Writing To An Imagined Audience … Suggestions Welcome

Audience, as the etymology suggests, originally involved hearing and, hence, speaking face-to-face; in which case you would know exactly who you were communicating to and, presumably, to what end. The paradox of referring to the “audience” of written communication reminds us of the more difficult task of communicating when the parties involved have been abstracted from one another in space and time.

So who’s my audience?

I know a few personally, I’ve come to know a few virtually through comments, but for the most part it is an invisible audience that I nonetheless find myself wanting to address in a meaningful manner.

Having said this, I’m curious to know why you take the time to read The Frailest Thing.

I was reminded by a comment today that most of the readers of this blog are “silent readers,” and that is fine of course. I’m not a very loud reader myself. But as I think about what to write, it couldn’t hurt to have some ideas of the kind of posts that readers find most helpful. What would you like to read more about? Which posts do you just skip over? What can I do to improve the quality of posts? Are there topics I don’t write enough about? Topics I write about too much? In short, what would make this a better blog? No need to pull punches.

If you have the time to spare, drop me a comment below or send me an email — LMSacasas at gmail dot com.

And of course, for whatever reason you do so, thanks for reading!

12 thoughts on “Writing To An Imagined Audience … Suggestions Welcome

  1. Everyone likes to read something that sticks there interest just like – you see something and have to read more! as you read you like what your reading or you just move on to the next, watch someone at a book store! they look at the cover before looking at the book it self. It has to jump out at you to read it.. What you say – Can it jump out at Them?. We all our looking. Good Luck, Will

  2. Hi Michael,

    As you know, in the short time since I’ve discovered your blog I have found our interests and the “conversation partners” we’re drawn to are remarkably similar. I enjoy your writing and thoughtfulness very much.

    Your questions here resonate with me, too, because I’ve recently started my own blog and find myself wondering who, if anyone, I’m talking to. I’m aware that it takes time to build a following, but I must say I find it hard not to assume that “silent” readers are in truth “no readers.” I don’t know about you, but I find response encouraging and lack of response disheartening. I now know how the tree falling in the forest feels.

    I hasten to add that I don’t find the lack of response surprising or offensive because I think it reflects less a judgment on the worth of what I’m communicating, one way or the other, as it does the vastly over-stuffed information universe. Given that we both write about technology and consciousness and spirit, this is, of course, grist for the mill.

    I am impressed by the frequency of your posts, and by their consistent quality. I also admit, however, that I find the frequency daunting . At one point you mentioned, I think it was in your “about this blog” statement, Andrew Sullivan’s maxim that if a blogger isn’t posting at least twice a day, he or she isn’t blogging. Well, I don’t read Sullivan, so I’m not sure what exactly he’s blogging twice a day, but I would be very surprised if posting at that pace produces especially thoughtful reflections, which may not be be what he’s aiming at. Certainly there’s a place for rapid-fire bursts of commentary, and perhaps Sullivan is one of those superhuman creatures who can sit down at the keyboard and churn out elegant and insightful prose on demand and on the spot. Such people do exist, I know — Christopher Hitchens seems to have been one. I am certainly not in that group, however, and don’t necessarily aspire to be. Thus my posts are relatively infrequent, which I suspect doesn’t help build a following.

    I mention this because I am often too busy to read your posts, as much as I’d like to. (In fact just yesterday I reminded myself that I must read your post of a few days ago on nostalgia because I’m working on something that involves Christopher Lasch.) This goes back to the over-stuffed information universe referred to earlier. Even when it comes to people with whom you share common interests and perspectives, it’s difficult to find the time to truly engage. Of course, everyone knows that the issue today is filtering! filtering! filtering! the information tidal wave. As everyone also knows, there’s a tension in that process that can be wearing, and not conducive to deliberation.

    As a newcomer to the blog-o-sphere, and as a skeptic when it comes to technology, I am monitoring all this as I go along. At this point I haven’t found much genuine “conversation” to be taking place, but perhaps that will change in time.



    1. Doug,

      You raise a good point regarding response, or lack thereof, and the vastly “over-stuffed information universe.” In truth, there is a great deal I read online and I don’t frequently comment myself. And as you say, this is not a reflection of the quality of what I’m reading.

