The People Formerly Known As The Audience

This compelling phrase coined by NYU’s Jay Rosen describes an earthshaking change that most churches, politicians and entertainers refuse to believe—or of which they are simply ignorant.

Democracies (and churches) both produce and rely upon complacency in their people. Both these entities are “working” when their citizens or members are content enough not to protest the status-quo nor question their leaders. Members that quietly consume rather than noisily produce.

Quiet consumers do not get in the way of programs and policies. However, noisy producers throw wrenches in the well-oiled machine.

As surely as literacy and the printing press changed the world forever by providing a voice to the laity, social networking has changed today’s world just as dramatically by providing the people formerly known as the audience two powerful tools.

Accessibility and permanence.

Accessibility means that a number of others can read or see what a given person writes or says, and permanence refers to the longevity of a given bit of writing or video.

Both accessibility and permanence are increased when people connect to the internet.

And while blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are not necessarily political or religious, they are not specifically apolitical or areligious either.

Social networks are shaped by the people formerly known as the audience, taking on the characteristics that their noisy producers want them to have.

Consider recent remarks “caught” on audio by politician Barack Obama and pastor Mark Driscoll. One, a withering remark about a certain prime minister, another about feminine worship leaders.

Both remarks caused normally quiet consumers to become noisy producers. Noisy producers who now have accessibility to their tribes and networks and permanence and longevity via the digital pipeline. Don’t believe it? Just click the links in the previous paragraph.

The people formerly known as the audience were previously a large number of mostly uncoordinated quiet consumers, but today they can instantly become noisy producers, able to both respond to and redistribute messages at will.

When not only adults, but also kids who are too young to vote or be on church boards have the power to protest policies and sermons, they can shake government and religious leaders who are accustomed to a high degree of freedom from public oversight.

The old view of social networks as a separate space apart from the real world is no more. When the online population was tiny, most of the people you knew in your daily life weren’t part of that population. But now that computers and mobile devices such as phones have been broadly adopted, the whole notion of a separate space is fading. Our social media tools are not an alternative to real life, they are a part of it.

People concerned about digital media often worry about the decay of face-to-face contact, but for the people formerly known as the audience, the effect is just the opposite.

Hey, you people formerly known as the audience, answer the following question…

Question: What should the people formerly known as the audience now be known as…?

If this article intrigues you, then by all means practice your accessibility and permanence by sharing and clicking the buttons below…

Author’s note: If you like this article, you will LOVE Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive Surplus. Much of what is written above is a paraphrase of the first portion of Chapter 2.

2 Responses to “The People Formerly Known As The Audience”

  1. …and they are waiting to be activated to do something meaningful.

Created by Randy Elrod
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