To operate effective social and community-focussed communication strategies, understanding and applying different theoretical frameworks can significantly enhance the impact and relevance of messaging across different media platforms. Among these frameworks, symbolic interactionism, while underexplored, is a particularly potent tool, providing a unique lens through which to view and shape communications. Developed from the work of George Herbert Mead and further expanded by Herbert Blumer, symbolic interactionism places a strong emphasis on the role of symbols and language in human interaction. This sociological perspective suggests that human interactions and societal constructs are mediated through these symbols, offering a dynamic approach to understanding and engaging with audiences.
At its core, symbolic interactionism is founded on the principle that human society is deeply rooted in symbols, with language being a primary medium. This framework proposes that meanings are not inherent in symbols themselves, but are created and continually modified through social interactions. Thus, understanding the symbols and language that resonate with a specific audience becomes crucial in crafting effective communication strategies. Symbolic interactionism also posits that individuals are active in their perceptions of reality, constantly interpreting and giving meaning to their experiences. This active role of individuals in shaping their social reality is a critical aspect to consider in any communications strategy, as it underscores the importance of subjective experiences and the dynamic nature of social processes.
The application of symbolic interactionism in various forms of media and communication is multifaceted. In social media, it can guide personalised engagement and the use of user-generated content, activating modern icons, like hashtags and memes, for effective messaging. In communications practice, symbolic interactionism can inform the use of visual symbolism and narrative storytelling, creating stories that resonate deeply with the target audience’s experiences and cultural background.
In any form of public communication, understanding the symbolic meanings of associated with an activity or project, and the character and identity of the people undertaking it, and employing empathetic communication forms are key. When we look at any form of communication, such as digital marketing, interactive websites and apps, as well as SEO strategies, an understanding of their symbolic importance, can enhance their appeal with the people we are aiming to communicate with. When we look at traditional forms of media, like TV, radio, and print, we can see how they might benefit from a symbolic interactionist approach, that utilise a symbolic framework to develop content in the form of programs and articles that reflect the audience’s cultural and symbolic space in which these interactions resonate.
The principles of symbolic interactionism offer a deep approach to developing and refining communications strategies across various media. By understanding and working with symbols and understanding their multi-layered and archetypal meanings, we gain a more in-depth understanding of the people who we wish to communicate with. By recognising the active role that individuals play in interpreting these symbols, communication can be made more effective, resonant, and engaging. This approach not only enhances the delivery of messages, but also ensures that they are meaningful and relevant to the audience, adapting to the evolving nature of human interactions and societal constructs.
A comparative approach to different modes of communication processes, such as the differences between social constructivism, materialism, behaviourism, and symbolic interactionism, can be helpful for a comprehensive understanding of how communication and interaction is enacted and processed by different audiences. Each theory offers a distinct lens through which human behaviour and social interaction can be understood, thus providing valuable insights into the most effective ways to convey messages. Social constructivism, for example, emphasises the role of social and cultural contexts in shaping perceptions, making it fundamental for understanding audience diversity and the creation of shared meanings.
Materialism, with its focus on the physical and tangible aspects of communication, highlights the importance of the medium and technological influences. Behaviourism, by concentrating on observable responses to stimuli, offers valuable strategies for message reinforcement and behaviour change. Lastly, symbolic interactionism sheds light on the nuanced ways individuals interpret symbols and language, underscoring the importance of personal, collective and deeply rooted experiences in communication. Together, these perspectives enable a multifaceted approach to crafting communication strategies, ensuring they are not only effectively conveyed, but also resonate deeply with the intended audience, considering the varied and complex ways in which people interpret and interact with information.
Social constructivism, behaviourism, and materialism are distinct theoretical frameworks in psychology and philosophy with differing views about how knowledge, reality, and human behaviour are understood and explained. Here’s a comparison of these three perspectives:
- Knowledge and Reality: Social constructivism posits that knowledge and understanding are socially constructed through interactions within a cultural and linguistic context. Reality is seen as subjective, shaped by social, historical, and cultural influences.
- Learning and Development: It emphasizes the role of social interaction and cultural context in learning and cognitive development. Learners actively construct their understanding through experiences and reflections, influenced by the social environment.
- Focus: The focus is on how individuals construct meaning and knowledge collaboratively through social interactions and cultural norms.
