Considering Audience/Visual Analysis with PostSecret

This is a fun, hands-on exercise that helps students consider the ways visuals and language create meaning when paired together.  It is also an excellent way to encourage students to think about audience in a concrete way and can serve as a rapport builder to boot.

 

 

Course Name: 
WRD 110
WRD 111
WRD 112
WRD 205
Assignment Type: 
Classroom Activity
Group Activity
Assignment Length: 
One Class Period
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
Speech
Writing
Analysis
Preparation Guidance and Instructor Advice: 

As a homework assignment, I ask my students to look over at least five recent items on the PostSecret website (http://www.postsecret.com/).  I encourage them to pay close attention to the way the words and images work together to produce meaning in each postcard.  Then in the following class period, I bring in a few sample postcards that gathered from one of the PostSecret arcives (i.e. ones students likely have not yet seen), and we use them to do on-the-spot analysis of written and visual rhetoric, again looking at how the words and images work in concert to create meaning.

After collaboratively analyzing the PostSecret items, we change things up by discussing considerations of audience.  Toward that end, I hand out blank note cards to all of my students and instruct them to leave the room for five minutes (for privacy), write a secret of their own on the card, and then anonymously place their secret into a shoe box.  The box is then shaken up to randomize the secrets, after which I read them all to the class.  The goal of this exercise, in addition to having fun, is to allow students immediate access to (mostly) real information about who their primary audience for in-class speeches will be for the semester.  This information moves outside of the easily identifible, big picture categories of audience (e.g. age, class, race, gender, sexual orientation) and provides a micro-level snapshot of individuals in the class.

Additional Information: 

PostSecret archives can be found at http://postsecretarchive.com/, http://archivepostsecret.tumblr.com/, http://secretsarchive.blogspot.com/ .

Shout out to Tommy Adams of the UK College of Communication and Information for introducing me to a version of this activity. 

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