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PWR 1TB: Hashtag Activism

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Fall 2021: Not offered

Winter 2022: Not offered

Spring 2022: Not offered

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement

In this PWR 1 class, we will enter into the debate around the purpose and efficacy of what’s been called “hashtag activism,” using the tools of rhetorical studies to help us understand how digital writers craft hashtags to shift conversations, shape audiences, and speak from personal experience. Together, we’ll do a deep-dive into one particular hashtag, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, which emerged in 2013 as a challenge to feminists that centered white women’s experiences at the expense of other women’s. Reading tweets themselves as well as the debates that emerged around them, we’ll put this hashtag in context and discover research, analysis, and writing tools for analyzing activist hashtags for ourselves.

This work will prepare us to make our own rhetorical arguments about activist writing in the age of social media. Learning about #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, we’ll read Susana Loza’s “Hashtag Feminism, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and the other FemFuture” and the “This Tweet Called My Back” manifesto alongside these articles’ historical references like Sojourner Truth’s “Aint I a Woman and excerpts from the seminal women of color collection This Bridge Called My Back. As students turn toward their own research projects, I invite them to consider viral hashtag activist to better understand how activists use social media rhetorically to appeal to their audiences and circulate their messages. Student research could focus on hashtags like #NotYourAsianSidekick, #Sayhername, or #MAGA, or look at viral social media compositions that rely more primarily on graphics, memes like #Iftheygunnedmedown or circulating images of Pepe. Given the constant evolution of platform composing, I invite students to propose other kinds of digital activism for study as well.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) In this assignment, students use rhetorical principles to analyze how a particular hashtag makes an argument. I’ll invite you to closely analyze a selection of tweets containing a specific activist hashtag and use rhetorical analysis to consider how the hastag responds to or challenges community norms, engages multiple audiences, and builds on the ethos of the tweeter.

Texts in Conversation Essay

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment asks students to contextualize a hashtag within secondary source material, putting original tweets in dialogue with research on that movement as well as broader relevant research. For example, students studying #NotYourAsianSidekick might integrate findings from popular articles about Suey Park’s hashtag with scholarly research on media representation of Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. In this assignment, the goal will be to move toward a more complex argument about how a given hashtag shaped or was shaped by wider public discourse as students continue to build their rhetorical analysis and research skills.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) Building on the topic from the TiC, the RBA assignment gives students an opportunity to make a more in-depth argument about the hashtag activism campaign they studied throughout the quarter. In this assignment, students will move towards an academic discipline of interest, whether women’s studies or new media studies, contributing to the scholarly and popular conversation that has taken place around a given social media campaign.