- Knowledge and Reality: Behaviourism, especially in its classical form, does not directly address the nature of knowledge or reality. Instead, it focuses on observable behaviour, arguing that behaviour can be studied scientifically without recourse to internal mental states.
- Learning and Development: Learning is understood in terms of stimulus-response relationships. Knowledge is the result of conditioning, where behaviours are reinforced or diminished through rewards or punishments.
- Focus: The focus is on observable and measurable behaviours rather than internal mental states. It views the mind as a “black box” whose contents are not subject to scientific investigation.
- Knowledge and Reality: Materialism, particularly in philosophy, holds that the only thing that exists is matter; all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are the result of material interactions.
- Learning and Development: From a materialistic perspective, learning and cognitive development are processes that arise from the physical workings of the brain and nervous system. Mental states and consciousness are seen as by-products of material processes.
- Focus: The focus is on the physical and material aspects of existence. It often aligns with a scientific approach that seeks to explain all phenomena, including human thought and behaviour, in terms of physical processes.
Ontology: Social constructivism sees knowledge and reality as socially and culturally constructed, while behaviourism avoids ontological questions, focusing on observable behaviour. Materialism posits that only physical matter and its interactions exist.
Learning: In social constructivism, learning is an active, reflective process influenced by social interactions. In behaviourism, learning is a passive process governed by conditioning. Materialism would view learning as a material process of the brain.
Human Experience: Social constructivism values subjective experiences and cultural contexts. Behaviourism reduces human experience to observable behaviours, and materialism explains it in terms of material interactions.
Social constructivism emphasises the socially constructed nature of knowledge and the importance of cultural and linguistic contexts in shaping human understanding and behaviour. In contrast, behaviourism focuses on observable behaviour and external stimuli, largely ignoring internal mental states, while materialism views all phenomena, including mental states, as the result of material interactions.
Social constructivism is a sociological theory that posits that much of what we perceive and know about the world is constructed through social processes and interactions, rather than being inherent and immutable. It emphasises the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and in constructing knowledge.
The main principles of social constructivism suppose that:
- Knowledge as a Social Product: Social constructivism argues that knowledge is not a personal construct but a product of social interaction and language use. It is through communication and negotiation with others that individuals come to understand and define the world.
- Active Learning: Learners actively construct their understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. It posits that learning is not a passive process of absorbing information but an active process of meaning-making.
- Importance of Language: Language plays a crucial role in social constructivism. It’s through language that cultural norms and knowledge are transmitted, and through dialogue and discussion that individuals can shape and reshape understanding.
- Influence of Culture and Context: Social constructivism emphasises the impact of cultural and social context on the construction of knowledge. It suggests that what is considered knowledge can vary across different cultures and social groups.
- Relativity of Truth and Knowledge: In this perspective, truth, and knowledge are considered relative, shaped by the cultural, historical, and social contexts in which they are developed and understood. This contrasts with the notion of absolute truths prevalent in other theories.
- Collaborative and Cooperative Learning: Learning is often considered a collaborative process, where individuals construct knowledge through interaction and cooperation with others. Group activities, discussions, and collaborative projects are essential elements of this approach.
- Learner-Centred Education: Education from a social constructivist viewpoint focuses on the learner’s background, experience, and perspective, acknowledging that each learner constructs knowledge uniquely.
- Critical Reflection: Social constructivism encourages critical reflection on the assumptions, values, and perspectives that underlie our beliefs and knowledge.
Social constructivist theory has wide-ranging implications in various fields, including education, where it has influenced teaching methods and curricular design, emphasising interactive, student-centred learning over traditional didactic approaches. In social sciences, social constructivism challenges the notion of objective reality, suggesting that social phenomena are understood differently depending on cultural and social contexts.
In contrast, a Kantian perspective on social constructivism highlights some nuanced and fundamental problems with the social constructivist approach. Immanuel Kant’s emphasis on the capabilities of human reason, and the distinction between phenomena (the world as we experience it) and noumena (the world as it is in itself), provide a framework that limits social constructivism from being an endless cycle of self-justification, as some post-structural and postmodern commentators mistaken suggest, resulting in a loss of ground and footing for making objective and sustainable assertions about the world and our experience of that world.
