Can I Tell You Something About Audience? Then What Will You Tell Me?

Skipping my history with writing about this topic,
skipping my relation, and the relation of this topic, to the topic Filters of Information,

scarecrow 1

An audience is a group; the sole principle for selecting the members of a human group is propriety; propriety being determined by goals, an audience is then a group of people selected to assist one in meeting a particular goal.

For some goals it is rather more efficient to let the audience to select itself; this option further recommending itself at times by being the only option.

Audience is a relatively long-enduing state of listening, without speech; of receiving without giving; and passivity; an interruption, as it were, or the normal two-way flow of communication.

Hence we reserve situations where audience is used for communications which themselves go beyond everyday speech; communications of a higher quality, which perhaps carry some particular import, the benefit of which we feel outweighs the negative impact of sitting passively, without the option of response. Such as a play. Or the Daily Show.

And so audience is an artificial construct, an aberration of pride, justified or not; something mostly then to be avoided. The more natural flow of information is bi-directional; bi-directional information flow being more productive, and what is more productive being more appealing, on an emotional level. Thus our natural state, in an information topology is conversation, which is better than sex.

Chemistry and physics, mathematics and biology, being governed by two-way streets, human interaction, governed by them, must be as well. As in chemistry any unequal state can only be maintained for so long, and with so much energy. Therefore those who must listen crave to speak, and those who must speak, to listen.

Easy enough to observe this by interacting with someone after they’re been to a play, when he/she will have so much to tell you that you don’t need to hear, as communication attempts to balance itself, and to correct the unnatural hour or two that has hopefully not been wasted.

But what is it that an audience is for?


Perhaps it is time now to say out loud what we all already know: that often when we meet another person, we become suddenly aware of things about ourselves — within a few minutes–that before meeting that person were outside our notice. I have walked into rooms full of people and felt tall, when it would have made sense to feel that other people were short, or to feel nothing at all about height. But we don’t–we feel tall. We go home to our parents and we feel young. A stranger enters our homes and our homes feel shabby, but not until.

This is audience, from the other direction: our suppositions about the opinions of others; suppositions we don’t bother to formulate until those people are with us, and passively watching and listening. Suppositions that bear information that we might–or maybe don’t–need.* This is one of the two things that an audience is for. Giving us a chance to pretend that we know what other people think about us.

The thing an audience is for, that we can feel so much better about. You watch, and learn.**

I just need this picture

One cannot choose the members of the audience that observes one’s everyday conduct easily. Easily, though can one choose the audiences which one is a member of. Not listening being a skill that improves with practice, but doesn’t require much.

All this is boring.

But how then should we speak, when we know so little about to whom we are speaking? Someone told me the more people you can reach with any communication the better; therefore tailoring every communication to the lowest possible common denominator is best. Always.

But shouldn’t an inspiration be reflected just as it came, and communicated just as it occurs to one? Perhaps you might say my task as a thinker is to translate it, but all I can do is dance around it anyway, and hope you’ll dance the same. Should I pick instead some lesser idea to approximate?

And too, the way a thought it communicated is no accident. Many things are hard to understand on purpose: that’s to keep you from understanding them.

Filtering information this way seems unfair, but it’s hard to say whether landing the message or missing it is more important; without missing many, none of us would be able to walk.

And it’s even worse than that. When we do dumb down, our assumption about out audience actually impacts their intelligence, at least temporarily. This works in both directions, like magic, giving one the ability to ratchet up the intellect of just about anyone, instantly, without sayso or instruction, just by ceasing to address them like an idiot.

This is the same assumption, applied twice, connects our suppositions about anyone observing us (above) to their actual opinions.  What we think of others, as long as they agree to listen to us, they must become, at least a little.

And so I am led to conclude that to speak at the highest level is best; preventing as it does misinformation in one way, and maximizing the intelligence of one’s audience in another. Except that then what do you do when someone doesn’t understand?


You know what I usually do with something like this? I usually throw it out and rewrite it as a short joke that captures the concepts for myself and leaves others in the dark. Oh well.

Hey, look what I found! If you want. If you want to optimize, that is:

When speaking to anyone, the majority of our speech should be asking and answering questions, allowing us best to tailor the information we receive and provide to our conversation partners, or audience. That information we will thus obtain being not simply facts to help us solve our problems better, but information about the others understanding of the facts discussed, and of our communication style in general. Some teaching styles insist that at least 70% of the teacher’s utterances be questions. It’s worth spending some time thinking about how such a thing can be done: how can you, when you know more, share what you know, only by asking?

Questions, then, are the answer. Right?


*supposition uncertain

**i.e. an audience is for increasing the impact of our learning. It is worth mentioning that these two purposes balance in the sense that together they establish two-way transmission of information. Although, because the audience is silent, half of the information transmitted is Grade B stuff, and only supposition. Regrettable.


Hope this blog bores you: that’s a lesson in itself.

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