Unit 4: Audience Analysis
The Shannon and Weaver model of communication introduced in Unit 1 (see the Section 1.2 reading in Stand up, Speak out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking) identifies all of the elements which influence the process of communication, and because it is a model intended to apply to a wide range of communication situations, it uses generic terms for those elements: "source", not "speaker;" "receiver", not "audience;" "noise", not "distraction", for example. Considering your "audience" in the generic sense of being "receivers" of your messages is a good way to approach the contents of this unit. The word "audience" tends to imply the passivity of sitting before a television or a stage or a book, as spectators not participants. However, in reality audiences are far more active than that, and using Shannon and Weaver's generic terms, you can frame this concept of the audience as a receiver more clearly. A source sends a message to a receiver in the same way a pitcher tosses a ball to a batter. The pitcher analyzes, among other things, the batter's stance and perhaps what is known about the batter's swinging style, temperament, or weaknesses. Then, the pitcher throws the ball and the batter reacts either by swinging, because the throw was good, or by stepping back because the ball was foul. Communication audiences react much like batters; their responses are based on how the ball – the message – is sent to them. The analogy breaks down at this point, however, because in the game of baseball, the pitcher does not want the batter to connect with the ball, while in public speaking, that connection is your goal. As you review the materials in this unit, keep in mind that audiences are not passive. They stand at bat, ready to swing and hit, swing and miss, or stand back and let your message just pass them by.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.