Layers of Engagement
When working with communities, the design process for a website is purposefully ongoing. Some days I find myself doing more deleting than generating, and on others, I’m reenergized by the newer possibilities proposed by the community. Beyond the natural ebb and flow of any collaborative check-in, I’ve also been struck by the buildup of audience considerations over time. To make the site more accessible to an older Filipinx American community, I initially had to change content to a more approachable style than the academic. The overly-conceptual and technical prose was deleted, and I fell back on the ethnographic-type style of my field notes. It made good sense as I was engaging in the experience of their cultural center and its potential for communication to publics.
However, recently I encountered a third audience, one situated more in the middle of the academic and general public. While presenting work on Filipinx histories at a conference at University of Michigan this last Saturday, I greeted an audience of undergrads and grads, most of whom new to reclaiming and refamiliarizing themselves with their Filipinx identity. These were the sorts of demographics the cultural center was hoping to reach. I had to frame the cultural center and the project in a way that was both understandable and compelling for them—at least enough to contribute and hopefully be part of the center’s Fil-Am community-building.
With these three audiences in mind (the academic, older Fil-Am community, and young potentials), I was struck by the surmounting challenges of generating accessible and appealing content for all. A discussion with several colleagues on their projects revealed a similar concern when working with communities who envision a second type of audience, while we’re also pushed to produce for academic circles.
My general answer to this issue sides with the final judgment of the cultural stakeholders. In this case, it would be the Fil-Am members of the cultural center whom the site is representing. With only a few weeks remaining, however, a colleague suggested the brilliant possibility of layering the content with the option of more detailed (academic) information. The surface of the website would simply convey the general purpose and points of each page, providing the reader with a casual exploration of some of the Fil-Am histories of individual and communal settlement in Michigan. Additionally, each section could further offer a “Read More” button which would then link to deeper pages about readings of buildings, methodology, helpful concepts and theories, and bibliographies for the academic audiences or just audiences seeking deeper engagement with how the material could be a means to stake claims in public space. Though all layers will be ideally narrativized with an overall theme of urgency toward the economic, social, and historical importance of ethnic enclaves, I’m excited over the layering possibilities that digital composing affords when catering to multiple audiences and levels of desired engagement.