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PWR 2NF: Language Gone Viral: Investigating the Rhetoric of Social Media and Digital Communication

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Catalog Number: PWR 2NF

Instructor: Norah Fahim

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

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


Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary declared that the Word of the Year was an emoji—officially known as the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ —that "best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015." While a novel choice, there are increasing concerns that the prominence of emojis in texting signifies the demise of appropriate language use. Conversely, renowned linguist David Crystal attests that "there is increasing evidence that [texting] helps rather than hinders literacy." Our daily encounters are now so intermingled with electronic media that language is witnessing a process of re-invention that requires closer examination.

In this course, we will reinforce our understanding of the research writing process and develop oral communication skills to investigate changes in digital language use. This course also examines the extent to which our daily lives have become deeply dependent on our usage of personal electronic devices for online communication. Is our attachment to technology truly limiting the quality of our conversations? Or could such interactions—such as texting or IMing—provide a means for introverts to better interact with others?

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) You will propose a research topic using relevant scholarship that explores current issues of language-in-use through digital platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or texting. Your proposal aims to present complex research questions to guide your project. Topics can include how tweets by political figures have reached the status of policy positions, how social media changes the nature of interpersonal relationships, and how trending terms online can predict the spread of medical epidemics and aid in disseminating collective knowledge among physicians.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) This final project builds on your research proposal and invites you to weigh in with your argument. Here, you help your readers answer questions about the issue, learn about its implications, and engage with your position on the matter.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) You will present relevant findings from your RBA in a persuasive and accessible oral presentation while demonstrating your knowledge of audience and awareness of rhetorical situations.

Genre/Modes Assignment

(600-900 words, includes a memo) You will convert your research into an info-chart where you concisely present the highlights of your research project to a general audience. This process will help you gain an understanding on how to visually depict the most prominent parts of your research.