      The Sullivan blogging machine cranks out an immense amount of content, not just two, but many posts per day. As I understand it, he does have some folks working for him. Also, many of the post are merely an excerpt with a link to something else. I’ll write that sort of post from time to time, but I usually end up writing more. In the end, I come back to that uncertainty about the audience. There’s a place for both the rapid fire pointer posts and the longer, more reflective posts; it depends on the reader and I suspect there are plenty of both types. Those that come for commentary and those that come to be linked to interesting stuff, or some combination.

      Currently, I’m able to write something every other day or so because what I’m writing about often overlaps with my readings for courses or research. In that way it dovetails into what I am already doing. That helps.

      Regarding filtering, Nick Carr has made the point that the problem is not the inadequacy of our filters, it’s rather that our filters are too good. We’re flooded with information we actually do care about. I know my RSS reader is often a source of stress because it gets stuffed, not with useless items, but items I actually do have an interest in reading. But there’s not enough time in the day to handle it all. I’ve had to trim down the feeds I subscribe to and will probably need to do so again. There is a certain discipline that becomes necessary in this environment. All a work in progress to be sure.

      It is rewarding though when every once and awhile a “conversation” strikes up, or even when you just get a short note in response. In light of that, many thanks for your comments on here. I do appreciate them!

      Incidentally, the annals of childish behavior posts have been … well, eye-opening.


  3. I have been reading your posts for around four months now – I’d stumbled upon your blog by accident, and saw the words “technology” and “culture” in the same sentence,which drew me into subscribing to it. I have enjoyed all your posts – having a keen interest in culture and being an engineering student, they seemed to me to be the perfect unification of all what I best liked. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to comment on them, thus, falling into the ranks of the “silent readers”, (which I did not intend to be – I know what it’s like to look at the numbers on the “Site Stats”, and wonder if I’m being silently judged, without being given a chance to defend my words – which is the greatest disadvantage of blogging!) , so now I say – your views on education,technology,reading,books and general philosophy are particularly interesting to read(By which, I mean that I agree with them.) Looking forward to more of the same!

    1. “By which I mean I agree with them.”

      Well, I can’t argue with that! I know very little by way engineering (which is to say nothing), so I’ll trust you to keep me honest if I ever write something that doesn’t pass engineering muster.


  4. I love your work around memory, culture and technology. I do not share what I see as some negativity on your part concerning change because change is life, and I love life. But our differences make your work that much more appealing. I will keep reading.

    1. Thanks Tom. You mention memory, I know I’m writing a lot less about memory explicitly. Topics on here shift as my reading shifts. In any case, I hope I don’t come across as being negative on change in general. As you say, change is a part of life and it wouldn’t do much good to simply be against change itself. But admittedly, I may end up occasionally taking issues with some specific changes along the way.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. I am among your more pedestrian readers. I’m interested in the stuff that interests you, as you know, but I also don’t have the time to really pursue those interests with the kind of depth you give them. RSS feeds come at me in bulk and rarely do I read an entire post of any author unless they really capture me in the first few sentences. But even less will I have the kind of time or intellectual energy to invest in a 2000+ word essay! I am drawn to the shorter posts without long quotations. How’s that for lazy?

    I have had the impression that your posts were unusually long, longer than most blogs I read. I don’t know if that is factually true, but for your info, your last nine posts, not counting the most recent, which is simply a picture and 85 words, averaged 814 words/ post. The median was 778 words. I find 800 words pushes it for me. 500-600 seems about right. Again, this may be because I’m lazy, I’m busy, or I’m not as intellectually engaged. Or it might be a combination of all three. But I just wondered if you have taken the length of your posts into consideration when pondering the preferences of your readership.

    My two-cents worth…

    1. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I don’t think it is a matter of laziness. We have to make choices about our information diet, clearly. I know that I handle my RSS feed in similar fashion. I save longer items to read later, but it usually takes awhile to get back to those.

      I know that 1,000 words for a blog post is supposed to be the assumed limit for some, and others recommend something in the vicinity of 500. I usually don’t keep length too much in mind, I write when I have something to say and write as long as it takes to say it more or less well. Perhaps I need to bend to the medium a bit more. I’ve certainly considered it. Interestingly though, the posts that have gotten the most attention recently (and it’s not much I admit) have been some of my longer efforts.

      In any case, a good point, and something I struggle with. Perhaps some shorter posts will be forthcoming.

      1. Of course, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: my comments were solely ones of my preference. I don’t claim to be a typical reader of your blog. So, in the words of the prophet, Billy Joel, “Don’t go changing, just to please me…”

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