How to Ask Strangers for Money on the Internet: The Rhetoric of Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding has gained exponential popularity on platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Only Fans in recent years. In this course, we will explore what makes or breaks a crowdfunding campaign, and how language, framing, design, and multimedia affect campaign success. We will analyze the rhetorical effectiveness of both effective and ineffective campaigns, consider the relationship between creator and backer, and try our hands at composing our own crowdfunding campaigns. This class will provide you the tools to be an informed consumer and potential backer of crowdfunding campaigns, as well as compose your own.
The Rhetoric of Conspiracy Theories
The Wayfair furniture company is trafficking children inside overpriced cabinets. Covid-19 vaccines contain tracking microchips, poisonous graphene, and/or self-aware synthetic tentacled organisms. Cardi B, Iggy Azalea, Billie Eilish, and countless other pop stars are mind-controlled puppets of the CIA. And that’s just the beginning. A secret cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles that includes top-level Democratic politicians, deep-state agents, and Hollywood actors is secretly controlling our politics and media.
How do crackpot ideas like these originate? How do they spread online to millions of people? Who believes them, and why? In this half-term mini-course we’ll examine the ways conspiracy theories are built online, the rhetoric used to convey them across multiple platforms from 4chan and Reddit to Instagram and TikTok, and the causes and consequences of people’s belief in them.
Writing the Selfie
In Writing the Selfie we focus on the selfie as an utterance that participates in rhetorical discourse, and thus we attempt to apply classical rhetorical categories to a visual text. Composition is inherent in any communication act, no matter how quick and automatic that act is; thus, in this course, we view the selfie as a digital platform contributing to the rhetorical ends of composition.
The Rhetoric of Yik Yak
The social network Yik Yak has resumed activities in the past year, after having been discontinued. What makes this social network particularly interesting is that it relies on anonymity and an enclosed geographical area. In this mini-course we’ll examine what “yaks” say and how they say it, analyzing them from a rhetorical and cultural perspective. You will analyze several yaks that convey views of your community, as well as create your own strategic yaks.
The Rhetoric of Instagram: A Workshop for Content Creators
In this course, we’ll look at Instagram as a complex expressive ecosystem, one that includes images, language, stories, hashtags, videos, and more. By bringing a rhetorical lens to bear on successful Instagram accounts from diverse Insta communities, students will gain a keener sense of how to compose messages that resonate and matter for their own Instagram audiences.
How Not to Be a Troll: The Rhetoric of Online Commenting
“Don’t read the comments.” We’re going to ignore the advice of this digital day aphorism. Online comment culture reveals a lot about our contemporary conceptions of the public sphere. Comment sections in response to content can serve as a civic participatory space for differing perspectives, and, at their best, allow users to interact with diverse and differing perspectives. However, comment culture can quickly become uncivil and derogatory. In this course, we will focus on understanding and analyzing the rhetorical strategies of online comment culture, from places like that strive to have civil participatory spaces to the strategies of the subcultural troll. We will identify some of the rhetorical conventions of civil (and uncivil) commenting, and question what constitutes normative online communication. We will complete weekly short (1-2 page) writing assignments to analyze online commenting culture, reflectively participate in comment culture ourselves, and gain a broader understanding of what it means to engage “below the line.”
In a fall 2017 press conference, President Trump claimed to have invented the term “fake news”; others quickly identified his claim itself as a prime example of fake news. While the term originated more than a century before, “fake news” became a major factor in our understanding of the last Presidential election cycle, and promises to continue to affect the pending one. In this course, we will consider the rise of fake news, including some of its historical origins in yellow journalism, propaganda, and satire. We will examine fake news stories that spread via the internet and consider how and why they are created, how to identify them, and how to counteract them. And we will study the rhetorical use of the term “fake news” as it is used to discredit journalists and challenge mainstream media sources. We will complete weekly short (1-2 page) writing assignments to analyze fake news reports, draft our own fake news stories, and develop a final proposal for responding to fake news.
Collecting Stories // People You Know
Do you love stories, especially getting other folks to tell theirs? This one-credit digital media course will introduce you to conducting field research interviews in order to collect valuable stories from people you know well--stories you may not have known they had to tell until you asked. We will examine the art of interviewing and of storytelling, as we explore how to find a story that shows the essence of another.
We also will look into campus resources that can help us to produce our own story collections. Along the way, we will study Story Corps and other forms of ethnographic story collection. You will take an original photograph to accompany the collected story. Students will have the opportunity to contribute to an on-going campus story archive.
Are you an avid podcast listener? Are you addicted to The Moth, Death Sex & Money, Radiolab, or This American Life? In this course on the audio essay, you will learn how to compose and publish your own podcasts, using a mixture of narration, interviews, sound effects, and music. You will begin by developing several short sound-based narratives (“audio postcards”), focusing on such elements as voice, non-verbal sound, and interviews. Using the creative nonfiction genre as a model, you will then write an original audio essay, which you will record and workshop with your peers. By listening to a variety of audio essays and shorter audio pieces, you will also learn effective techniques for pacing, audio layering, and balancing anecdote with reflection.
In this mini-course, we will meet once a week for two hours: one hour devoted to discussion about a variety of podcasts, the other hour devoted to creative, hands-on work. Along with submitting three short “audio postcards” and one 8-10 minute podcast, you will be required to participate in class discussions, collaborate with peers, and reflect on the sound experience.
