ENGL 2850: Writing For Social Media (Messina, C.M.)


Name: Cara Marta Messina

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Date published: 2021

Course level: Upper-Level

Course title: English 526/726: Writing in Electronic Environments

Course description: Social media writing, like all writing, entangles political, ethical, social, and cultural values. Writing and participating in any genre requires an awareness of discourse communities, your target audience, your motivation/purpose, and writing conventions that you may include or challenge. In this course, you will explore how these values play out in social media writing, community engagement, and research. You will engage with social media communities of your choosing, reflect on your engagements, conduct your own (ethical) social media writing research, and read scholars’ social media research. We will discuss the interwoven, complex worlds of social media. Social media writing is more than posting and engaging with others on digital platforms. Writing for social media comes with understanding the intersections of: breaking down the virtual/in-real-life binary; data surveillance, big data, and advertising; platform analysis; ethics; content moderation; community-building through textual creations, platform choices, and moderation policies; audience awareness and reach; discoverability; and the spread of information/misinformation.

Course philosophy/motivation: “For this course, I wanted students to recognize themselves as writers, composers, and engaging with important content, so I had them focus on the communities within which they were a part. With this came several forms of doing community-driven research and digital activism, including creating digital activist artifacts to inform/persuade their networks. We always interwove conversations of how we engage with and compose in communities, platforms, and content with conversations about feminism, disability/accessibility, and antiracism, and several the issues surrounding justice in social media.”

“Because this was also early in the pandemic and we were asynchronous online learning, I wanted to make the course fun and grade in ways that did not put extra pressure on the students. For instance, I use spec, or micro-grading, so students had the ability to choose what kinds of work they wanted to put effort into and not feel particularly stressed about one assignment. For instance, one major assignment was broken down into four grades: first drafts, peer review responses, and final drafts. If they missed one part of the assignment, it would not heavily affect their grade (plus, I offered flexible deadlines if needed).”

“In the future, I want to a) make my syllabus more design-friendly and b) include the book Hashtag Activism by Sarah Jackson, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles.

“Students are composing and engaging with compositions everyday through social media platforms. My goal is to get them to a) see themselves as everyday writers, b) see the value in the communities within which they participate, and c) push their networks and communities towards justice.”

Cite as: Messina, C.M., ENGL 2850: Writing For Social Media, July, 2021,  Gayle Morris Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative.

About Author

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in English & Education at the University of Michigan, where she also teaches in the English Department Writing Program. Her research interests include digital rhetoric, gender and discourse, and gaming studies. Her dissertation project explores how women use multimodal discourse—grammatically, narratively, and visually—to navigate online gaming ecologies.

Nupoor Ranade

Nupoor is a PhD Candidate in the Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media at the North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on audience analysis, digital rhetoric, user experience and information design primarily in the field of technical communication and artificial intelligence. Her research experience and partnerships with the industry help her bridge gaps of knowledge that she then brings to her pedagogical practices.

Jianfen Chen

Jianfen Chen is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue. Her research interests include public rhetoric, digital rhetoric, risk communication, intercultural communication, and professional and technical communication.