“But poor people don’t have webcams.”

“Know your audience.”

Hardly a week passes in Designerland without this phrase (or some form thereof) being uttered. And yet, I haven’t talked about the target audience for my thesis yet. I haven’t been avoiding the question so much as wondering if it’s possible for an audience to emerge, organically. After all, Facebook was intended for college students; it tapped into the collegiate desire for hallway gossip. Who knew that today, everyone from grandmothers to business directors to taco shops would be using it for essentially the same thing: getting information about other people?

I wonder if the idea of defining your audience too clearly limits you.

That said, it’s still important to have some idea of the type of person who would use an online, video-based social cooking service. So here goes, roughly:

My audience consists of home cooks and friends who have an internet connection and a webcam.

There, I’ve gone ahead and put some (somewhat tautological) limits on my audience, and a rather hard one at that: a technological constraint. Now the big issue that emerges is this: will my audience have to be within a certain socioeconomic class to use this thing I make?

If the answer is yes, I can accept that.

The question of food and cooking as it relates to poverty is complex. It’s not merely about lacking a fully-equipped home computer; it’s about not even having a home kitchen, or heating, or pots and pans to even cook with. And what about the money to buy food? To make choices? What if you live in a food desert and don’t have the mobility to reach slightly further afield for even a fresh head of lettuce? Policy, geography, distribution… those are all things that affect food issues for those who are less well-off. It is far from a simple matter of consumer choice (and by simple, I actually mean difficult-enough-as-it-is). These things would be a whole ‘nother thesis. A whole ‘nother 100 theses, in fact. I am comfortable with not spending this one year tackling those issues, because I have the rest of my life to.

Problem solving requires outlining the problem clearly, and therefore deciding which problems not to solve. For my MFA thesis I’ll tackle the problem of convincing non-cookers to cook, paving a road to more conscientious food consumption habits.

And if that means my audience needs to have webcams, that’s where I’ll start.