Collecting sources & mapping phenomena

In class today you will:

  • learn about some helpful tools for collecting sources
  • use an online mapping tool, Coggle, to better understand your phenomenon
  • have time to talk with your group to continue planning

Before we get to that, however, I want to update you on the schedule.

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, WRT. To get started with Zotero on your own machine, you’ll need to:

—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, WRT 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 their readings to your group folder on a phenomenon they’re interested in (or one you are already pursuing together).

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 or Coggle. 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 choosing at this point and how did your research go this weekend? 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.


Homework for Wednesday, 2/28*

There is no class meeting this Wednesday, 2/28; however, you need to meet as a group to develop your plan for the discussion. Whether that meeting occurs during class time on Wednesday, at another time, or online is completely up to you. Attendance to your meeting, however, will be considered when factoring your grade.

Keep me posted by having one group member email me a link to a Google Doc that provides 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 the end of Friday, 3/2.

Defining phenomena and managing online sources

We have a lot planned for today, including developing strategies for defining the topics and phenomena for your projects, and introducing you to some tools for managing sources.

Counter-technology project: a case study

By now you should have:

I mentioned on Monday that this process models what I’m asking you to do for your project. Take 5-10 minutes to meet your panel and talk with them about this set of readings via the following tasks. Have someone tweet out your answers (or share the task) using our hashtag #WRTs18.

  1. Who are the people mentioned in the readings that are purposefully distorting reality? What are their interests? What tools and technologies are they using? How do these tools help them?
  2. Use the readings themselves (attribution, links, footnotes, etc.) to suggest additional readings that would deepen your understanding of these phenomena. In other words, where could we go next if we wanted to learn more?
  3. What search terms and keywords would you use if you wanted to find more articles on Google or Twitter?  Provide a list.

Brainstorming phenomena 

In the above example, we could take Web Brigades or Russian Trolls as our phenomena for this project. Here’s how one group might handle this for their project:



“Salutin’ Putin: inside a Russian troll house” (The Guardian, April 2015)

Facebook’s Russia-Linked Ads Came in Many Disguises” (New York Times, October 2017)

Twitter questions:

Q1: What do you already know about web brigades?

Q2: Why do you think Russia feels the need to use #RussianTrolls to influence the US?

Q3: Russian trolls have become more popular in the past few years, why do you think it’s grown?


This is, of course, is only one phenomenon among many you could choose from. Others might include:

  • doxing or doxxing
  • the internet of things
  • social media addiction
  • attention merchants
  • big data
  • algorithms
  • cookies
  • hacktivism
  • sharing economy
  • fake news
  • crowdsourcing
  • virality
  • hashtag activism
  • catphishing or online dating
  • astroturfing
  • identity theft
  • the dark web
  • trolling/cyberbullying/online harassment
  • online scams
  • clickbait
  • privacy controls
  • the digital divide
  • net neutrality
  • children & tech
  • laptops in the classroom
  • piracy

As you can see from this list, many of these overlap and interact, so there’s no clean way to define your topic. You are also welcome to suggest a starting point that is different from above. Work with your group to articulate your interests and then being to work through some of the following. You may choose to divvy up these tasks somewhat.

  • 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.

Homework for Monday, 2/26

  • Tweet out a potential reading with a comment. Use both the course hashtag (#WRTs18) and the hashtag(s) of the phenomenon. [Example: “Here’s an op-ed from the @washingtonpost about the role of #clickbait in politics. #WRTs18]
  • Respond to a groupmate’s post using the same hashtags.[Example: “Skimmed this article quickly. Why did @facebook install a #clickbait filter when we need literacies! #WRTs18”]

Introduction to Unit 2

Today we’re talking about Unit 2 and Twitter, but before we do that, let’s review what’s due tonight:

  • Post your final Truth-o-meter fact-check as a new post. That is, do not overwrite the DRAFT post; instead, create a new post so that I can compare the changes. This post is due before midnight tonight unless you go to the Writing Center. If you do that, and you email me your client report, you may turn in your work Wednesday instead. The cleint report is an email you’ll receive after your appoitment. It looks something like this:

Rowan University Report

Client: Steve Kim
Staff or Resource: Laura Rogers
Date: February 20, 2017, 10:00am – 10:30am

Comments: Hi Steve!

