5 Ways to Motivate Student Interaction Online

I got a question from a colleague today about how to make class blogs more than just repositories for student work, where, at best, the professor comments on student posts but little interaction takes place beyond that. It got me thinking about things that I’ve done in the past to motivate students to interact with each other in the online platforms I use in my classes, so I thought I’d collate those here (listicle style!).

1. Set the social norm
Students may be unfamiliar with the norms of the online platform you’ve chosen to use in your class, whether it be Twitter, a blogging platform, or the course management software. Even if you require them to make posts there, they don’t always respond to each other because it’s safer to lurk than to breach an unspoken rule. So spell out the “rules” for them: say that it’s cool to post comments/replies to each other and to you, or acknowledge that it might feel nerdy but declare it to be “cool” in the context of your class. Some people will always feel more comfortable lurking but you’ll be giving social cover to the others who might like to speak up.

2. Incentivize
I’ve found that the only foolproof way to get all the students in the class to interact with each other online is to incentivize interaction with points that actually matter for the course grade.(Obviously, incentivizing through points will only motivate the students who care about grades, but that’s sort of the nature of the beast, isn’t it.) This might feel cheesy and inorganic at first, but it puts a framework in place through which genuine interaction can grow. You can award extra credit points for each substantive comment a student adds to other students’ posts. You can require that each student write some number of comments per week (perhaps on weeks they don’t do original posts of their own). If you use Twitter in your course, you can require them to do a minimum number of @replies to other members of the class. In my social media class, there were 2 required tweets per week, one of which had to be an @reply, and this worked out to 30 points for the semester out of 500 total – not too much but not insignificant either.

3. Require linking
I require students to use hyperlinks in their blog posts so they can get in the practice of referencing and crediting other people around the web. This means allocating a few points for each assignment to the student’s use of hyperlinks within their post. A variation on this is to require students to hyperlink to their peers’ posts within their own. This could mean requiring students to reference/build on other responses that have already been posted for the same assignment, or asking them to work in previous assignment posts into their current post (the added advantage of this being that it pushes them to recognize continuity through the course material over time). I’ve found this to be great for cultivating a sense of interaction and community in the class, because students are reading and responding to the work of people they might not otherwise speak to in the classroom setting. Also, because it incentivizes reading their peers’ work, it helps them to assess the quality of their own work. I suspect it also pushes them to produce higher quality work given that they know there will be an audience other than the instructor. While skillful hyperlinking takes some getting used to on the student’s part, it helps to point out that this actually mirrors how online discourse happens on the “real world” blogs they read: good bloggers generally reference others and signpost how they are continuing an ongoing conversation, even if it’s just links to previous articles from their own outlet. So required linking is not only productive of discursive interaction, it’s also a transferrable professional skill (always a big hit with students).

4. Include online interaction in your course participation grade
Instead of quantifying requirements for commenting, replying, and linking, you can make a general qualitative assessment of students’ participation in the class community and factor this into their participation grades. You’ll want to be very clear about what your expectations are in this regard, for some of the reasons discussed in #1 above. Students come to our classrooms with different cultural backgrounds and levels of experience with online discourse, so it’s a good idea to spell out how you define satisfactory participation. (This goes for in-class participation too!)

5. Show you’ve read the comments
It’s good to demonstrate that the students’ comments are not just falling into a void, never to be acknowledged other than through point tallies. You can respond yourself in the online platform, though I think sometimes this can actually have a chilling effect on conversation between the students there, because it could reassert you as the monitoring authority and the “last word” on the topic. Of course these power dynamics are there in the background anyway, but I suspect that organic interaction is best fostered by leaving it alone once you’ve incited it. Rather, I’ve found it best to discuss posts and comments orally during class. The students get a little moment of “fame” when their words are called out and used to further the in-class discussion. And it models that what happens online is actually relevant to what you’re doing in the classroom.

I’m sure there are many other ways to motivate students to interact with each other both in and out of the classroom, but these are methods I’ve tested that seem to work well enough. You can’t truly force students to interact with each other if they are really not enthusiastic about doing so, but I’ve found that the students who want to get something out of this kind of experience are able to do so with these kinds of frameworks in place.