Here are some key points that a Kantian might raise in response to social constructivism:
Phenomena vs. Noumena: Kant distinguished between things as they appear to us (phenomena) and things as they are in themselves (noumena). He argued that our knowledge is limited to phenomena, which are shaped by our sensory experiences and cognitive structures. A Kantian might acknowledge that social constructivism aligns with this view to an extent, as it emphasises how our understanding of the world is shaped by social and cultural factors (part of phenomena). However, they might argue that social constructivism does not adequately account for the noumenal aspect – the reality that exists independent of human perceptions.
Role of Reason: Kant placed great emphasis on the power of reason in understanding the world. He might critique social constructivism for potentially understating the role of individual reasoning and logic in shaping our understanding, suggesting that while social factors are important, they are not the sole determinants of knowledge.
Universal Morality and Ethics: Kant believed in universal moral laws, derived from reason, that apply to all rational beings. He might critique social constructivism for its relativistic approach to knowledge and truth, which could challenge the idea of universal ethical principles.
Autonomy and Individual Agency: Kant’s philosophy emphasises the autonomy and agency of the individual. A Kantian perspective might critique social constructivism for potentially downplaying individual agency in favour of societal or group influences.
Critical Thinking and Enlightenment: Kant was a proponent of Enlightenment values, advocating for the use of reason to question and understand the world. He might find common ground with social constructivism’s emphasis on critical reflection and the questioning of assumptions, but he would likely insist on the importance of individual critical reasoning over collective or socially constructed beliefs.
While a Kantian might find some compatible elements in social constructivism, particularly regarding the role of human perception in shaping our understanding of the world, they would likely have reservations about its emphasis on social determinants of knowledge and its potential relativistic implications, especially concerning ethics and the role of individual reasoning.
In contrast, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a pre-eminent figure in German literature, science, and philosophy, would likely approach social constructivism from a unique perspective, blending his literary insights, scientific curiosity, and interest in archetypal patterns. Although Goethe predated the formal development of social constructivism and depth psychology, his work often reflected in-depth insights into human nature and the underlying patterns of human experience. Here’s how Goethe might view social constructivism from an archetypal perspective:
- Archetypes in Cultural Narratives: Goethe’s interest in universal themes and archetypes in literature might have led him to appreciate how social constructivism acknowledges the role of cultural narratives in shaping individual and collective understanding. He might see these narratives as expressions of deeper, archetypal truths that resonate across different societies and eras.
- The Individual vs. The Collective: In his works, Goethe often explored the tension between individual experience and societal norms. He might view social constructivism as a way to understand how individual perceptions and understandings are influenced by larger social and cultural forces, but he would also likely emphasize the importance of individual experience and intuition in perceiving truth.
- Nature and Human Perception: Goethe had a keen interest in the natural world and conducted studies that often contradicted the scientific norms of his time. He advocated for a holistic view of nature, emphasising the role of human perception in understanding natural phenomena. From this standpoint, he might align with social constructivism’s view that our understanding of the world is shaped by our interactions and perceptions, albeit with a stronger emphasis on the individual’s intuitive connection with nature.
- Transformation and Growth: Themes of transformation and personal growth are central in Goethe’s works, such as in “Faust.” He might view the social constructivist emphasis on knowledge as a dynamic, evolving construct as aligning with his views on personal development and the journey towards self-realisation.
- Symbolism and Depth: Goethe’s work often delved into the symbolic and the more profound meanings underlying human experience. He might be intrigued by how social constructivism allows for multiple interpretations and meanings of the world, seeing this as a reflection of the depth and complexity of human consciousness and culture.
- Critique of Absolute Truth: While Goethe valued scientific inquiry, he also recognised the limitations of empirical science in capturing the totality of human experience. He might find common ground with social constructivism in its critique of absolute truths and its acknowledgment of the subjective and interpretive nature of knowledge.
Goethe’s approach to social constructivism would likely be one that values both the collective cultural narratives and the individual’s unique, intuitive perception of the world. He would appreciate the depth and symbolic richness of human understanding as shaped by social and cultural contexts but would also emphasize the importance of personal experience and growth.
