… not the opening you were expecting? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, this was how poets, novelists and essayists addressed their audiences (Dorner 1993). The writer had to ‘woo’ the reader from the very beginning and there was an expectation that once they began reading, they would remain faithful and loyal, staying with the reader from the beginning of the text until the very end.
My, oh my, how the author-text-reader relationship has changed. We now exist in a society of textual ‘users’. With masses of information digitally available to us on any one subject, we skim, we study, and we scan until we find something that is of use to us –a notion entirely relatable to me as a university student. Dorner (1993) says that the author has adapted and now greets its audience with a “Look, I know you haven’t got time to fall in love, so I’ll inject you with my ideas as quickly as I can”, and that instant gratification suits our generation of readers just perfectly.
The digital media environment has also created a new ‘use’ of texts, as the notion of interactivity becomes increasingly prominent. With the ease of cut and paste functions, audiences can now co-participate, re-sequence and interactively transform texts how they see fit.
Take music, for example. It was once composed and produced for the audience to listen; the writer wrote, and the audience listened. Simple. Nowadays, when a piece of music is produced, not only is it consumed, it’s expected to be re-mixed by other producers or covered by different artists, it’s played alongside video productions and it’s transformed into digital ring tones. Cover (2006) suggests that this audience interactivity with texts redefines and blurs the traditional author-text-reader relationship even further.
Intellectual property is problematised in the online environment and texts are now valued for their commodification, rather than for what they truly are. Ultimately, we can see how the digital arena has transformed the notion of authorship since the days of ‘Dear Reader’ with audience respect and loyalty.
Cover, R 2006, ‘Audience inter/active: Interactive media, narrative control and reconceiving audience history’, New Media & Society, vol.8, no.1, pp.139-158.
Dorner, J 1993, ‘When readers become end-users: Intercourse without seduction’, Logos, vol.4, no.1, pp.6-11.