Tweeting Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism

Happy May Day, high holiday of radical activists the world over.

Today I’m starting a Twitter experiment:

I wrote a book that examines closely how anarchist activists try to craft political identities for themselves and live out their political beliefs in their everyday lives. On a broader scale, the book is about the cultural dimensions of activism and what happens when power and privilege play out within movement cultures. For the next few months, I’m going to tweet something from the book every day, using the hashtag #LPRA. The points will be roughly in chronological order, so if you follow the hashtag, you’ll get a gloss of the whole book. I will probably set up these tweets to be released automatically each day, so let’s hope any unforeseen coincidences with current events are fortuitous and illuminating (and not the opposite). Ideally these tweets will be useful and engaging; if not, you can always mute the hashtag.

Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism can be read in full online and the chapters are downloadable as PDFs. It may be reproduced and distributed freely, as long as you give attribution to me and my publisher. You’re not supposed to charge for it if you copy it, but if you’re an activist group that sells photocopies to fundraise, I won’t stop you. If you choose to purchase the book, I will receive a tiny bit of money. So far I have donated all my royalties to activist collectives and I will likely continue to do so in the future.

Teaching Visual/Material Culture with Pinterest

If you’re teaching a course that focuses on visual or material culture, there are lots of reasons to take advantage of the fact that the social media platforms college students are using these days are very visually oriented. I taught a course called Fashion and Power at NYU in which I used Pinterest to engage students with the reading material and to gauge their ability to apply what they’d read to real world examples. In this post I’ll share how I used Pinterest, including the details of the assignments, so you can see how you might use it (or a similar platform) for your own courses. I used Pinterest slightly differently in each of the two semesters I taught the course, so I’ll describe all the various ways I used it.

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I created a Pinterest account that was shared by all members of the class. Each student had the login and password, and we operated on the honor system. We experienced no problems with students abusing their access – no one deleted anyone else’s posts or anything like that. This certainly *could* have happened, but it didn’t. The key here would be to monitor the boards frequently enough so that you’d notice if a problem arose. It would be possible to do any of these assignments with each student having their own Pinterest account and creating boards to complete their assignments individually. Hashtags would be useful if you wanted to do collaborative curations as many of the assignments here involved.

One difficulty associated with all sharing a login was that the person who posted an image would not be explicitly identified – I got around this by requiring that people include their initials in their image captions. Sometimes students forgot to do this; for the first few weeks I reminded them that there were images that were not receiving credit because I couldn’t attribute them to anyone. After that the responsibility was on the student to inform me if they hadn’t received credit for something they’d posted. The other difficulty we encountered was that sometimes the platform would reject posts if too many people were trying to post at once, probably because it detected such activity as spam. This frustrated the students sometimes, but I don’t think it resulted in any major problems. I let students know that if they had difficulty posting they should just email me the content of their post by the deadline and then try again later to get it posted.

Three different assignments

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Weekly Boards
In one assignment, I created a board associated with each week of the course from the syllabus (each week had a specific topic and list of 3-4 readings). Students signed up in pairs for the week they were most interested in, and were responsible for curating images related to the reading material for that week. They had to populate the board with images before the class periods in question – this required them to do the reading ahead of time and also provided me with visual aids I could use during class if I chose to. The caption for each image had to explain its relevance to the reading, including the author and title details so that other students could follow along. (After the class periods each student from the curating pair was also responsible for writing a blog post that reviewed what was covered in class and made use of the pinned images.) I assigned grades for this assignment based on whether a minimum number of images were pinned, and the level of relevance the images and captions had to the course material.

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Personal Boards
In addition to the weekly assigned boards, each student had a personal board they could post to whenever they wished. Here they had much more latitude to explore images and objects in which they took a personal interest. The only content requirement was that they had to relate the images to one of the “keywords” around which I’d themed the course. I encouraged them to post photographs they took themselves to these boards (though I don’t recall many students doing so). Again, they were awarded points based on posting a minimum number of images (5 by the midterm, 10 total by the final) and their ability to explain the relevance to course material.

