There, imbed in the world, is a interchange of signals. We call it communication. Heidegger in Being and Time said that language is the world in which we dwell. However, more clearly the interchange of signals is a map of the relational energies that shape our world. Communication is an interplay. That playfulness is what we experience as a call and response. How many varied systems of communication flow through the atmosphere? How can a focus on audience help with new ways of understanding communication?
Audience is often understood in an artistic sense. It can also be applied to business. Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, dubbed the ‘Grandfather of Rap,’ remarked that his debut album with the group The Last Poets (1970) “sold over a million copies by word of mouth.”
What people say, to whom, how they say it, how often, has significance and enters the socio-cultural sphere. How something is said implies dialogue, at least two entities. Something is said to someone with someone in mind. That dialogic process is felt and is dynamic. That dialogic process in rap culture is one of foundational tenets, “call and response.” From an African-diasporic perspective, the call and response dynamic is seen in many of the continent’s cultural practices. To dance is to dance for one’s community. To sing is to honor vibrational harmonies of the past. There is always an audience implied. Thus, what does a focus on audience do to assist in deepening understandings of communicative strategies?
Audience conceptually assists with picturing how, in any practice of effective communication, knowing to whom you are talking changes things and impacts messaging. That dynamism is what makes the world work. When audience is seen as something relegated to art specifically, it obscures the impact of audience at all levels of the social structure. Audience is foundational. Opening to how that is manifested throughout the economic and political structure better enables a more just society.
As in business, “eyes-on” is a term used to assess valuation. Advertisers seek opportunities based on viewership. Political ads, for example, have important impact. The messages they send, both verbal and non-verbal, become to and through what voters must wade in making their decisions. Constituents are a form of viewership. Like advertisers, politicians do think about audience and how their responses help to clarify needed political action.
Dorothy Cotton, a champion of voters rights, knew the importance of helping members of the black community voice their concerns. That voicing is the power of audience. That is what politicians seek. Politicians want to see that their constituents support their policies and recognize the work they do for their districts. Voters likewise want to see that their representatives value their concerns and are accessible. If politicians viewed their constituents as a kind of audience, and if voters viewed their politicians as a kind of audience, how would their dialogue change?
Cotton’s work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to educate community members is a practice in effective communication. [Read more]. It is an opportunity for voters to deepen their understandings of the language the politicians use and to teach politicians what voters want to see. That dance of figuring out ways to talk about and talk through the changes that constituents want to see in their world is enhanced by a notion of audience.
The implications of audience being essential to realizing the change we want to see in the world helps in understanding why Dorothy Cotton was so passionate about combating voter suppression in her workshops to educate African-American citizens. Voter suppression prevents politician from seeing and hearing what they want to know and prevents constituents from knowing whether or not their politicians hear them. Valuing audience is an equitable means of creating opportunities for communication in creating a healthy culture and society.