Writing discussion questions


Zotero, cont’d

For homework I asked you to:

  1. Make an account in Zotero, and download both Zotero Connector (for Chrome) and Zotero 5.0 (the desktop application) to your laptop.
  2. Join our Zotero group, WRTf17 and find your group folder, which is labeled by section and group number (i.e. Section 3, Group 2 has the folder labeled “3.2”).
  3. Have each member of your group add a reading or two to your group folder on a phenomenon they’re interested in (or one you are already pursuing together).
  4. Tweet out one of these readings with a comment. Use both the course hashtag (#WRTf17) and the hashtag(s) of the phenomenon.
  5. Respond to a classmate’s post using the same hashtags.

Take a few moments in your group to catch up: How did this go? Help those who could not get up to speed with this. Call me over if you get stuck.

Mapping your phenomenon

At this point, your group should have saved and tweeted a few possible texts for this project. How might you articulate these into a proposal? How might this phenomenon provoke discussion? One way to keep track of your ideas is to develop a mind-map with bubble.us or Coogle. I recommend the latter since you can register quickly using your Rowan Google account, use it with groups, and embed maps easily:

You don’t have to organize your maps this way, but as you develop this project, aim to account for:

  • the definition of the phenomenon: what is it, who says, and/or what elements can be debated or resist consensus?
  • the history of the phenomenon: how does this phenomenon exist on a continuum? how is it a product or function of previous cultures, societies, and technologies?
  • hot takes in the news —  it’s likely that this is how you came across the phenomenon in the first place. why is it important now?
  • associated search terms —what are some related phrases or terms you should search as you seek to better understand this phenomenon?
  • counter-technologies — what tools, strategies, or literacies help us manage, expose, disrupt, or otherwise limit the malfeasance these phenomena cause us online and IRL?

So check in with each other. What are you thinking of choosing at this point? How much do you know about this and how it relates to other ideas? Use Coogle or another kind of map (you can use paper or the whiteboard too!) to develop a tentative plan or set of plans.

Discussion questions

Once you start focusing on a specific phenomenon, it’s time to begin thinking about:

  1. which readings you’re going to make us read and
  2. how you’re going to get us to talk about them.  As for the former, you should choose a reading or readings that help us understand the complexity, history, and newsworthiness of your phenomenon.

Aim to have us read 1-2 readings that total 2,500-3,500 words (not sure what the word count is? check out the Word Count Tool).

Once you have these set, you’ll want to develop a set of questions that will be asked initially over Twitter via asynchronous chats, but carry over into the classroom. In other words, while conversations will occur online before class, your group will have a chance to push on certain threads in class before unveiling your counter-technology. As such, we want to think about the kinds of questions that make group conversation meaningful. In your experience what makes a good discussion in the classroom and out?

This handout from a Canadian university walks us through some of this:


Let’s try this with a shared example.


Twitter chat

As part of this project, you are going to lead part of this discussion online through Twitter and IRL. So what’s a Twitter chat? This recent blog post from Hootsuite defines it as

a public discussion on Twitter around a specific hashtag … led by a designated moderator—brand or individual—who ask questions and facilitate the discussion at a predetermined time

While we won’t be having these chats synchronously, each group will choose a hashtag as well as a set of questions with clear labels (i.e. Q1, Q2, Q3) and post them to Twitter with our class hashtag, #WRTf17.

Before we meet in class, students will read the articles, find the group hashtags, and respond to your questions — and each other — using A1, A2, A3 so we can all keep track. Let try this with one of the above examples. Who would like to volunteer?

Homework for Tuesday, 10/24*

There is no class meeting on Thursday, 10/19; however, you need to meet as a group to develop your plan for the discussion. Whether that meeting occurs during class time on Thursday, at another time, or online is completely up to you. Your attendance to you meeting, however, will be considered when factoring your grade.

Keep me posted by having one group member email me a summary of your meeting, including a tentative plan for discussion that includes:

  • when and where you met and who was present
  • a 1-2 sentence definition of your proposed phenomenon
  • a ¶ detailing the history of the phenomenon
  • an evaluation of 3-5 articles in the news about your phenomenon — include links!
  • a list of search terms you are using
  • a list of 1-3 counter-technologies — with links!

*Please email me no later than Sunday night, 10/22.

Defining phenomena and managing online sources

We have a lot planned for today, including getting you up to speed on Twitter, developing strategies for defining the topics and phenomena for your project, and introducing you to some tools for managing sources.

