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”]