This mini-course is an inquiry into the video essay as a form. We will explore the interplay between text and image as we investigate how to evoke a feeling and to build a narrative through image. We will examine and analyze video essays and mini-documentaries — including work by John Bresland, Tony Zhou and Ursala Biemann.You will have the opportunity to create an image EPortfolio, as well as make video essays. We will explore campus resources that can assist in the creation of our video essays. The course will culminate with a final individual video essay project of your own design.
The Art of Podcasting
Are you interested in audio experiences and experiments with voice and sound? This one-credit digital media course introduces students to the genre of podcasting. We’ll start with a brief history and then explore engaging podcasts to examine what makes them tick. We will identify useful campus resources available for support, equipment and spaces to record. Each student will draft and design their own vision for a podcast and then deliver it as the final project of the course.
The Rhetoric of Online Dating
In 2015, 27% of 18- to 24-year olds reported using online dating, a threefold increase from just two years before. As the popularity of online dating grows, so does the variety of sites and apps offering a rhetorically complicated landscape for seeking romance online. In this course we will examine the strategies used by online daters to position themselves within the romantic marketplace – including profile text, images, match questions, and messages. And we will consider how different dating sites and apps shape would-be daters’ priorities and choices in the matchmaking experience. Actual engagement in online dating will be completely optional, and no public posting of coursework will be required, so this course is suitable both for students looking to improve their active profiles and for those curious to study the phenomenon from the sidelines.
The Rhetoric of Online Reviews
“My brother found a Band-Aid in his meal and we've never been back. It was a dreadful experience in a diner we used to love.” So begins a disgruntled customer’s Yelp review of a local Ann Arbor establishment. Online reviews have become a ubiquitous and important form of communication. On websites like Amazon, Goodreads, Yelp, IGN, Rotten Tomatoes, and Rate My Professor, we read and write reviews in order to make decisions about where to eat, what to buy, what to watch, what to play, what classes to take, and what to read. Meanwhile, industry professionals across all sectors of American culture rely on online reviews to advertise their products, improve their services, and generate revenue. Yet, the undisputed currency of online reviews has also resulted in increasingly questionable practices, including purchasing reviews, using bot-generated reviews, and hiring “reputation management” services to clean up negative reviews. In this course, we will examine the genre of the online review, considering how its purposes, participants, and conventions vary within particular locations and conditions. Drawing from these investigations, and based on their own interests, students will compose a series of online reviews that demonstrate their rhetorical knowledge and genre awareness.
The Rhetoric of Memes
Memes not only entertain, they also make claims about our world and how it does, could, and should work. In this mini-course we’ll examine what memes say and how they say it, analyzing them from the perspective of visual and argumentative rhetoric. You will also create memes related to our particular discourse communities. This is a course in writing and rhetoric, not in contemporary culture, so we will pay particular attention to strategies for effectively conveying your arguments to your audiences of choice. Visit the Rhetoric of Memes (Fall 2014) and UofMemes2015 (Winter 2015) websites.
The Rhetoric of Blogging
Blogs are the perfect paradox of the information age: they’re easy to start, but if over 150 million exist, how do you attract readers and connect with them? This mini-course looks briefly at the background of blogging — history, technology, and economics — and the different roles that blogs play. Quickly we turn to examine the writing and rhetoric of personal and genre blogs. We’ll look at how writers frame their niches, appeal to audiences, construct personae, and use design and new media. With these elements in mind — and lots of writing prompts to get you typing — you’ll create your own blog, and maybe carve out a niche of your own.
Composing with Images
This mini-course is an inquiry into the video essay as a form. We will explore the interplay between text and image as we investigate how to evoke a feeling and to build a narrative through image. We will examine and analyze video essays and mini-documentaries — including work by John Bresland, Tony Zhou and Ursala Biemann. You will have the opportunity to create an image EPortfolio, as well as make video essays. We will explore campus resources that can assist in the creation of our video essays. The course will culminate with a final individual video essay project of your own design.
The Art of the Photo Essay
This course introduces students to elements of photographic composition, editing, and curation and asks: how can these elements work together to tell a story? Throughout the course you will keep a blog that documents the evolution of your projects as well as your development as a photo essayist. The photo essays you create will be workshopped by your peers; while this process is aimed at improving your technical skills and narrative vision, you will also draw inspiration from seeing how others in class are handling the assignments. This course also includes an introduction to Photoshop as an editing tool and Wordpress as a blogging and presentation platform.
Professional E-Portfolios: Crafting Your Online Image
In this mini-course, we will be examining the rhetoric of professional self-representation in the digital age as we create individual electronic portfolios. These portfolios may serve a variety of purposes: academic, professional, artistic or a combination of the above. We will also look closely at the different ways in which social media can be used to enhance or complement these portfolios.
Powerful Electronic Portfolios
An article in Forbes last year reported that 56% of employers are influenced by online websites when making hiring decisions — the same article reported that only 7% of jobseekers have such websites. This course considers a particular form of online website, the electronic portfolio (e-portfolio). Whether you’re attracting collaborators, seeking funding, representing yourself as an artist, or applying for a job or graduate school, an e-portfolio can help you shape your story, present your strengths, and communicate your personality. You’ll spend time in this course working out the “story” you want to tell, gathering media and samples that help you tell it, and working with online platforms to create a draft of an e-portfolio you can build on and refine. Because the key to telling a good story is knowing how to lead your reader, we’ll examine the rhetoric of many types of sample portfolios and practice a variety of rhetorical strategies you can employ. As you shape your e-portfolio, you’re also likely to refine your goals and the way you’re positioning yourself in the professional world.