Welcome to the one place where EMAC is Whack!

"Attack of the EMAC" is Kevin Sharpe's class blog for EMAC 6300: Introduction to the Study of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas, Dallas. He is an educational marketing manager and runs the Newspaper in Education program at The Dallas Morning News.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Connecting to the audience to succeed

When Plato uses Socrates in a fictional dialogue to instruct Phaedrus -- as well as the reader-- what it takes to be effective with rhetoric in “Phaedrus,” one of the concepts that is introduced as a vital element that needs to be addresed in order to “enchant the soul” is an understanding of the audience’s prior knowledge of a topic or what they know to be true.

Two approaches that are compared to support this approach is referenced when Socrates describes a difference of opinion between the Egyptian king Thamus and the god Theuth. While the Egyptian god says he discovered that writing is a remedy for memory, Thamus goes further to claim that writing is a remedy for reminding rather than remembering. Without an understanding of what the intended audience knows -- as well as what they may need to be reminded about -- the writer, or orator, will not successfully persuade the audience and enchant their souls.

This analysis of the audience and an understanding of the memories they possess can be the principle an artist must master in order to inspire and motivate others to act.

“...he will next divide speeches into their different classes: - “Such and such persons,” he will say are affected by this or that kind of speech in this or that way,” and he will tell you why. The pupil must have a good theoretical notion of them first with all his senses about him or he will never get beyond the precepts of his masters. But when he understands what persons are persuaded by what arguments, and sees the person about whom he was speaking in the abstract actually before him, and knows that is is he, and can say to himself, “This is the man or this this the character who ought to have a certain argument applied to him in order to convince him of a certain opinion”; - he who knows all this, and knows also when he should speak and when he should refrain, and when he should use pithy sayings, pathetic appeals, sensational effects, and all the other modes of speech which he has learned; -when, I say, he knows the times and seasons of all these things, then, and not till then, he is a perfect master of his art; but if he fail in any of these points, whether in speaking or teaching or writing them, and yet declares that he speaks by rules of art, he who says “I don’t believe you” has the better of him.”

Whether an artist is in sales, politics, law, or education -- let alone philosophy or religion -- the ability to connect with the audience ensures success. This analysis of the audience needs to be objective and non-judgemental or else the arrogance of the artist comes through and offends those who are being addressed to the point where the reject what the artist claims to be truth. An artist who wants to impress -- rather than connect -- may not succeed in driving the audience to achieve a desired outcome. Using common references rather than ones that obscure and unknown pulls people in because they can recognize what is presented to them.

Today, demographics and psycho-graphics are used to categorize consumers in order to ensure the appropriate use of vocabulary, sentence structure, literary references and poetic devices as well as images. Recognizing an audience’s prior knowledge and experience sets the tone and builds a bond so trust can be achieved.

Discussion Points:
- At what point does "connecting" with the audience become "pandering" to the audience? Is one more responsible than the other? Is one more effective than the other?
- Are there ethical concerns when analyzing the audience's prior knowledge and understanding?
- Is the author being responsible when embracing the princples Plato?


  1. You raise some pertinent questions, Kevin. I would add, in what ways do emerging media facilitate or act as a barrier to the relationship between artist and audience?

    Most of all, I'm curious to know what you think on one (or all) of these questions.

  2. Emerging media acts facilitates connection between the artist and the audience because it uses technology as a conduite. I can watch an Professor's lecture on live feed and tweet my questions, receiving feedback instantaneously. Information through social media moves in real time, making it both accessible and convenient.

    However, there is this notion of being "plugged in" to your cell, the computer, whatever device you use for your technology musings. I've been yelled at more than once for answering a text or checking facebook in the middle of a conversation (or date).

    There is also something to be said about personal human interaction. In Plato's Phaedrus, note the location of their discourse was almost as important as the discourse itself. Much talk and description went into finding the spot to sit, describing the spring and taking time to enjoy the surroundings. There is something to be said in taking in the environment, the subtle cues of body language, and the entire sensory experience when one is involved in philosophic wanderings. We miss that when we are having those moments over a computer or cell phone.

  3. - Are there ethical concerns when analyzing the audience's prior knowledge and understanding?

    So, here's a little tidbit about myself: I actually really enjoy giving speeches and am comfortable speaking in front of people. The first rule of thumb that has always been given to me is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Even the most clever, well rehearsed individuals can have their words ignored or misunderstood if they arent giving them in the right context to the group they are in front of.

    It can be really damaging to assume that your crowd is aware of something. You have to know where they are coming from and where they have the capability of going. If not, you're just talking at them, and yes, I do belive that's a bit of an ethical concern.

    Or at least an ettiquette concern...