“The accidental audience”

As we move students into doing more projects online, using wikis or blogs or posting videos or images, Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff brings up some excellent points to consider about unintended audiences.  Students typically have a certain audience in mind when they create a project and post it online.

“However, what about the accidental audience, the people who didn’t know they were looking for our work but found it anyway?

…It’s important for students to realize they need to consider how the words and images they use will reflect on them.  And not just at the time of publication.  The web has a persistence and a randomness which means materials out of mind, may not be out of sight. “

He continues: 

“Rather than trying to scare students with visions of the latest Dateline tabloid piece, we could approach the subject of safety in part by talking to students about how to project a positive image to the world.”

I think the terms “unintended audience” or “accidental audience” are an excellent way to talk to students about work they do online, just in terms of increasing student awareness.   Stahmer goes on to write that most of the time people who stumble across your work online are very positive and want to share new ideas with you, but that students need to be aware of a much broader audience, because that’s not always the case.

Dee Martin, who writes the blog Thoughts Have Wings, picked up on the conversation and offers some very helpful questions  we can ask students to consider when they put content online.

To me the point of all this isn’t the “fear factor” promoted by the media, but getting students to think about the content they put out in the world in a more mature way.  One of the advantages of the web 2.0 tools is that we can broaden students’ sense of audience in a much more authentic way, and they get it, because most of them are online daily.

And we can talk to them about  the professional and life skill of how they present themselves in the world, again in a much more authentic way. 

Any questions you would add to the list?  comments?

3 thoughts on ““The accidental audience”

  1. I agree completely. There is also the fact that when you tell someone they can’t do something, they tend to want to do it all the more. Instead of saying you can’t we need to be saying you can and help them find the tools to do it well. Thanks for the link.

  2. I agree completely with the recent thinking that students should be taught how to use the internet and what to keep private versus sharing everything as we are seeing now. I think that parents should ideally fulfill this role; obviously, that is not happening. By barring students from sites at school, we are only teaching censorship. This is a tough topic that you can go round and round with, approaching it from all sides. We want our students to have access to the latest information, but we don’t want them exposed to harmful and inappropriate materials – especially in the classroom. We want them to explore the world without fear, but we don’t want them to become victims to internet predators. I think that educating students about their audience is a step in the right direction. We have all heard of young adults who did not get a job because their potential employeer looked them up and found their very private and inappropriate web page, blog, etc. There are so many new challenges with new technology that go beyond understanding how to use it!

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