Alternatively, Jean Piaget, the renowned developmental psychologist, is often associated with constructivist theories of learning and development. While his work primarily focused on cognitive development in children, many of his ideas provide a foundation for understanding social constructivism from a developmental psychology viewpoint. Here’s how Piaget might explain social constructivism:
- Stages of Cognitive Development: Piaget’s theory of cognitive development proposes that children progress through distinct stages (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational) with increasing cognitive complexity. He might explain social constructivism as a process that unfolds alongside these stages, with social interactions playing a crucial role in advancing a child’s cognitive abilities.
- Schemas and Adaptation: Piaget introduced the concept of schemas — mental models that help individuals understand and interpret the world. He might describe social constructivism as a process where children’s schemas are continually shaped and reshaped through social interactions. This involves the processes of assimilation (integrating new experiences into existing schemas) and accommodation (modifying schemas in response to new information).
- Role of Social Interaction: While Piaget emphasized individual cognitive development, he acknowledged the importance of social interaction in this process. He might explain that social constructivism extends his ideas by emphasising how knowledge and understanding are co-constructed through interactions with others, particularly in educational settings.
- Constructing Knowledge: Central to both Piaget’s theory and social constructivism is the idea that learners actively construct their own knowledge. Piaget would likely agree with the constructivist view that learning is not a passive absorption of information, but an active process of constructing meaning from experiences, heavily influenced by social and cultural contexts, though this would not be an open-ended process, as meaning making is bound by the cognitive capacity that we have inherited as beings through evolution.
- Zone of Proximal Development: Although this concept was introduced by Lev Vygotsky, another developmental psychologist, it complements Piaget’s views and is integral to social constructivism. It refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. Piaget might use this concept to explain how social interactions can facilitate cognitive development beyond what a child could achieve alone.
- Language and Thought: Piaget studied the development of language and thought, noting that they are interdependent in children’s development. He might view social constructivism as highlighting the role of language in cognitive development, particularly how language acquired through social interactions enables children to organize their thoughts and understand complex concepts.
Piaget would likely explain social constructivism as a complementary process to his theories of cognitive development, where social interactions play a vital role in shaping the evolving cognitive abilities of children. He would emphasize the active role of the learner in constructing knowledge, influenced by their developmental stage and enhanced through social engagement and language.
Social Constructivist, Behaviourist and Materialist Outlooks
Developing a communications strategy can benefit from integrating insights from social constructivism, behaviourism, and materialism, as each offers unique perspectives on human behaviour and interaction. Here’s how these theories might inform different aspects of a communications strategy:
- Understanding Audience Dynamics: Social constructivism emphasises the role of social and cultural contexts in shaping perceptions and understanding. In communications, this approach can help in tailoring messages to resonate with the specific cultural, social, and linguistic backgrounds of the target audience.
- Collaborative Engagement: This perspective suggests that engaging with audiences in a way that encourages interaction and dialogue can be more effective. It supports strategies that foster community building and co-creation of content.
- Narrative and Storytelling: Recognizing that knowledge and reality are socially constructed, a communications strategy can utilize narrative and storytelling to create relatable and compelling messages that align with the audience’s existing beliefs and values.
- Response-Driven Tactics: Behaviourism’s focus on stimulus-response relationships can inform strategies that use specific triggers to elicit desired responses. For instance, call-to-action elements in campaigns can be optimized based on audience reactions.
- Feedback and Adjustment: Continuous monitoring of audience behaviour and feedback can guide adjustments in the strategy. This aligns with the behaviourist approach of shaping behaviour through reinforcement.
- Measurable Outcomes: Behaviourism’s emphasis on observable and measurable outcomes supports the use of data-driven approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of communication strategies.
- Technological Utilisation: Materialism, with its focus on the physical and material world, would suggest leveraging technology and media channels effectively. Understanding the material aspects of communication – like mediums, platforms, and physical accessibility – is crucial.
- Neuroscientific Insights: Materialist perspectives in neuroscience can inform how messages are processed cognitively and emotionally, guiding the design of content that is both engaging and easy to process.
- Practicality and Tangibility: Materialism would advocate for messages that emphasize concrete, tangible benefits or outcomes, appealing to the material interests of the audience.
Integrating the Theories
A communications strategy that draws from social constructivism, behaviourism, and materialism can be comprehensive, addressing the cultural, behavioural, and material aspects of communication and audience engagement. This approach allows for a more nuanced and effective strategy that is adaptable to various contexts and audience needs.
