience and purpose with my class over the past term and a half. Not least, our communication with NASA Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan last month.

Class 5 Blog

Blogging has proven itself to really bring the world into my classroom and allow the children to engage in meaningful dialogue with an audience that is not necessarily anonymous. Julia Davies (2006: 60) wrote that blogging allows users to share their voice with a dynamic and global audience as well as engaging in powerful writing, which is partly driven by the potency from the immediacy of publication. Boyd (2007) has argued that users in blogging spaces are not fully aware of who their audience actually is. This is true in a sense but in my previous work (Waller, 2011: 101) I argue that although such an audience is ambiguous, it still exists and that children’s writing is subconsciously driven by this imagined audience. It is the imagined audience that is so powerful when blogging. The audience exists and it spans across continents and cultures but it is never truly known. My class enjoy checking the ‘Flag Counter’ on our blog but this didn’t necessarily allow them to understand the true reach of their work. No amount of tracking plug-ins or analytics can tell you the true extent of the audience of a blog. It takes instances like the communication with Barbara Morgan to truly extend their imagined audience. They now have a greater understanding of their audience and the fact that it extends outside of their local area. They also blog about what they think their imagined audience wants to know about – most recently space!

My class regularly engage with their imagined audience, asking questions in blog posts and requesting information. To them the audience is real. Blogging also allows the children to experience the power of written texts through thickening of online ties in the offline world. The letter from Barbara Morgan was much more powerful than a comment – to my class it made part of their imagined audience real. But the global nature of blogging meant that this sort of communication could happen. Developing traditional ‘old’ writing through the ‘new’ is certainly not a new concept but one that is forgotten at times. Blogging does not destroy traditional writing. It enhances it and it extends it. It makes it relevant and it gives it purpose. Next time someone says that technology is destroying writing, remember this:

The effects of technologies are never intrinsic to a particular media, but are always mediated by the uses to which technologies are put and the contexts in which they are used. (Luke, 2000: 74).

 How will you use technologies like blogging?

I write more about this area in an upcoming book chapter (due mid-2013):
Unsworth, L. and Thomas, A. (Eds.) (in preparation). English Teaching and New Literacies Pedagogy: Interpreting and authoring digital multimedia in the classroom. Peter Lang: New York.

boyd, d. (2007). Social Network Sites: Public, Private or What? Knowledge Tree, 13. Retrieved from: http://www.danah.org/papers/KnowledgeTree.pdf.

Davies, J. (2006). Escaping to the Borderlands: An Exploration of the Internet as Cultural Space for Teenage Wiccan Girls. In K. Pahl, & J. Rowsell, (Eds.), Travel Notes from the New Literacy Studies: Instances of Practice. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Luke, C. (2000). Cyber-schooling and technological change: Multiliteracies for new times. In M. Kalantzis, & B. Cope, (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures (pp. 69-91). London, England: Routledge.

Waller, M. (2011). ‘Everyone in the World Can See It’ – Developing Pupil Voice through Online Social Networks. In G. Czerniawsku, & W. Kidd, (Eds), The Student Voice Handbook: Bridging the Academic/Practitioner Divide. London, England: Emerald.

Featured image credit to Thomas Hawk and used under Creative Commons License.

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4 thoughts on “Blogging and the Imagined Audience

  • February 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    I enjoyed reading these ideas Martin, thanks for sharing. I agree the perception of an audience is hard to bring into a reality. I recall looking at a map of visitors and using it as a stimulus for thinking and wonder, but we could never be sure each dot = a reader, let alone someone who actually connected with what we were writing. But that caveat never faltered our attempts at sharing.

    When comments came in to a specific post that asked for comments and reaction, that is when the reality of human readers came leaping off the screen to us. When we read comments, all in different written styles, from people from different cultures and experiences, we started to understand what it meant to have an audience.

    Thanks for sharing your thinking.

    • February 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks Tom, yes I think what you say is correct – they do need something concrete to be able to make the connection with their audience and to bring it from the fully abstract state. I guess what part of my thinking now relates to is the importance of offline work linked to blogs and the thickening of ties with online and offline worlds.

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