Twitter, cont’d

On Tuesday, some of you had unexpected trouble with Twitter requiring your phone number. As you might know based on the reading for today, Twitter is trying to boost its verification procedures to block abusive accounts (from the Russian state, for example). If you’re still having trouble, these seem to be your options:

  1. Try again. Try making an account using your real name, but from a different device, machine, browser, etc. until it lets you make one. The problem here is that you need another email address.
  2. Create a phone number in Google Voice. Although Google Voice will require you to provide your real number (which Google will store in its database), at least Twitter won’t. You can then use the GV number for Twitter. See this page for help.
  3. Just use your phone number. This is not ideal, but this would be the easiest thing to get you in — plus, you can probably remove it once you have created an account. FYI, their privacy policy for your phone states this: “If you provide us with your phone number, you agree to receive text messages to that number from us. We may use your contact information to send you information about our Services, to market to you, to help prevent spam, fraud, or abuse, and to help others find your account, including through third-party services and client applications.” You can change this in your privacy settings and Twitter agrees that it will not include this identifier in its Log data. 
Once all is well and you’re online, please be sure to add your username (aka handle) to our blogroll.

Counter-technology project: a case study

By now you should have:

I mentioned on Tuesday that this process models (on an admittedly smaller scale) what I’m asking you to do for your project. Take 5-10 minutes to talk with your panel about this set of readings and via the following tasks. Have someone tweet out your answers (or share the task) using our hashtag #WRTf17.

  1. Describe or characterize certain phenomena, forces, technologies, or bad actors in these texts that require new digital literacies.
  2. Suggest additional readings that would deepen your understanding of these phenomena.
  3. Provide a list of search terms and keywords for such a search.
  4. Explain how these provoke certain counter-technologies, literacies, practices, or strategies.

Defining phenomena 

On Tuesday each section brainstormed some of the possible negative phenomena that requires new digital literacies:

These were generally good starting points, but they could be more specific. The next step is to learn more about how these phenomena could be more narrowed and complicated, just as we did in the example above. This means taking similar approaches, trying to better understand and define them. For each, you might:

  • Start with Wikipedia to evaluate the scope of a phenomenon — especially how it is defined, structured, and linked to other phenomenon.
  • Brainstorm and keep track of additional keywords or search terms as you read. By reading the Wikipedia entry for clickbait, for example, I see that “listicles,” “Buzzfeed,” or even “yellow journalism” might be good search terms. More importantly, I notice that “viral marketing” is listed as a “See Also,” which means perhaps my phenomenon is actually more broad than just “clickbait.”
  • Search Google News to see how the phenomenon is being discussed today. These might be the articles you assign our class when it is your panel’s turn.
  • Search Google Scholar and Campbell Library for books and other scholarly materials on the subject.
  • As you search also be on the lookout for counter-technologies — again defined as tools, strategies, or literacies that help us manage, expose, disrupt, or otherwise limit the malfeasance these phenomena cause us online and IRL.

Collecting sources with Pocket and Zotero

Reading online is fundamentally different than other kinds of reading, especially as we have grown to become more mobile with our devices. Hence, I want to introduce you to two apps that help manage reading and tracking sources, both of which have Chrome extensions.

  1. Pocket. Pocket is a read-it-later service (like Instapaper) that allows you to save readings as you go. I often save readings my friends share on Twitter or Facebook to Pocket and read it at a more convenient time. Pocket also allows you to tag and archive readings, making it handy for organizing readings. Pocket also makes apps for Mac, iOS, and other devices.
  2. Zotero. Zotero is a bibliography manager capable of sharing citations. Like Pocket, you can save readings, but unlike Pocket, Zotero will keep track of bibliographic info (authors, publishers, etc.). Zotero Groups also allow you to collaborate in ways that will be helpful for a project like this. In fact, your panel will be required to share your bibliography with the class using our course group, WRTf17.

Homework for Tuesday, 10/17

  • Make an account in Zotero, and download both Zotero Connector (for Chrome) and Zotero 5.0 (the desktop application) to your laptop.
  • Join our Zotero group, WRTf17 and find your group folder, which is labeled by section and group number (i.e. Section 3, Group 2 has the folder labeled “3.2”).
  • Have each member of your group add a reading or two to your group folder on a phenomenon they’re interested in (or one you are already pursuing together).
  • Tweet out one of these readings with a comment. Use both the course hashtag (#WRTf17) and the hashtag(s) of the phenomenon.[Example: “Here’s an op-ed from the @washingtonpost about the role of #clickbait in politics. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/steve-jobs-gave-us-president-trump/2017/09/05/f4f487e4-9260-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?utm_term=.f0419276444c #WRTf17]
  • Respond to a classmate’s post using the same hashtags.[Example: “Skimmed this article quickly. Why did @facebook install a #clickbait filter when we need literacies! #WRTf17”]