chapter  Chapter 5
18 Pages

Generic Audiences in Technical Communication

WithM. Jimmie Killingsworth, Michael K. Gilbertson

In the bulk of the literature, audience awareness is approached from one of the two perspectives, the cognitive or the cultural. The cognitive approach tends to assume a universal audience—orat least a unified audience, the busy, fast-reading problem solver so common in corporate and public life. For the culturalists, audience analysis is truly analytical. Both cognitive and cultural approaches to audience analysis may indeed be necessary, since one (the cultural) will provide specific information about representative users, while the other (the cognitive) will give writers ways of accommodating readers overlooked in the market study or usability test. Though audience expectations differ from genre to genre, it is possible to arrive at general principles about what the reader expects from a text and what kinds of texts readers expect for different kinds of information. A genre provides a flexible code that allows the writer to address multiple types of audiences within the same document.