An Audience with an Audience of Audiences

From my new book…The End of Business as Usual

Several years ago, Mollie Sterling shared a picture of a classroom at her alma mater, The Missouri School of Journalism. The picture eventually went viral and in 2008, Apple used it in a press conference announcing a next generation Macbook event.

In her post entitled “Look at them Apples,” Sterling featured the now famous picture with a statement that documented the rapid evolution in human computing and networking, “It does my heart good to see these photos from my alma mater, The Missouri School of Journalism. Back in the fall of 2001 when I was a freshman, it was me and two other kids in the back row with our glowing Apples. Now I feel almost sad for that poor kid with the Windows machine in the front row :) .”

To say it’s a captivating photo is an understatement. It’s the kind of picture that evokes exercises in existentialism and introspection. At the very least, it makes us question the future of handwriting and makes me think that it might be time to donate my collection of fountain and rollerball pens to a museum of fine writing instruments. As an aside, there is only one person in the audience manually taking notes that I can see.

Sterling’s picture is more than an advertisement for Apple. It serves as both a time capsule immortalizing this important transition and also serves as evidence of the emergence of new information nextworks. Every single one of these students is connected to others in the room and also around the world, figuratively and literally. Add a hotspot and each student represents a node in the human network, playing an instrumental role in the dissemination of information and also the experiences that unite us online and in real life (IRL).

This picture was our official introduction to the audience with an audience of audiences.

The People Formerly Known as the Audience

We live in interesting times and the dose of reality contained within this photo is intoxicating and frightening at the same time. The classroom however, is merely one setting where we can expect to see the impact of the connected individual and the networked audiences they weave.

The audience with audiences populates conferences, webinars and meetings.

The audience with audiences redefines the living room.

Each update we share quite literally becomes a social object, a form of media that invites interaction where reach resonates and extends like concentric circles with every instance. Social objects represent the asphalt that paves the roads between us.

Good friend and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen famously wrote in 2006, “We are the people formerly known as the audience.” His work served as the stimulus for humanizing the audience, challenging content producers to consider the very people they attempt to reach in order to earn personal connections and galvanize meaningful interaction.

And now “the audience” has ripened to earn an audience of its own. But with social media, comes great responsibility.

Our  job now is to speak to  and through the people in our audiences simultaneously. The goal of course is to spread information across social graphs and interest graphs.

The cultural impact of new media is profound as it weaves a new fabric for how we connect and communicate with one another. As a digital society, we are ushering in an era where everyday people form a global network of self-empowered social intermediaries that accelerate and proliferate the reach and effect of information and experiences.

We are no longer just part of the information consumption or production process; we are evolving the system for learning and sharing through real-time signal repeaters that boost the reach of digitally transmitted messages – from your status update to the world in seconds.

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  • Pingback: Tweets that mention An Audience with an Audience of Audiences « Brian Solis Brian Solis -- Topsy.com

  • http://twitter.com/waynemcevilly Wayne McEvilly

    Brian Solis -
    This post sounded and resounded within my morning twitter-activated consciousness. As a pianist I keep a constant awareness that the audience is central. When I begin my morning tweets, there is the same sense of excitement as when I begin a Mozart Sonata – perhaps more so – I am aware of a growing audience for my tweets. The sense that there are those “out there” with whom I am coming into close touch without my awareness of their presence is somehow hugely invigorating. Then when a response come, oh, it is so so very very very gratifying simply to know that I have communicated. That is the great good thing. To know that you have communicated!
    When I found a comment from you on one of my blogposts, it was quite simply a thrill – That one comment verified for me with no doubt whatever that as a new blogger I was communicating.
    Thank you.
    Wayne

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Wayne, what a wonderful example. And when we sit in the audience and share your wonderful performance with those who we are connected to (130 on average on Facebook and 140 on Twitter) we expand your audience exponentially. You reach is far greater than those in the room. It’s about designing experiences for shared experiences.

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  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    Thought provoking post Brian. I have always loved that photo. It’s funny how big the laptops in the photo look now!

    Whatever you are up to, I am sure lovin’ it! Can’t wait to see what you got cookin’!

    I received a heart touching email today from a guy I don’t know who thanked me for my blog and helping him land a dream job. He said because of my content he was able to interview with confidence. The power of content in the hands of an audience who sees value and shares with their audiences and beyond is unmeasurable.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      What a great reward for the great work you do. Keep it up!

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  • Sue Andrews

    This is an inspiring post. May I please quote your last 3 paragraphs in a course I am writing for tech comm students? I would like to make your final 3 paragraphs the message we leave them with at the end of the course.
    Sue Andrews

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Sue of course…thank you!

  • http://www.RelyLocalVictorville.wordpress.com Alyssa

    I think this is a great point! I work with small business owners and many do not yet grasp the true reach they can have through thoughtful consideration of their audience. Although they are approaching social media from a marketing perspective, they are beginning to understand that the potential goes far beyond selling widgets. Its almost more of a customer service opportunity. When someone appreciates or has been helped by your service, product, whatever, they can share it with their audience. And the same goes when you make your audience (customers, neighbors, employees, vendors, whoever) unhappy!

    Thanks for this post.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Alyssa, yes. It’s never been truer. The reach of the social consumer is so far greater than ever before, yet we question it’s validity and its effect. Ignorance is bliss until it’s not.

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    • Vjobrien22

      Brian, Thank you for the article. Yes, well written and presented, but I have problems with the replacement of a personal world for a digital, wireless world. Customer service is between customers often who are either face-to-face or telephonic. It seems impossible to explain to a younger world that a hand shake still means “good character,” etc. How can journalism create good character, or enhance a customer’s life aside of human instruction? I have worked in the IT customer service world for a season, I can tell you the devices we deploy to the field for realtime use have been received as a mixed bag. For the time it takes to “flip” through screens, a physician (consumer?) could have easily hand written it …and faster. My truest hope, however, is that mankind cannot assume the typed response is the preferred.

      Best of all things!
      Victoria

  • Marshalhilton

    This observation is wonderfully thought out. It’s striking how the world can be growing smaller while retaining its shape and mass. I’m wondering if my Scantron Card and #2 pencil collection will hold its value as a historical relic?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Marshal, love it. Scantron FTW!

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  • Anonymous

    Great post, Brian. “Speaking to and through people” is a tone that I think a lot of communicators struggle to understand. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Great, thought-provoking post. I wonder how the tactile relationship between words and thoughts will change. Does typing out the word love incite the same feeling and depth of emotion as writing out the word? And then how will that impact meaning both on a personal level but also in aggregate when measured. I don’t know for certain but it seems like something will be lost and gained.

    • Vjobrien22

      I still take notes with pen and paper. I’ve spoken with others, middle age folks, who like the feel of a page in their hands, and the sound of cracking the spine on a new book, not to mention the smell of the fresh printed paper. These things cannot be replaced by e-books, or any e-non-touchable, lacking sent, real sound, authentic touch, etc., And I’d be surprised to hear a woman stating a written love letter is an emequal to an email. Surely, human “connections” will need a friendlier softer venue than a laptop screen.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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