Twitter: #Profound or #Pretentious

TwitterFrom the First Year Seminar course syllabus (Fall Semester 2015):

Is Twitter profound or pretentious? Can 140 characters really make any difference in the world? Twitter will be explored as a technological, cultural, economic, political, and social force. Using Twitter itself as a platform for interaction, the students will engage in a global dialogue about its nature, influence, and future possibilities. The Twitterverse is a rich ecosystem with which to question and deconstruct the nature of 21st century digital culture. Whether devoted to Twitter or dismayed by it, students will examine it by actively using the service and applying a critical lens to its impact. As a result, a Twitter account will be required of all students in the course.

Twitter is one of the most influential of all social media. Derided by some as trivial, Twitter has also been acknowledged as instrumental in global political activism and social justice initiatives. It is de rigueur for celebrities and politicians as they seek promotional opportunities and self-aggrandizement. And yet it is also used by many as one of their most important sources of information and vehicles for expression.

Twitter has over 270 million active users, over 500 million tweets are sent per day, and the company has a market capitalization of ~$38B. And surprisingly it has done all this by using the most limited and constrained means of all the available social media– a mere 140 characters.

Does really Twitter matter? Twitter will be explored as a technological, cultural, economic, political, and social force. Using Twitter itself as a platform for interaction, the students will engage in a global dialogue about its nature, influence, and future possibilities. The Twitterverse is a rich ecosystem within which to question and deconstruct the nature of 21st century digital culture. Whether devoted to Twitter or dismayed by it, students will examine it by actively using the service and applying a critical lens to its impact.

Using the hashtag #TwitterCrit the students in the course will engage in a semester long dialogue with whomever wishes to participate. Engaging others in a broad dialogue is an important objective of the course. Issues such of privacy, voice, community, personae, technological innovation, business strategy, and corporate manipulation will be considered through critical readings and active discussions (both in class and on Twitter). Twitter has been the focus of much credible research as well as voluminous popular commentary. Both will be considered as students are challenged by a series of core questions that frame issues central to the nature, use, and impact of Twitter.

Class discussions and online “Twitter Chats” will be used to focus discussion and to model critical analysis. By conducting as much of the course as possible on Twitter, students will participate in an open public space where they will be challenged by unexpected and unpredictable interactions. The students will gain new perspectives on digital culture by deconstructing the social implications and ideological imperatives that underlie Twitter.

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