227 – The Audience

"Hey, this guy isn't half bad!" "Nope, he's ALL bad!"

So, yesterday I wrote a post about how sometimes it’s necessary to offend people and what do you know? I offended someone!

I’m not upset about it, or angry – although I’m usually a mixture of both when having someone chew me out for causing them trauma. I don’t feel guilty about it because I did my utmost to protect anyone who might have been offended: I gave them fair warning; I told them not to read it.

In truth I’m not sure the offended party did read it – I don’t think they got past the title and the picture of a book cover – but that’s one of many personal views I hold on the matter that I’m not going to dredge up and fret over in detail. I could, but I won’t. I usually would, but I won’t.

I’m not spoiling for an argument here – it woudn’t solve anything if I did – but the last thing the guy who took such great offence at my article said to me was that it was ‘a good idea to check (my) audience’ before posting things like that.

Which presents me with a problem.

This blog is not a television show. It doesn’t play out to a captive audience at home or in the stalls, whose ticket fares and viewership I require to keep writing. I don’t get paid for writing this and am beholden to no investments from advertisers.

In a sense, I have no audience except myself. I write for myself and the integrity of my daily articles is built upon saying what I want to say on the matters I wish to discuss.

Which is just as well as there’s not really an audience for my writing beyond me. No magazine would pay me to dither in print about how eighties pop culture binds the world together, describe scenic coastal walks or give rather ill-informed but deeply personal opinions how humans interact in orbits more complicated than those of any celestial body. Nobody cares about that; certainly there are no magazines that thrive on feelings alone, unhinged without weight of cold, hard fact.

That’s one way of looking at it.

The other way is to see the vast gulf of negative space where an audience should be, and invert it, flip it, twist it around. While I write for no greater audience other than myself I post my writings on the Internet, where my potential audience is infinite.

Yes, infinite. There’s every possibility that my words flung to the farthest corners of the digital realm will remain there beyond both my passing and the passings of everyone referred to in them. As physical servers are replaced with the Shimmer – data-carrying impulses that zip across the planet’s magnetosphere. that dye the skies crimson and electric green – so the Internet evolves and my words go with it. My family tree grows strong and withers. There are few of us around now – of any of us – and They find us huddled after mass extinction, and take us with Them as they return to the stars.

The sum of human knowledge – now known as The Lightwave – is absorbed into the quintiple helix of Their DNA and passed from generation to generation. Those of us who remain bond with Them physically, integrate into their transgalactic society, and everything we once were is disseminated across the universe. What was once the Internet is but a miniscule, dim part of the Lightwave; still it shines bright enough that one consciousness, billions of years years from now, flicks a webpage in its mind and turns to where we are today, this post, The Audience, and seeing us staring into the impossible future, stares back and waves.

Wave to the nice consciousness, everybody. Coo-ee!

What’s to stop that from happening? Why wouldn’t some far-off future being be able to absorb the human race’s recorded data and, with unimaginable intellect, digest it in moments and judge us accordingly? I’ve been using the Internet for some time. I’ve written things I thought were posted and discarded, that showed up years later on Usenet search engines that hadn’t existed at the time. I created a website I thought woul be lost when Geocities went under, but another company stepped in, archived every shitty website Geocities hosted and still it persists. Think of the number of times you’ve posted something, edited or deleted it only to have someone respond to your original thought, the original aritcle. Many sites now automatically save previous drafts of documents as you revise them – check your Gmail Drafts folder and see for yourself how many partially completed e-mails reside there. They’re thoughts you never completed, ideas you decided were too silly to share, apologies you never meant, love notes you meant too much, and they’re all frozen where they might very well outlast the person who wrote them.

If you don’t think there’s any audience for your unfinished writings then I advise you to look about the Internet you’re scrawling on. lettersofnote.com collects correspondance between famous and important people throughout history. Many of these letters were for many years kept private, containing sensitive information the authors mightn’t have wished even those closest to them to have known. Today they’re spread out where anyone can read them – the entire Internet becomes their audience – and judging by the yellowed paper of some of the scans on the site and the dates and years inked at the top of them many of the letters were written at a time when the medium on which they’re currently displayed would have been inconceivable science fiction.

Historical figures hold their own allure but many of us have trespassed upon letters written by deceased grandparents when they were impossibly young and impossibly in love. Every day people send dozens of postcards anonymously to postsecret.com, confessing fears, admitting guilt; we don’t know any of these people but we still feel their pain when reading their writing and admire their strength in dealing with it.

There other websites that act as moden day confessionals, and still others where dead languages that were painted and chiselled thousands of years ago are capured and preserved for the ages. How many of these people checked their audiences before writing down their thoughts? How many of them considered who might read their words, or could even imagine that one day their potential audience would exceed the current number of people dwelling on the planet as they wrote?

I don’t know how many people read my blog consistantly. I have a rough idea from the views noted on the WordPress dashboard, but in the past whenever I’ve been upset about the dearth of views on this or that post somebody’s usually replied, letting me know that in spite of what I’ve been told, they read. A few – very few – subscribe and have my posts delivered to their inboxes. A few more have RSS feeds set up that catch each new post as it’s uploaded. Others comment here, on Twitter or on Google+, so I know they read my posts as well.

I don’t have a breakdown of the ethnicities, interests, or sexual preferences of my readers. I can’t tell if you make a healthy wage or you’re currently between jobs. If the search strings bringing people to my blog are anything to go by most of my random readers are interested in Charlie Brooker, Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood books and the word ‘loitering’ but the only thing I have any confidence repeated readers have in common is that they enjoy my writing – and it’s quite possible they actually hate it, and keep coming back just to make themselves more and more annoyed.

It’s possible.

I’m not pandering to any specific audience here, though there are themes that crop up time and again, that might resonate with people of similar age and background to myself. Given that I can only write from my own experiences my blog covers a pretty diverse range of subjects. Yesterday’s entry began with a bus journey written from my wife’s perspective; a week ago I wrote a grim parody of a cooking oil advert; today I wrote about audiences, and slapped a couple paragraphs of epic space opera in the middle just because I felt like it.

Maybe you liked that. I hope you did.

If you didn’t, don’t despair! There are God knows how many blogs beyond this one, and God knows how many websites beyond the blogs, and if nothing on the Internet catches your fancy there are books and movies and real life places to visit, some of which might even make you feel like they were written, filmed and created especially for you, for a private audience of one.

This isn’t one of those places; the only audience it caters for is me. But if you read and like it and feel that every once in a while I might be writing for you as well, that’s fine, too. There mighn’t be any stalls in which to sit but I’m happy to have you here in – for want of a better word – my audience.

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