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Reading-specific Boards
The second time I taught the course I took a different approach, in order to complement the other assignments I had planned for the semester. This time around, I created a board for each assigned reading on the syllabus. Students could then post images to any board they chose at any time throughout the semester. The captions needed to relate the image to an idea from the reading and had to incorporate at least one of the course keywords. Students were not assigned to specific readings – I awarded points as they completed their pins over the semester. Each pin could earn from 1-3 points, based on how original the image selection was and how clear the explanation was connecting it to the reading and the course themes. Students could earn up to 50 points for this assignment. They would not need to pin for every reading, if they were doing quality captions and earning the maximum points possible per pin. The only limitation was that they could only do one pin per reading. I also required them to post by midnight before the class in which the reading would be discussed – this was to give me time to review their pins before I went to class. I found this very helpful for getting a sense of how well students had absorbed the reading; if there were a lot of pins with quality captions I could tell that the reading was popular and easy to understand/apply. A few students complained that the time deadline was too restrictive because they preferred to do the reading directly before class rather than a day in advance (I felt the pedagogical value of me seeing their pins before class justified the deadline so I didn’t adjust it). I was surprised to find the variance in participation on this assignment. Because I set it up so that it was basically impossible not to get the full amount of points (either through quality or quantity of pins posted), I expected everyone to get an A by the end of the semester. This was not the case though – in fact I would say the range of scores was broader for this assignment than for any of the others I’ve given. Ultimately I felt it rewarded effort and organization – those who kept track of their posts and got them done early in the semester ended up doing the best.

One problem I ran into repeatedly was trying to get students to link to the sources of the photos using Pinterest’s “pinned from” feature. While Pinterest makes it possible to credit the sources of images, the technical and especially social norms of pinning on Pinterest do not emphasize this. It’s up to you how much you want to emphasize this, but I ended up not being too strict about it (compared with say, requiring them to provide image sources and URLs in their blog posts).

Obviously assignments that use Pinterest require some social media savvy on the part of students. The learning curve was steeper for some than for others, but I think eventually everyone got it. I spent some time during class walking through how to post to the boards, and I fielded questions as glitches came up. I was also available to assist students with the platform one-on-one, though no one actually availed themselves of this help–most of them turned to a friend or classmate for this kind of assistance if they needed it.

I would not use these kinds of assignments in an introductory, required course, the reason being that I don’t think it would be fair to expect students to master a social media platform like this in order to succeed in the class. In an upper-level topical course like Fashion & Power though, especially at a school like NYU, students self-select and the vast majority are already interested in and adept at using platforms like Pinterest. Arguably, too, if they are seeking a career in the fashion or fashion-media industries, they probably *should* have some experience with visual social media platforms. So I think it works very well in a course like this. Hopefully you can also imagine how these assignments could be adapted to platforms like Instagram or Tumblr.

If you find any of this helpful, or have any questions I didn’t address, please feel free to tweet or email me!

Feminist Approaches to Social Media Research Workshops

I’ve just returned from ICA (the annual conference of the International Communication Association), where I and a group of feminist scholars convened a workshop on feminist approaches to social media research. The session was excitingly well-attended; I’d say we had 40-50 people in the room at 9am. It was the second workshop I ran on the topic; the other happened at Console-ing Passions (a conference on feminist media studies) in April. Aside from these workshops, there were two “sister” sessions run by other awesome feminist scholars, one at CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work conference) initiated by Libby Hemphill and another at NCA (National Communication Association conference) organized by Amy Hasinoff.

The session Amy ran at NCA has since been accepted as a Forum in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. Amy was kind enough to ask me to write a response to the papers, so I’ll be in there too. The collection is in production right now, so I imagine it will appear in the next issue of the journal.

