American Culture & Post-Truth: Conspiracies

Social annotations

So far we’ve dabbled with methods of marginal and holistic annotation. Today I’m going to introduce a third way you can annotate, that borrows strategies from both but also introduces some new ones, a method that allows readers to act like users and interact over a shared text. There are many ways this technology already exists, through the popular highlights features on Kindle and Medium, and comments within music tracks in Soundcloud (just to name a few).

And while there are several web annotation tools out there, we’re going to use one called Hypothes.is.

  1. Hypothes.is is a way we can annotate and discuss web texts together. Let’s look at an introduction and their Quick Start Guide for Students. Still confused? Check out their YouTube channel.
  2. Create a username. Use your Rowan name for your username (i.e. what comes before your @ in your email).
  3. Open Chrome and install the hypothesis Chrome extension.
  4. Once you have Hypothes.is installed, please join our group called WRTf19. Link is here.

Practicing social annotation with hypothes.is

There are some great tips for using hypothes.is from the app developers. For example, check out their Annotation Tips for Students post. As readers you can also apply some of the skills you learned in the first unit and those you might routinely use for marginalia — except in social annotation you can divide your labor and foster conversation.

Activity: In a moment I will assign your group a role and ask you to use hypothes.is to annotate the article we read for today, “Conspiracy Theories Can’t Be Stopped.” Feel free to talk with you group and further assign tasks given your roles. You’ll have 15-20 minutes and then we’ll share what we found as a large group.

  1. Markers. Go through the text and sort the major claims or points from the evidence. Use you annotation to paraphrase these claims and contextualize them further — what happened before this? What happens after this? How is the author shaping this claim (that is what rhetorical or writing strategies is she employing?)
  2. Swimmers. Go upstream on links and sources. In your annotation, explain where the link takes readers, the content at that link, and how it contributes to the article’s point or sub-points.
  3. Rankers. Rank all the sources used in the article and read laterally on the most important (i.e. 3 or 4 of them). In your annotation, make a note about how much the article relies on this source, who they are, and why they are important (or not) to the arguments presented.
  4. Lexicographers. Discuss important or operational terms in the article (conspiracy or sociopolitical, for example). Use Wikipedia to not just define the term but teach other readers why what you are learning might be important in this article. You might also look into etymologies (exploring the history and origins of these terms).
  5. Teachers. Identify money quotes and raise open-ended questions, especially about the subject for today (“American culture and post-truth”). These would be questions that provoke meaningful dialogue and discussion, but as an annotation you can begin with a statement before you ask the question. Often these statements help contextualize your question and gives readers footing.

Homework for next class

Read and annotate Beck’s “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind” (The Atlantic) using hypothes.is. Add 3-5 annotations, aiming to balance your timing (that is, first to the document ⇆ last to the document) with the above list of possible ways you might contribute. In addition to the marker, swimmer, ranker, lexicographer, and teacher roles above you can also:

  • Ask direct questions (for instructors or classmates)
  • Point to internal connections (draw lines within the text)
  • Point to external connections (embed or link to related texts we’ve discussed)
  • Share news stories (events that speak to or are spoken to by the readings)
  • Research and point to related scholarship (other courses taken or projects undertaken)
  • Make connection to related art or art forms (poetry, literature, film, music)