In this class, I am asking you to analyze and critique literature across a variety of platforms. In addition to writing two papers and participating in class, you will also be talking about the texts we read, the theories we study and the tools we use on the social media platform of your choice. On the syllabus, I discuss this project briefly. On this handout, I will address some more practical concerns.
If you would like a pdf copy of this handout, click this link: Social Media Handout.
What exactly am I meant to be talking about? What do you want me to write about?
The short answer is anything you want, provided it relates to this class. The longer answer is that I expect you to elaborate on something that we talked about in class. That might mean merely taking an excerpt we read in class and going in a completely different direction than class discussion. Or you might apply some of what we learned from last week’s theoretical discussion to this week’s text. You could analyze a part of the text we did not cover in class. You could even take some of the ideas we discussed and extrapolate them to a different text that is not on the syllabus. (Text, in this case, includes books, films, works of music, paintings, video games, etc.). You can comment on other scholars’ readings of the text and respond to their assertions about it. You can stick to one or two of these approaches or try them all.
The two main criteria are that it must relate to the texts or ideas we discuss in class and it cannot just reiterate what we went over in class. The bulk of your argument should consist of your insights, not mine.
So what is this supposed to look like? What are the requirements?
The answer to this question depends on what kind of social media platform you choose to use. I will go over the main five kinds that I have in mind, but feel free to suggest other services and, as long as we can easily read your work on that platform and do not need to pay money to do so, you can use it. The one comment that is true for all of these is that you should always feel free to write more if you enjoy doing this. You will not be penalized for not going above and beyond the requirements, but this is your opportunity to take chances and have fun.
- Regular Blogging – WordPress, Blogger, Wix or any other website that lets you set up a blog quickly and easily. Insofar as social media is traditional within academic contexts, this is the traditional kind of blogging—the kind where you write a new post that is primarily composed of text and is written professionally, though not necessarily formally. Your writing should focus on expressing your points clearly while still allowing your readers to get a sense of your personality. You are responsible for at least 500 words a week and each post should be at least 250. So that means at least two posts of 250 words or one post of at least 500 words a week.
- Microblogging. Twitter is the dominant example of this genre and I would recommend using it unless you have a reason not to. Twitter is also becoming an important method for scholarly communication. You are writing in public, so you should maintain a sense of professionalism (the first rule of the Internet is never make a fool of yourself on an open forum), but abbreviations, colloquialisms and even the occasional angry tweet are acceptable. Again, feel free to have fun and draw on links, images and video clips to augment your tweets. You are responsible for at least 50 tweets a week. While you need to write fewer words than the bloggers, you may find yourself covering more content than them because of how Twitter rewards conciseness. You might want to consider liveblogging one of the texts as an experiment in close reading on Twitter.
- Social Network Blogs. For example – Tumblr, Google+, Facebook. These kinds of personal websites, while technically blogs that can be written as such, are also well-suited to a more multimedia and creative format. Rather than thinking of posts purely as text-based arguments, Tumblr (for example) allows you to more naturally incorporate and discuss other forms of media. Tumblr’s reblogging function incentivizes conversations. Your accumulated posts, reblogs, images, responses should add up to 450 words or 30 just image/quote posts a week. (So for each relevant image you reblog, that’s roughly 15 words. If you reblog and spend 120 words dissecting the original post, that’s equivalent to 9 commentless posts or 135 words.) Please make sure to provide basic context for image posts unless it is completely self-evident. Note – any content you post MUST be public. If I need to friend you or add you to my circles to see your content, it does not count!
- Image Blogging. That is Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and other image sites. This one is trickier than the others because we’re not quite as good at making meaning through images the way we do with words. But I think it’s doable and, especially if you are visually creative and enjoy thinking about how images make meaning, this could be a great opportunity. You should see these images both as arguments in their own rights that you can agree with or as places to start a conversation by disagreeing. You could also think of this as an opportunity to experiment with remixing and creating your own images in response to others. You are responsible for 30 images with brief commentary every week. If you are taking the time to create your own images (through drawing, extensive photography or photomanipulation), let me know and we can work out more reasonable expectations.
- Podcasting and Videoblogging. You must let me know if you choose this option and you must have prior experience. There are great times to learn how to use these tools. This is not one of them. You can, however, work in a group of 2-3 people and hold a weekly conversation together. Your podcast should sound like a quality production, editing should be taken into consideration and you should think about scripting or outlining the conversations. You are required to produce 5 minutes of audio or video per person per week. That means that someone working solo needs to have a 5 minute video. A team of 3 needs a 15 minute video. I still encourage working in groups, given that it allows you to break up the task of scripting and editing and it means you can talk to one another and not just at a screen.
How are you grading this?
Fairly, which means I will take into account your individual work and choices. On what scale am I grading this? Each week (not individual post) will be graded on a 5 point scale that accounts for both what you say and how you say it.
5 – Amazing work! Your thoughts are incisive, well expressed, engage in serious critical work and you clearly put a lot of thought into how best to use your social medium of choice.
4 – Nice job! You have seriously solid ideas here and, overall, you are cogent, coherent and make good use of your medium.
3 – Decent work. This may mean you have good ideas, but didn’t put a lot of thought into how you express them or you put some really good work into using your medium of choice, but not that much into what you had to say.
2 – Needs some work. You aren’t really giving me more than what we said in class and you’re not considering how to express yourself at all. Or you have not completed the required number of postings/words.
1 – Unacceptable. You didn’t bother to say anything thoughtful and you completed less than ¾ of the week’s assigned word or post count.
0 – No work turned in.
80% of your final grade for this section will be based on your cumulative weekly grades. The last 20% is based on your best contribution as chosen by you. What do you think was your greatest hit. That might be your best paragraph, best series of 10 or so tweets, best Tumblr conversation, best image series, best 2 minute podcast rant, etc.
DUE DATE: Your social media posts for the week are due by 5pm on Sunday. Any posts after that will be considered part of the next week!
A NOTE ON THE GRADING SCALE: Though this is not numerically exact, you can assume that 5 is equivalent to an A+, 4 is roughly equivalent to an A, 3 is roughly equivalent to a B, 2 to a C, 1 to an F and 0 is 0.
I don’t want to bombard my poor friends with my homework. Do I need to use my real name?
Absolutely not. You are absolutely entitled to create a new account for all your class work. If you’ve built up an identity on one of these sites and would rather keep this project separate, you are more than welcome to do that. There are only two rules and two suggestions. The first rule is that you need to tell me what name or alias or handle you are writing under. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. The second rule is that I will be posting a private class list of all the social media links where your words and pictures can be found. If you would like me to leave your real name off that list and just use your handle, that is fine, but your classmates also need to know how to follow your work.
My two suggestions are as follows: First, if you enjoy this kind of thing and like the idea of commenting on media and culture then you might consider using either your name or whatever alias you use most often. Second, we don’t really have the right to be forgotten. Use foul language judiciously and make sure that what you say is something you are willing to stand behind and, ideally, be proud of.