The workshops I ran haven’t been converted to anything material yet, but I think they were quite successful in starting conversations and planting the seeds of a network of scholars interested in this specific topic. At both sessions, we discussed political concerns, theoretical issues, methodological questions, opportunities for engaging the public, and practical applications of our research. While a lot of ideas were sparked at these sessions, one of the biggest takeaways for me was the need for training and mentorship for people who are new to feminist research. There are a vast number of early career researchers (and probably later ones too) who want to engage questions of gender and power in their work but don’t have specialized training in feminist theory or methods. And realistically, they may not have the time or resources to become specialists in those areas. Personally, I’d much prefer to have a ton of social media researchers know even just a little bit about feminist methodology than to have just a few of us bringing that knowledge into our work. So I want to think about how we who do have years of training in this area share our knowledge, skills, and experience with those who at least want to make a start down this road. In the process I think we can improve social media scholarship in general by imparting this flavor to it.

To give just one example, at one point our conversation at Console-ing Passions turned to the importance of critical ethnography for social media research, but it was clear that not everyone in the audience was familiar with this tradition. I wasn’t surprised, because communication and media studies departments have enough trouble teaching qualitative methods, let alone ethnographic methods, double let alone critical ethnographic methods. (Not blaming the departments here – these aren’t methods you can really teach in a semester-long methods survey course. I was fortunate enough to have an advisor who did a directed reading with me and coached me through years of acquiring knowledge and skills in critical feminist ethnography.) Very specialized methods and literatures like this–and there are many others in addition to critical ethnography–are things that some of us are lucky to know a lot about and I think we can and should share this knowledge in an accessible way with people (like feminist graduate students, or even undergraduates) who are just starting to design studies into social media.

So that’s a mission I’m going to be thinking about for the next little while. If you’d like to think about it along with me, shoot me an email and I’ll add you to the email list I gathered at these sessions!

“Final Reflections”

This was my last week as a professor. At least for a while.

I’ve just finished my third year at NYU, the most my Visiting Assistant Professor contract could be renewed for.  While I’m pretty sure I’ll find myself in the classroom again, maybe even soon, it won’t be full-time this September. A variety of factors have led to me deciding not to pursue a teaching job for next year.

Any full time position I could get would likely require at least a 3 course per semester load, something I’ve been doing since I graduated from my PhD program. That’s a full load – it’s not supposed to leave much time for doing other things. But somehow, I *have* managed to do other professional things besides teach over the past 4 years: I turned my dissertation into a book. I published 2 peer reviewed journal articles and a few essays. I’ve presented at multiple conferences every year. I’m co-editing a special journal issue. I co-edit a regular feature section of another journal. I’ve reviewed articles and book manuscripts for several journals and presses. And those are just the things that get CV lines. So basically what I’m saying is that I’m exhausted.

Besides simply needing a rest, there are two other reasons why I’ve decided not to teach in the fall. The first is that this spring was the first semester I’d ever started off the term not excited about my classes or my students. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and drawn energy from the freshness of a new semester. This time, I dreaded the first day. I had several returning students whom I knew would be great, and they kept me going I think, but everyone else seemed like an enemy who was going to get between me and just making it through the semester. This did not make it easy to get up and get to class each day I taught, let alone grade assignments and write lectures on the off-days. I knew this attitude was absolutely unfair to my students, and that they – even the more trying ones – were not at all to blame for *my* mood. Fortunately, I fought through the crabbiness, kept it mostly under wraps, and the second half of the semester went better than the first. But I don’t want this to happen again. Teaching has always been valuable and rewarding to me, and I’d like to keep it this way rather than burning myself out on it. Hopefully I’ll look forward to doing it again one day.

The second reason I’ve decided not to teach is that I’ve got a lot of other stuff I want to spend my time on! There are the academic projects that I’ve always squeezed in around my teaching obligations. Editing, reviewing, organizing, those will remain. I’m not sure how central my personal research agenda (the project I’ve been developing on media refusal) will be. There’s still work to be done there, but I need to figure out how much of it I genuinely want to do and how much of it is motivated by external pressures like “writing a viable second book in order to achieve tenure in an imaginary job I do not yet have and may never get.” I’m going to keep plugging away at the research and hopefully publish some of it, but perhaps not with the zeal stimulated heretofore by my defensive position vis-à-vis the academic job market.

