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PWR 2CA: Social Media, Community, and Communication: Networked Rhetoric

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Catalog Number: PWR 2CA

Instructor: Christine Alfano

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Do you have an Instagram? A finsta? A BeReal? Have you filmed a TikTok or participated in a viral trend (tortilla challenge, anyone)? Do you frequent reddit? Read online fan fiction? You probably answered “yes,” to one of these questions; according to a 2022 study 46% of people under 20 who were surveyed reported that they are online almost all the time, and 35% of teens indicated that they were on one of the top five platforms (YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and -- believe it or not -- Facebook) "almost constantly."

Scholars call these online forms participatory media, that is, types of media in which readers do more than just passively absorb content: they create, curate, collaborate, and participate in creating experiences and community online. And, as you probably know from your own social media usage, increasingly digital networks push the boundaries of basic social interaction past entertainment to function as sites for marketing, identity creation, self- and brand-promotion, knowledge-sharing and -making, finding and building community, and social/political activism.

In this class, we'll spend time analyzing participatory media, looking at platforms (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), communities (Tiktok, Wikipedia, fanwikis, reddit), and even social media celebrities (Influencers, Twitch streamers, Instagram models, etc.) through the lens of the digital rhetoric scholarship. Through our conversations and your own research, we'll explore the way in which we communicate, collaborate, and form very real communities in these online spaces -- and examine the complexities and complications that arise from our participation in these mediated spaces.

For your research project, you'll choose a topic related to online communities, social networks, or digital culture, such as Black Twitter; dating -- and friend-finding -- apps; crowdgaming; privacy in the internet age; facial recognition and algorithmic racism; influencer culture; user-created content in online gaming; memes and social commentary; hashtag activism; Brogrammer culture; and even the evolution of the "metaverse."

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) For this assignment, you'll propose a research project that investigates a specific aspect of social networks or digital culture. You'll compose your proposal in both written and oral form to develop an understanding of how changes in medium affect the delivery of an argument.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) You'll develop your initial investigation into a full engagement with some aspect of social media or online participatory culture. You'll be strongly encouraged to supplement your secondary research with primary research (i.e. fieldwork, interviews, participating in blogging or an online discussion forum), as appropriate to your topic.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) You’ll deliver your argument as an oral presentation, relying on multimedia support. 

Genre/Modes Assignment

For this assignment, you'll experiment with different modes of communicating (audio, video, graphic timelines, digital annotation, etc.) as part of a multimodal research log that supports you in your research process. In the final entry, you’ll reflect on your experience working in multiple modes.

photo credit: Alina Grubnyak