On Considering the Context of Your Audience

This post is largely inspired by Jesse James Garrett’s MozNewsLab lecture on July 22nd.

During JJG’s presentation, something clicked and all of a sudden a lot of my uncertainty about getting started on a practical game plan lifted. This epiphany of sorts came about through JJG’s discussion of considering the context of the audience when designing content. Right then I made the connection between all of my academic studies in documentary media, specifically with regard to how the author/audience positionality directs the truth or meaning of any documentary work or visual communication.

The crux of both JJG’s point and one of main points I outline in a recent paper I wrote on author/audience power dynamics is one and the same. (Maybe I’ll post that paper at some point?) For the author of content to effectively engage their audience, where the audience receives and interacts with the content as the author intends, it is absolutely critical that the author understand the context, or positionality, of the audience. “Content” in this instance is any communication, be it a documentary film, a user interface, or a research paper.

Because I care so much about the project I brought to the MozNewsLab, I wanted my audience to be “everyone everywhere, always.” So maybe that’s not the best place to start designing from.

In the past few days I have taken advice from JJG and considered more of a bottom>up approach to design, where before I was only considering a top>down approach.

So sure, it sounds common sense, but I still feel like I need to say it out loud:

“The first version should be super simple, basic, and approachable. made for specific and well defined audience”.

From Jesse James Garrett: “For my content to be successful, I needed to understand the shape of the experience around it.” He explained that the source of some of the biggest problems or failures has come from “not knowing the internal politics of your clients.”

/end of MozNewsLab weekly post

So here is the new game plan, based on these revelations.

Aim for two specific development iterations:
(Hedging my bets, in case I am unable to work with one of the groups I am intending on consulting.)

who is the first audience?

Factcheck.org & Politifact.com
2) MA Journalism Students at Ryerson University

Now, What are the main goals of this project as determined by the audience?

Give factcheck.org and politifact.com the ability to show their users meaningfully dynamic and interconnected information, documents and sources which are referenced through the factchecking of a particular story.

 Problem being solved: how “unaproachable” footnotes and bibliographies are to the average user. the average user is not going to explore the source material referenced. (Even though politifact.com and factcheck.org are awesome and actually provide their sources and references.)

(Side note: This project could also end up being used as a really awesome way to visualize bibliographies.)

 Result: Users of factcheck.org and politifact.com are more educated about the elements contributing to stories being reported and more confident in their knowledge as they encounter more primary source material, and can view the evolution of a news story over time.

Result: factcheck.org and Politifact.com have more engaged and interested contributors, and potentially convert more users into collaborators.

Create a platform for journalists (specifically, MA journalism students) to collect and visualize elements of their story or major research project. Furthermore, allow the platform to be used as a presentation method for a story of MRP.

 Problem being solved: Not so much a problem as an opportunity for a more efficient workflow.

Result: Journalists are able to upload and link in information and content being used to formulate a story or MRP.

Result: Journalists are given the ability to encourage collaboration and input from other parties via web to aid in the research around, and construction of their stories.

 Result: Journalists are able to present their story in a new digital format which their audiences engage with and actively explore and navigate.

   Result: This new format is able to be embedded on any webpage, increasing the probability of both increased interest in collaboration and an increased size in audience.

…and that’s where I am at right now.


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