There are other projects too. I’m having a wedding in the fall, and my partner and I are renovating a house we hope to move into next winter. I’ve always loved crafting and DIY projects and interior design, and I want to take full advantage of actually having socially sanctioned opportunities to do this stuff. I know that if I was teaching full time I would feel stressed and guilty about taking time to work on these personal things. I will probably feel stressed and guilty about it anyway, but at least I won’t feel like I’m letting students down in the mix. On top of that stuff, I’ve decided to write a non-academic book. This is a project I could never get myself to do if I were only thinking with a tenure-track-mind. But it’s something that I think will fill a need and that will be personally fulfilling for me to do, to use the research and writing skills I enjoy to produce something that a lot of people outside of academia will benefit from, I hope.

But it’s been incredibly hard to contemplate what my identity will be if not a college professor. I’m excited about the opportunities this transition will open up for me, but it’s been an uneven emotional trip over the last several months as my decision has solidified. Between times of optimism and eagerness to get started on something new, there are moments of sadness and anxiety. Today, the students in my Queer Identity and Popular Culture course emailed me their “Final Reflections,” an assignment in which I’d asked them to reflect on what they would take with them from the course into their lives and careers. Reading those emails was not easy. So many of them expressed how the course exposed them to discussions they hadn’t had before and helped them to understand their own identities and positions as members of queer and other minority communities. This is pretty much my entire justification for being a teacher, and hearing students say it now makes me wonder if I’ll ever do something as worthwhile again.

I’ve been so lucky to have a position where I got to teach a course like this. I’ve been lucky to get to design and teach all of the courses I did at NYU, and USC before that. I’ve been lucky to have a well-paid, full-time teaching job in the same city where my partner lives. I’ve been lucky to have the resources necessary to produce a book and other scholarship over the past several years. And I’m lucky to get the chance to try out something else, at least for a while.

Theorizing the Web 2014

Today at Theorizing the Web, I’m presenting thoughts on how I approach the phenomenon of media refusal from a feminist standpoint, informed by theories of affective labor and care work. Below are links to resources for those interested in learning more!

Presentation slides

Longer, essay version of talk, with references

New Media & Society article, “Media Refusal and Conspicuous Non-Consumption”
(email me for a pdf if you don’t have institutional access)

Other writings on media refusal, in Flow

Fashion & Ideology activity

One of my resolutions for this semester was to get into a more regular habit of sharing the things I do with my classes other than lectures and discussions. I’m teaching a course right now called Fashion & Power, which incorporates quite a few activities in the classroom. This is the first of several posts I hope to do for this class.

During the second week of the Fashion & Power, my objective is to teach students what a cultural studies approach to fashion looks like. I assign the “From Culture to Hegemony” chapter of Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style, and Fred Davis’s “Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion?” essay from Malcolm Barnard’s Fashion Theory reader. In class, we discuss Raymond Williams’ definition of culture, what it means to understand fashion as a language, and how fashion objects/ensembles can be treated as texts for interpretation. Then we get into the concept of ideology and how cultural materials carry ideological meanings with them, meanings that shift as objects move into different contexts.

After students have a handle on these concepts, I have them get into pairs or small groups. Each group chooses a fashion object and performs an ideological analysis of it using the following questions:

  • What meanings are commonly associated with this object? List several.
  • What ideologies or cultural values might be reflected in these meanings? What systems of power are implicated in these meanings?
  • Have the meanings of this object shifted over time? If so, what historical developments do you think account for the shift?
  • Would this object hold different meanings in different cultures around the world (or different subcultures within the United States)? What other meanings might it hold?