- Holistic Understanding: Combining these theories can provide a more holistic understanding of the audience. Social constructivism offers depth in cultural and social understanding, behaviourism focuses on how audiences react and change behaviour, and materialism brings in the practical and technological aspects.
- Tailored Communication: Using insights from these theories, a strategy can be tailored to not only deliver the message effectively but also to ensure that it resonates with the audience on multiple levels – cultural, behavioural, and practical.
- Adaptive and Dynamic: A strategy informed by these diverse perspectives is likely to be more adaptive and responsive to changing audience dynamics, technological advancements, and societal trends.
Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective that places significant emphasis on the role of symbols and language as core elements of all human interaction. Developed primarily from the work of George Herbert Mead and later expanded by Herbert Blumer and others, symbolic interactionism offers a unique approach to understanding society and human behaviour.
Here are its main principles:
- Human Society is Rooted in Symbols: At the heart of symbolic interactionism is the belief that human interactions are largely mediated through the use of symbols, particularly language. Symbols allow individuals to give meaning to objects, events, and behaviours, and these meanings are not inherent in the symbols themselves but are created through interaction.
- Meaning is Socially Constructed: This perspective asserts that the meanings of symbols are not intrinsic or fixed; rather, they are created and modified through social interaction. People learn about the meanings of symbols through their interactions with others, and these meanings can change over time and in different contexts.
- Individuals are Active in their Perceptions of Reality: Unlike theories that see individuals as passive recipients of societal influences, symbolic interactionism views individuals as active participants who interpret and give meaning to their experiences. People are considered proactive in creating their social realities, rather than merely reacting to them.
- The Self is Formed through Social Interaction: Symbolic interactionism posits that individual identity (or the ‘self’) is formed through the process of social interaction. The concept of the ‘self’ emerges as individuals interact with others and interpret social responses.
- Focus on Subjective Perspectives: This perspective emphasizes understanding the world from the individual’s perspective. It seeks to understand how individuals experience and interpret their social worlds, rather than imposing external interpretations.
- Emphasis on Social Processes: Symbolic interactionism is more concerned with understanding the processes of interaction and meaning-making rather than static social structures. It focuses on the dynamics of social relationships and how they evolve.
- Human Behaviour is Contextual: It recognizes that human behaviour is not fixed or predetermined, but varies depending on the social context and the specific situation. Behaviour is considered a product of ongoing interpretation and re-interpretation of situations.
Symbolic interactionism provides a framework for understanding how individuals create and interpret the social world through the meanings they ascribe to symbols, particularly language. It emphasizes the active role of individuals in shaping their social reality, the importance of subjective experiences, and the dynamic nature of social processes.
Symbolic interactionism, social constructivism, behaviourism, and materialism offer distinct frameworks for understanding human behaviour and social phenomena. Here’s a comparison highlighting their key differences:
- Focus: Symbolic interactionism centres on how people use symbols, especially language, to create meaning and communicate in social interactions. It emphasizes the subjective understanding of social life.
- Key Idea: It posits that individuals actively interpret and give meaning to their experiences, and these interpretations shape their actions and interactions.
- Perspective on Society: Views society as composed of these symbolic interactions and emphasizes the fluid, dynamic nature of social life.
- Focus: Social constructivism focuses on how individuals construct knowledge and understanding through social interactions and cultural contexts.
- Key Idea: It suggests that reality and knowledge are not fixed but are shaped by social processes, cultural norms, and historical context.
- Perspective on Society: Sees society as a platform where shared understandings are developed, often emphasizing the role of language and collaborative learning.
- Focus: Behaviourism concentrates on observable behaviours, largely ignoring internal mental states. It is concerned with how external stimuli affect behaviour.
- Key Idea: Argues that behaviour is shaped by environmental factors through conditioning – behaviours are reinforced or diminished through rewards or punishments.
- Perspective on Society: Society is viewed as a set of stimuli that can shape individual behaviour through reinforcement mechanisms.
- Focus: Materialism, particularly in a philosophical or scientific context, posits that physical matter and its interactions are the fundamental reality.
