Since the beginning of the term, we have stressed the importance of knowing who your audience is. By knowing your audience, you can design your media to target that audience, which determines the content. In The Writer/Designer Guide to Making Multimodal Projects, the author mentions that in the rough cut/draft stage of your video, when getting feedback from others, you should ask them who your audience is. The editor should be able to tell who the intended audience is and what rhetorical moves the designer makes to appeal to the viewers. In watching multiple PSA videos on my topic of human trafficking, I have noticed that one of the main things which differentiates moving videos from mediocre or poor ones is a specific audience. Many videos rather overwhelm the viewer with a barrage of statistics about human sex trafficking, trying to target an unaware audience. Others give details about how to help victims, either by recognizing symptoms or helping a victim after escaping their trafficker. The former kind are much more moving because they look at specific instances and target a narrower audience. This makes the messages portrayed in the videos feel much more personal, rather than a wall of statistics. Two videos that I watched which gave a multitude of statistics, tried to still target the audience’s emotions by giving a dramatic feel to the video. Unfortunately, it felt rather overdramatized; but on the other hand, the PSA videos which told the audience the signs to look for in a victim or how to help a victim after escaping trafficking were very moving. They were able to target emotions simply by having a narrower audience and a specific message.
In Habermas’ Preliminary Demarcation of a Type of Bourgeois Public Sphere, he explores the topic of free discussion in the public sphere as well as the private. One way which he mentions begins to bridge the gap of discussion between both spheres is the press. He writes, “Within this political and social order transformed during the mercantilist phase of capitalism (and whose new structure found its expression precisely in the differentiation of its political and social aspects) the second element of the early capitalist commercial system, the press, in turn developed a unique explosive power.” Similar to the printing press, it seems that today, the Internet also has a type of explosive power. This power was recently exemplified in how the police were able to find a massive West Coast trafficking ring that included eight minors. The Twitter article recorded that California Sheriff McDonnell told the press they were able to catch the perpetrators since they were posting advertisements on the Internet. He said investigators learned that [they] “would traffic the victims in plain sight,” using the Internet to post photos to announce that they were for sale. Additionally, he added that many of the victims were caught because of advertisements put out on the Internet. He implored parents to monitor what their children are doing, “Pay attention to what your children are doing online. Social networking is an environment for predators to prey on and exploit the innocence of our children.” While the Internet has provided upsides, like the ability to find and catch these perpetrators, it can also be used for harmful ways. I have found through following different groups on social media, that they have used the explosive power of the Internet to raise awareness to sex trafficking, and encourage free discussion.
“So we have to learn to write as if we were talking not to thousands or millions of people, but to one person; we should communicate to that archetypical listener much the way we actually talk to our friends and family. “When we speak on the air,” longtime All Things Considered host Robert Siegel says, “we are aspiring to be heard as someone who is describing the world—the stories we’ve decided to pay attention to—to someone we feel pretty close to, whose intelligence we respect, whom we like, and whom we’re helping explain things to.” Twitter, for many, seems to be a lot like “speaking on the air.” While Mervin Block wrote this instructing his audience how to write for a broadcast, I think his words are very applicable to writing for social media today. The horrific stories of child sex trafficking all around the world, but specifically in the US are those kinds of stories that I have “decided to pay attention to.” One such story which was broadcasted on Twitter on July 13, 2017, focused on the arrest of 7 people charged with sex trafficking. While the story is sobering, I noticed that it was not written in a way that would be written to one single person, but rather a very generic story clearly written to be read by thousands of people. While the post was indeed read by thousands, it would be much more impactful if focused to one person. Not only would the story feel more personal to the reader, but it would target his or her emotions much more. In a topic such as sex-trafficking, it is crucial to target people’s empathetic emotions in order to raise awareness to the issue. In no way have I mastered the art of writing to one person, such as my close friends or family. I do hope, however, that I can become better at it in order to truly target my audience’s emotions and move them to action.
As Jim Corder wrote, “if we learn to love, it is only after silence or conflict or both.” While I will always be learning how to better love those in the world around me, I am becoming more and more aware of those who lack love, and only receive love after silence and conflict. One such group is those who are sold into sex-trafficking rings from an early age, and cannot escape the horrific abuse and torment of their bodies and minds. These victims are not only in need of true love, but of a way out of their misery. We see the words “sex-trafficking” on our phones as we peruse the daily news, or hear them on the television, but rarely do we seem to do much about them. We may even share a picture or article on social media; but are we concerned with the afflicted party involved or the number of likes we receive? Manovich writes, “Often content, news, or media become tokens used to initiate or maintain a conversation. Their original meaning is less important than their function as tokens.” Sex trafficking happens all us; from every corner of the world, to even own towns. Organizations such as ECPAT (Ending Child Slavery at the Source) CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), and Polaris are all working to raise awareness and aid to people in human trafficking. Polaris recently posted on twitter that certain people groups are more susceptible to human trafficking: specifically, minorities, women, and children. ECPAT writes as their mission “to protect every child’s basic human needs to grow up free from the threat of sex trafficking and exploitation ECPAT-USA promotes corporate responsibility among private companies with a strong focus on the tourism sector… educates first responders and ordinary citizens about this issue so that they can identify victims and join us in the fight to better protect children…empowers youth to take the lead against human trafficking by equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary to help them become activists against this terrible trade.” In raising awareness to the issues that surround sex trafficking, ECPAT enables its audiences to understand the trauma of sex trafficking and how to help the victims, which them to care about the content and the people involved more than their own personal tokens. If we are to end trafficking at the source, then loving these affected people before conflict and silence is crucial. Groups such as ECPAT and CAST that educate and raise awareness to human trafficking help each person to do more about this problem than just read the words in the news.