Students have chosen a variety of objects to analyze, including business suits, miniskirts, fishnet stockings, neckties, bow-ties, diamond rings, fur coats, bras, and wedding dresses. As students are working, I go around and suggest things they might look up online to help their analyses. For example, I suggested that the group doing diamond rings might look up the history of the diamond engagement ring and the group doing bow-ties might try Googling “bow-tie Nation of Islam” (note that this search turns up some pretty awful stuff, but it does illustrate how the meaning of this object can shift greatly for people who come from different ideological positions). After the groups have had time to complete the questions on their own, we go through a couple items as a whole class to make sure everyone gets the idea.

Book Updates


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July 31st was a very exciting day for me, as it was the day I checked my mailbox at work and found my 6 complimentary author copies of Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism! It’s not available for sale yet, but it looks like it can be pre-ordered at certain online booksellers.

Last week I met with my editor and the marketing assistant at Bloomsbury to talk about promotion and distribution. Some of the info I found out from them was useful so I’m going to pass it along here.

  • The Creative Commons platform for Bloomsbury publications isn’t up and running at the moment, but it’s projected to be up in the spring. This means that, for now, if you want to read the book, you have to buy it or email me for a copy of the uncorrected proofs. But in a few months you’ll be able to download it for free for “activist” purposes (after reading the book carefully, you’ll be able to argue that “activism” can kind of be anything you want it to be).
  • I do have a copy of the final proofs of the front matter and first chapter, so that will be posted here for free download starting today.
  • In addition to the hardcover and paperback editions, the book will also be available for purchase in an ebook version readable by Kindles, Nooks, etc.
  • I’m in the process of recording an audiobook version, which I’m going to provide free here for personal use. It’s very DIY, so don’t expect fanciness, but I figured an audio format would appeal to busy academics who might not otherwise have the chance to read the book and thus the audiobook was worth making.
  • Maybe the most exciting thing I found out is that the whole Contemporary Anarchist Studies series is going to be distributed by AK Press. They’re still working out the details apparently, but someday I’m going giddily shout when I see my book on the AK table at an anarchist bookfair. This also means that the book will be available at rad places like Bluestockings and various infoshops.
  • The book will also be available at conferences where Bloomsbury has a booth, so look for them. I’ll also be getting a flyer with a code for the conference discount rate, so if I present the work at a conference Bloomsbury isn’t at, I can still hook you up with a cheaper version of the book.
  • I’m hoping to have a NYC launch party in early September. I should have copies for sale there at a discounted rate, assuming I can get them in time.

Happy reading, whenever and however you do it!

New course: Representing Subcultures & Social Movements

Easily the best thing about my current job as a Visiting Assistant Professor at NYU is the opportunity it’s given me to develop curriculum in my interest areas and to work with students who are impressively hard-working and intellectually engaged. So far I’ve gotten to invent three new courses (Social Media Networking; Queer Identity and Popular Culture; and Consumption, Culture, and Identity) and teach a few others that were on the books in my department but new to me (Fashion & Power was the most fun). I’m coming up on my last year in this VAP position, so I took the chance to develop a new course called Representing Subcultures & Social Movements. I sort of see it as the “shadow” chapter of my book on lifestyle and activism (I’ve always taught media studies but weirdly wrote a cultural studies dissertation/book that doesn’t have much media in it). I’m hoping I can use the curriculum again in whatever lies in my future after this job ends.

Here’s the course website, which for now is basically a syllabus. Eventually it will have student posts and research projects, and hopefully some participation from people outside the class (like you, whoever you are reading this). I also decided to come up with a universal set of course policies that I’ll use in all my courses; in the past I’ve had specific ones for each class. That’s an experiment, and we’ll see how it goes.