- Key Idea: Suggests that all phenomena, including mental states and consciousness, are the result of material processes.
- Perspective on Society: Views social structures and human experiences as ultimately grounded in and determined by material conditions.
- Ontological Basis: Symbolic interactionism and social constructivism are concerned with the meanings and understandings that emerge from social interaction. In contrast, behaviourism focuses on observable behaviour without delving into mental processes, and materialism emphasizes the physical and material basis of phenomena.
- Role of the Individual: Symbolic interactionism and social constructivism highlight the active role of individuals in shaping their understanding and social reality. Behaviourism views individuals more as passive recipients of environmental influences, and materialism focuses on the material conditions that underpin experiences and behaviour.
- Nature of Reality and Knowledge: Symbolic interactionism and social constructivism see reality and knowledge as fluid and constructed through social processes. Behaviourism avoids making claims about reality or knowledge, focusing instead on behaviour patterns. Materialism asserts a material basis for reality and knowledge.
- Methodological Approach: Symbolic interactionism often employs qualitative methods to understand subjective experiences, while behaviourism relies on observable and measurable data. Social constructivism uses various methods to explore how knowledge is constructed, and materialism may use scientific methods to understand the material underpinnings of phenomena.
While symbolic interactionism and social constructivism both emphasize the role of social processes in shaping understanding and behaviour, they differ in their specific focus and theoretical underpinnings. Behaviourism and materialism, on the other hand, offer more deterministic views, with behaviourism focusing on observable behaviours and materialism on the physical basis of phenomena.
Utilising the principles of symbolic interactionism in a communications strategy involves recognizing the power of symbols, language, and social interactions in shaping public perception and behaviour. Here’s how this can be applied across different forms of media and communication:
- Personalised Engagement: Utilise social media platforms for two-way communication that fosters personal engagement with audiences. Encourage conversations and community building, emphasizing the interactive aspect of symbolic interactionism.
- User-Generated Content: Encourage and share user-generated content, as it reflects the audience’s own symbols and meanings, creating a more relatable and engaging experience.
- Hashtags and Memes: Use hashtags and memes effectively, as they are modern symbols that carry significant meaning and can quickly convey complex messages or emotions.
- Visual Symbolism: Employ powerful visual symbols in advertising that resonate with the target audience’s experiences and cultural background. Symbolic imagery can evoke emotions and associations more effectively than text alone.
- Narrative Storytelling: Create ads that tell a story, as narratives are a fundamental way through which people make sense of their experiences. These stories should be crafted to reflect the values and perspectives of the target audience.
- Brand Image and Identity: Craft a brand image and identity that aligns with the symbolic values and meanings important to your audience. Symbolic interactionism highlights the importance of these shared symbols in forging strong connections.
- Crisis Communication: In crisis situations, understand the symbolic meanings of your messages and actions. Quick and empathetic responses that acknowledge public sentiment can help mitigate negative perceptions.
- Interactive Websites and Apps: Design websites and apps that are not just informative but interactive, allowing users to engage with content in a way that is meaningful to them.
- SEO and Keywords: Use SEO strategies that leverage the language and symbols your audience uses, making your content more discoverable and relevant to their searches.
- Corporate Culture: Foster a corporate culture that values open communication and feedback. Use internal symbols, rituals, and language that resonate with employees, enhancing a sense of belonging and shared purpose.
Traditional Media (TV, Radio, Print)
- Programs and Articles: Develop programs and articles that reflect the audience’s cultural symbols and daily interactions. This could mean using local dialects, referencing local customs, or addressing community-specific issues.
- Community Engagement: Use traditional media to engage with communities at a local level, understanding and incorporating local symbols and meanings into the content.
- Audience Understanding: Deeply understand the symbols, language, and meanings important to your target audience. This involves thorough research and engagement.
- Symbolic Flexibility: Be adaptable in your use of symbols and language, as meanings can change over time and in different contexts.
- Feedback Loops: Establish mechanisms to receive and respond to audience feedback, allowing for a dynamic interaction that is central to symbolic interactionism.
Incorporating symbolic interactionism into a communications strategy means recognising and utilising the dynamic and evolving nature of symbols and meanings in human interactions. This approach acknowledges that effective communication is not just about conveying information, but also about understanding and engaging with the symbolic world of the audience.