Friday, October 1, 2010

Interviewing my target audience

I conducted a few casual interviews with my course mates about conspiracy theories, I figure they're my target audience, given that the fair is based in Manchester school of Art. I did do this on Thursday like my action plan on the practice blog said, but I've only just got round to scanning them in.

OK, so firstly, I talked to Emma Price, who had a bit of basic knowledge about some conspiracy theories, mainly 9/11 and she'd heard some stuff about the Illuminati. SO I asked her if she was at all fascinated by them, she said yes and I asked her to elaborate. For her, the idea that we might be being fed lies and that people are always questioning what is the established truth is fascinating. I then asked her, given that I'm producing something visual, if the words 'conspiracy theories' and 'secret societies' brought any imagery to mind. She responded with low budget documentaries, websites and forums. Whats important here is the idea of deception and challenging established truth and that being what fascinated her. I think this is significant and my design needs to demonstrate this in some way. Whilst I understand the association with visuals of low budget documentaries, websites and forums with this very underground movement, I think to recreate this would be to sacrifice good design and even the saleability of my book.

Lauren was quite unique in her views. She has nothing but an awareness they exist and is not interested in researching them at all. I think she sees the fascination in questioning established truths, but she also sees a lot of them as nonsense and doesn't want to buy into them. When I asked her about visuals, she mentioned secret signs and symbols, before adding that the exclusivity and mysteriousness of them is childish and immature. It was quite interesting how dismissive she was of them. It's fair to say that Lauren is probably not in my target audience, and she's never going to buy into the concept of my book. I'm sure there'll be a few of these at the book fair it's self and they'll most likely skirt round my book.

Ian was also not particularly interested, he had a basic awareness of their existence and why they're there. I think he liked the idea of questioning established truth, but he also felt that most of them could be dismissed as entirely fabricated quite quickly. But he did appreciate it from a psychological perspective. In terms of visuals he said crop circles and unusual symbols, which is good to know because it's the kind of thing I'm looking at right now.

Dan said that he only really hears about conspiracy theories through hearsay and the media such as films. He says that they fascinate him because he likes to speculate about what might or might not be the truth, but at the same time he accepts that they're mostly nonsense. When I asked him what he thinks of visually, he said Freemasonry symbols, before elaborating that he knows a Freemason and confirming that there is absolutely nothing weird or unusual about them as a group. He, like me, is drawn to the curious signs and symbols and the ambiguity/mystery behind them. I think in general, the responses I'm getting suggest that even if visually they don't think about signs and symbols, they're attracted to the mystery and intrigue there is surrounding conspiracy theories and this is something to capitalise on.

Jonny was great to talk to because he spent the last year really really getting into them so he had loads he wanted to say. He said the intrigue in whether we're being lied to or not was what started it, but he cautioned me that a lot of the time it's a paranoid person with little evidence and the belief that they exist only fuels what may be a dangerous condition. I think this is possibly true and a very fair comment, however I don't see there being many genuine believers at the fair, I think it's likely to be intrigued and curious people. He said that visually he immediately sees the illuminati symbol as well as various signs and symbols of secret societies and some new age symbols like the third eye. He also says that it makes him think of the typical grey alien from films and movies. I think Jonny typifies the more hardcore of the people that are likely to be interested in a book like mine, so the fact he suggested that signs and symbols are what he thinks of is really supportive of the direction that I'm heading with this anyway.

Ollie had little interest in Conspiracy theories, he researched Big Foot once, which I thought was quite a comical answer. He said that he is a bit intrigued though, and the fact that you will never know whether it's true or not is what he thinks fans the flames of speculation about such things. When asked to think about the subject visually, he said he thinks of robes, ceremony, secret signs and symbols, which again is another encouraging interview in terms of the way I'm starting to go about things.

I asked Hannah and Paul together. Paul doesn't like conspiracy theories at all, he feels that they're a denial of fact and hard evidence. Hannah liked the secrecy and the idea of knowing something you're not supposed to. When asked how they would interpret them visually, they both thought about the Moon Landing, Area 51 and Roswell, before Hannah mentioned the Illuminati logo. To be honest, the was on of my first interviews and I was finding it hard to coax the information I wanted to get out of them, but Hannah's comment about secrecy is very telling and useful. My conversation with Will was very useful, he said that the idea fascinated him mainly because of the idea that 'what we're being told is only true because we believe the people that tell us so are truthful.' which again comes down to the idea of mystery and this hidden truth. I guess this might come across as egotistical but on that note, I feel like people's interest comes from the idea of wanting to know more than someone else, or a truth that not many people are aware of. When I asked him what he sees visually, he said X-files, classified files, technology through the ages, so sort of Da Vinci style things, and iconography. Thats probanly the most varied response I had but iconography, signs and symbols does seem to (thankfully) be a recurring thought through most of these conversations, particularly those with an actual interest in the subject matter.

I guess I got a few mixed results, this exercise was useful really in clarifying what I thought about things as much as it was about getting other people's opinions. It was also good to get a few reasonably in depth conversations about the subject with people who did and didn't have interest in them to understand how their mind might work. Finally, it was significant that the theme of signs and symbols, particularly pertaining to the illuminati symbol, came up. This sort of confirms that my concept might be heading in the right direction.

Important words/themes from these interviews:
-Hidden truth
-Challenging what we're told is the truth.

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