Summer plans

I’ve got a lot on my plate this summer (though much less than others do, I know) and I need a place to keep it all straight, so this blog seems like as good a place as any. The context of my summer is that it will be my final one as a VAP at NYU – I’ll be on the academic job market starting this fall, since my 3-year VAP contract is up after the 2013-2014 school year. This summer will also see the release of my first book (Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism, from Bloomsbury Academic, nee Continuum) so I’ll probably be annoyingly promoting the shit out of it via social media and also more-or-less vaguely thinking about the talks I’ll be giving on it (and parties I’ll be throwing for it) in the fall. (Mark your calendars for Sept. 19th – I’ll be giving a talk in the Creative Activism Thursdays lecture series at NYU!) So anyway, my fall is looking scary and hectic, so the summer will mostly be about catching up on research and getting stuff in place so I can be semi-sane once the job market and book stuff really kicks in. Here’s what’s on my agenda:

1) Research for the next phase of my media refusal project, which will argue that social media refusal is a hybrid practice of consumer and labor activism

This means I need to bone up on the literature on labor strikes and consumer boycotts (moreso on the former than the latter – I’ve got a pretty good handle on consumer activism from my previous research). I also want to explore the case of Quit Facebook Day and its surrounding media coverage, as well as the general popular & academic discourse around digital labor and resistance to it. I’m planning to turn this into an article eventually, but first I’m going to present a little bit of it at IR14 in October (assuming my panel gets accepted), and more of it at ASA in November. I’m hoping to have a manuscript draft ready to go in November so that the feedback at ASA is as useful as possible–I’ve got 4 scholars I really respect on my panel, so if I’ve got the chance to show them something complete-ish, that is an opportunity I don’t want to waste. So yeah, assuming the fall is going to be crazy, it would probably be a good idea to get a first draft done in August.

2) Updating the syllabus for my Culture and Social Media Technologies (#csmt13) class

The class has been really successful the last 2 times I taught it, so I could probably get away with not changing anything, but some of the articles are getting dated. I think the pieces in my syllabus on Friendster, MySpace, etc. actually hold up adequately, but there’s so much good, new literature coming out all the time that I’d like to read it myself and might as well incorporate it where it works in the framework I’ve already set up for the course. I may also jimmy around with the topical weeks in the second half of the course, in order to cover some areas that I haven’t before, but which seem to be emerging as important ones in the field of social media research. The key here will be to not change so much that I can’t use the lecture notes from previous semesters, because that will just be making work for myself that I do not have time to do! I also need to think about the assignments and whether they need changing from last semester. I’m leaning toward “not really” but I may tweak the final paper assignment just a bit.

3) Actually writing the syllabus for my Representing Subcultures and Social Movements (hashtag TBD) seminar

Because it’s a seminar, there won’t be too much lecture writing to do in advance, but the success of the course will depend on having a clear framework in place. I need to pick out the screenings and readings for the first half of the course, and get the assignment requirements drafted for the second half (this is where the students will be taking charge of the class content for the most part). Again, I will need to exercise self-discipline in not adding a bunch of stuff that is new to me to the syllabus – I conceived this class because of all the classic readings on representation I wanted to talk through with students and apply to fun pop culture examples. So I will have to fight my tendency to try to read a bunch of new stuff and see if it fits somewhere!

4) Getting lecture notes together for my Consumption, Culture, and Identity (again, hashtag TBD because something tells me #CCI13 is going to have cross-noise with other entities) class

This one isn’t wholly new to me – I developed it as a senior seminar last year – but I have changed the readings and schedule a bit and will need to shuffle some things around and write a couple new lectures. So if I can get as much of that done as possible during the summer, it will make the fall that much easier.

5) Add to my Classroom Activities archive on this website

I have about a million things I’ve done with my classes that I both want to record for myself so I can go back to them in future classes and am happy to share with others. So I’m gonna try to post at least one per week this summer.

6) Housetrain my new puppy

Yes, I am getting a puppy! Its name is Snootle (kind of named after this) and I am hoping it will be an ideal reading/writing partner.

7) Catch up on 8 million television series.


Media Refusal @ TTW13

If you’ve found this page through my presentation at Theorizing the Web, welcome! Below are links to the writings on which my talk was based. I’ve also included my slides here in case you missed any of them.

Media Refusal and Conspicuous Non-Consumption: The Performative and Political Dimensions of Facebook Abstention (pdf download)

How We Talk About Media Refusal, Part 1: Addiction

How We Talk About Media Refusal, Part 2: Asceticism

How We Talk About Media Refusal, Part 3: Aesthetics

Presentation Slides (pdf download)