Normally, I'm not a fan of parsing semantics - people get way too hung up on words used to embellish, flavor, etc. However, in ED as with many other games, there are core words with system meaning: Action, Turn, Rank, etc. I could be wrong, but "target" is one of those (although I never see it capitalized, like many other core words with system meaning).
If A targets B, then A is explicitly attempting to perform some action on B. This is important because, in all the ED material I've read, they usually use the phrase 'affected creatures in the AoE'. Very few AoE spells EVER mention the word "target" (although some do). So, the core thought is that you "target a spot, and creatures are affected by the results," not "target all creatures within a radius of the selected center spot."
Rain (natural or in-game) doesn't target - it falls in an area, resulting in things getting wet. Landslides don't target - it falls in an area, resulting in things getting crushed. Smoke in a room doesn't target - it fills the room, resulting in choking for those within. I could keep going, but the point is that NONE of these things "target" anyone, they just happen, and things are affected by them.
The vast majority of AoE spells and Talents (more core words) work like this. User checks for the highest relevant defense in the target AREA to determine success, and if successful, those within the area are AFFECTED.
Now, this is just Rules As Written (RAW). It may not be the intent, which is fine, but it is as written.
We have three resists, one for each defense. Avoid Blow (physical defense, Step uses DEX), Steel Thought (mystic defense, Step uses WIL), and Resist Taunt (social defense, Step uses WIL).
The text for Avoid Blow is VERY specific: "The adept avoids injury by dodging or parrying blows directed against him. When attacked in close or ranged combat, ...". As such, Avoid Blow cannot be used to avoid non-combat stuff that affects them (e.g., roof about to collapse on them).
The text for Resist Taunt isn't as strongly worded: "The adept resists the effects of attacks directed against his Social Defense by making a Resist Taunt test against the attack’s test result. ... Resist Taunt is effective against Persuasion, Taunt, Intimidation, and other similar talents or Interaction tests (see the Gamemaster’s Guide)." Sadly, the text here isn't nearly as clear - it implies hostility, which is backed up by the example following the Talent/Skill text, and uses the word "attacks," but since there's no such thing as "social combat," it's not well bounded. This specific clarity is unnecessary, however, since Talents/Skills with group tests against social defense almost all specifically use the word "target." See: Battle Bellow, Conversation, Fearsome Charge, Graceful Exit, Inspire Others, Lasting Impression, Leadership, (I could go on...). Emotion Song uses the words "affected" and only talks about "target" in terms of space, not people. Heartening Laugh is a weird edge case because the affected people (again, not "target") are allies whereas the difficulty is determined by SD of enemies.
Meanwhile, Steel Thought explicitly uses the word "target."