To recap, we reviewed and revised your introduction. We also went We also talked about where you could go next with your paper. You got to work on your paper a bit and we answered questions as you went. Good luck on your blog post!

Unit 2 overview

Let’s look at Unit 2, the schedule, and get you into your panels for the unit:


 Section 3 (9:30)Section 4 (11:00)
Group 1Olivia
Nicole M.
Group 2Sabrina
Christina P.
Nicole C.
Group 3Matthew
Group 4Sam
Christina L.

Trackers and nefarious hackers: why we need critical digital literacies and counter-technologies

You’ve had a lot of experience practicing basic web literacies using fact-checking sites like Snopes, Politifact, and Wikipedia; going upstream for original source material, and assessing credibility by reading sources laterally. Although we dabbled in the reasons why we need such literacies when we discussed filter bubbles, much more can be said of the kinds of technologies that require these literacies. In other words, we need to ask questions like:

  • Who or what are we trying to sidestep in using these skills? What traps exist for users trying to find info on the web? What is the worst that can happen? What stories do we know of people having a terrible experience online?
  • What are some of the trackers and hackers that make the web a potentially dangerous place? Who are these bad actors and what are their interests?
  • What are some ways you already avoid these traps? What critical digital literacies do you already have?

Twitter: An Introduction

In this unit we move from readers of social media to readers and writers of social media, specifically Twitter. As your readings for tonight suggest, Twitter has become an important — and problematic! — tool in the attention economy. My hope is that you’ll understand this better as you use it. To get started we’ll create an account:

  1. Go to and click the “sign up” button or load the app from your phone.
  2. Use your real name or a pseudonym and enter a valid email address.
  3. Before you accept the option to “Personalize Twitter based on where you’ve seen Twitter content on the web,” click “Learn More.”
  4. Also before you accept everything and sign up, click the advanced tab (which is purposefully hidden) and decide if you want “others” to find you by your email address or phone number. Now that you’ve decided on these privacy measures, you probably also want to skip entering your phone number on the next screen.
  5. Decide on a username. Usernames do not have to reflect your name in real life (IRL) and – above all – should be memorable. Use this username generator especially since Twitter is sensitive to nonconforming names that look like bots (i.e. wrt_799). NOTE: if Twitter locks you out and asks you for you phone number, you can try this procedure with Google Voice or start over and see if you can get an account without one.
  6. Confirm your account by checking your mail and clicking “confirm now.”
  7. Once you’ve decided on a username, add it to our blogroll and link it to your Twitter page. (example: @futureofwriting)
  8. Feel free to customize your experience, but you should know that the more info you give Twitter, the more its algorithm will assume about you.

Getting Started: 3 moves

  • Follow. Once you’re in the interface, find and follow @futureofwriting, your classmates on the blogroll (especially your fellow panelists), and possibly other good sources of info we discussed in the 1st unit (Snopes, Wikipedia, Politico, etc.).
  • Customize. Upload a profile pic and banner image, and write a bio for others to see. Still: be protective of your privacy, as your default setting is not private (and switching your account to private would lock us all out).
  • Tweet. Posting to the general public is as simple as entering a message in the “What’s happening?” field, but you can also post to specific users using the “@” sign at the beginning of your message (example: “@futureofwriting Here are 3 discussion questions…”).
  • # (hashtag). You should use the course hashtag, #WRTs18 for all tweets, which will help us organize our conversation and give you points. But feel free to use other hashtags and tag users too (example tweet: “Reading about twitterbots on @NYTimes for HW. #Russia def played a role in #2016election. #WRTs18” Tagging another user will notify them in their “mentions” tab.

Homework for Wednesday, 2/21

Workshop: Truthometer drafts

Today we are workshopping your drafts with help from the Writing Center, but before we get to it, our tutors will begin by giving us a sense of what the WC can do for you, where it’s located, and how to make an appointment.

The Writing Center!



Workshopping the Truthometer posts

  1. Make sure your draft is titled correctly and is easy to find on your site. It should have [DRAFT] before and/or after the title of the post (example: “[DRAFT] Did Pence ignore sister of North Korean leader? [DRAFT]”)
  2. Go to this spreadsheet and add your post’s URL next to your name.
  3. While you are in the spreadsheet find your name in the reader columns. You will respond to 2 drafts today.  For each author: follow their link to their blog and complete this form.
  4. At the end of class, we’ll look at some of the results together.

Homework for Monday, 2/19

  • Use the feedback from today to revise your draft. Post your final Truth-o-meter fact-check as a new post. That is, do not overwrite the DRAFT post; instead, create a new post so that I can compare the changes. This post is due by midnight on Monday, 2/19 unless you go to the Writing Center. If you do that, and you email me the client report form, you may turn in your work on Wednesday, 2/21 instead.


Workshop: 3 ideas for your Truthometer post

Today we are spending most of our time workshopping your ideas for the Truthometer post. We’ll also work on talking about those studies you checked out last week. Before we do that,  I wanted to see if you had any questions with WordPress. I was planning to give you some time to tweak those a bit, but they were so impressive I scrapped that.

According to a recent study…

For your 4th blog post, I asked you to go upstream on a news report that cites a recent study. There were a number of news stories to choose from in the headlines last week, including:

These were just a few. Did anyone choose these news sources or follow up on a similar study? How did your searches go? Did anyone find an impact factor? Did you use Google Scholar? Did you “accurately summarize the state of research and the consensus of experts in a given area, taking into account majority and significant minority views” as Caulfield suggests?  How hard was this, being an outsider? What does Caulfield say about this? Hint:

Often you are not in a position to critically read original scholarly research because it takes many years to develop the knowledge and literacies required to become an expert. That’s one of the reasons you are in college. This expertise can be observed if you try to pick up a journal from any given field. What makes these journals really credible, however, is the process of peer review. What is peer-review? The library at NC State explains it quite succinctly in this YT video:

Yet, for all of the credibility peer-reviewed journals muster, sometimes these journals are not even immune to the effects of the web. Consider the article, “The Case for Colonialism,” which was published in Third World Quarterly last month. Do some quick searching to find out about how this was received by the wider academic community, and what other sources say about this journal and the author. Are they the same? Although this is a rare case, why is it important to read laterally? What else might we find when we read laterally?

Workshop your 3 ideas for the Truthometer post

STEP 1: Open a new document in your WRT folder in Google Drive. Name this “Feedback on Truthometer ideas” and add your name and the specific post’s URL to your post at the top of the page. Be sure to grab the link from the copy tool at the top of your dash window and not the browser URL (otherwise the link from the dashboard will send users to their own WP dash — confusing, I know).

STEP 2: Copy and paste the following bullets at the top of your document:

  • For each source this author listed, what specific information would be fact-checked? Which idea would require the most research? Which would require the least?
  • Map “the moves” that would be required for each potential choice. Which posts would require discussing previous fact-checks? How many times would this require going upstream? How much lateral reading would this post describe? How many sources? Check up on the author’s preliminary work.
  • Would writing this post help clarify expert consensus about a fact that is often debated or confusing, or would it merely confirm what we already know?
  • What media should be used in this post? Which sources should this post link to?
  • What tags could be used for this post?

STEP 3: In a new tab or window, go to this spreadsheet and find your name in the Owner/Author column. Copy the emails of the three readers next to your name. Toggle back to your document and click the blue share button at the top right. Add these email addresses to the “share with others” field. Make sure they can edit.

STEP 4: Help each other. In a moment you should receive invitations to respond to three authors (look in your Shared With Me folder in Drive). Follow the link to the Google Doc and then to the WP post then answer the questions by writing a ¶ to the author. Sign your name so they can come to you with questions. Ultimately you are trying to help the author decide which of these 3 ideas are the most appropriate for the Truthometer task. Put another way, you are checking up on their ideas to see which are viable. The bulleted questions, then, are meant to guide this process. Again, be sure to sign your feedback and clearly separate it from other respondents. Aim to respond to at least two peers in class today, if not all three.

Homework for 2/14

  • Draft your Truthometer post. On Wednesday we will have representatives from the Writing Center assisting us in running a workshop with these drafts. The more you have done, the more advanced your draft will be. The more advanced your draft will be, the more advanced your final will be. Make sense?