These are the main components of work for this course in broad terms:
(1) Writing exercises, as components of your final research paper. For several weeks students will be assigned tasks to perform, and to write about, as guided components of their ethnographic research.
(2) Seminar discussion of assigned case studies and analytical readings.
(3) Maintaining an active presence in Twitter, and sharing some of your questions, comments, notes, and research findings with the class in Twitter. This can include links to readings you are doing, accompanied by a few words on their significance or relevance.
(4) Sharing your notes, to allow for feedback in the development of your research project, and as evidence of steady progress in your work. The course director strongly recommends to students that they use Diigo for these purposes (see: http://www.diigo.com/index) which will likely prove to be a very valuable tool for your future learning and research.
(5) A final research paper that represents the culmination of your experience and analysis stemming from an investigation of the Internet practice of a specific political organization, campaign, movement, cause, or group of activists with shared goals.
The breakdown of the overall course grade, given the above, is as follows:
(a) Guided research steps, writing exercises: 30%
(b) Seminar participation in class: 15%
(c) Seminar participation in Twitter: 10%
(d) Collected research notes/Diigo annotated bookmark list (Mar. 2): 10%
(e) Final research paper (Apr. 20): 35%
Complete schedule of assignments:
- Guided research exercise #1, worth 2.5%, due Jan. 19
- Research exercise #2, worth 0% but mandatory, due by Jan. 19
- Guided research exercise #3, worth 5%, due Feb. 2
- Guided research exercise #4, worth 7.5%, due Feb. 16
- Collected research notes/Diigo list, worth 10%, due Mar. 2
- Guided research exercise #5, worth 5%, due Mar. 16
- Guided research exercise #6, worth 10%, due Mar. 30
- Final research paper, worth 35%, due Apr. 20
- (1) Your very first step in this course is to choose for the focus of your research for the semester either a formal political organization (such as a political party, or a particular wing of one, or an electoral campaign, or a political lobby group as possible examples), or a particular political campaign (for example, Free Tibet, or the Gaza Freedom March, anti-G20 campaigns, human rights, etc.), or a political movement (for example, women’s rights, indigenous rights, environmental activism, animal rights, etc.), or a narrow cause (possible examples might be efforts to challenge electoral redistricting, to remove or reinstate a political media celebrity, etc.), or a small cluster of activists working almost as if they were a team (think of anarchists working in disparate locations toward common goals). The one key condition is that, whatever you choose, it/they must have an active Twitter account.
Please present a short statement to the course director, circa 250 words at most, identifying and explaining your choice, for the start of class on Tues., Jan. 19. > 2.5% of the final course grade
- (2) Set-up a Twitter account by Tues., Jan. 19, and then follow instructions presented in class, on the course blog (http://webography.wordpress.com/blog/), and on the course director’s Twitter account (http://twitter.com/CyberActivism). Unless technical limitations impede you, you should also consider setting up a Diigo account (http://www.diigo.com/index) at the same time.
- When setting up your Twitter account, keep in mind that you will be interacting with other people in Twitter as a research, and that it can be very off-putting for some to be investigated and maybe critiqued by an anonymous entity. A personal photo is not necessary, but it may allay people’s fears if you provide either a link to the course website (http://webography.wordpress.com/) or to the course coordinator’s Twitter page (http://twitter.com/CyberActivism).To heighten your identifiability to other members of the seminar, you should include 498 within your username – for example, “Anima498list” – and, if you are worried about privacy, some very close approximation to your real name (also so you can be identified by other members of the seminar, and the course director), for example: Allison Smith could either chose to keep her name as is, or use A. Smith, or Allison S., or Alli Smith.
Please set up your Twitter account (required), and a Diigo account (recommended), some time on Tuesday, January 19, and then immediately contact the course coordinator via Twitter to inform him of your details.
Note: if you already have a Twitter account, set up a separate one just for this course. The course coordinator has done the same and can give advice on any problems you might encounter with setting up a second account.
Note: students who do not have home computers and Internet accounts, but who do have Web-enabled cell phones, can also access Twitter via cell phone. See Twitter itself for further instructions, and these helpful websites:
- Twitter Phone FAQ: http://help.twitter.com/forums/59008/entries/14014
- How to Use Twitter with Your Cell Phone: http://www.ehow.com/how_2075926_use-twitter-cell-phone.html
- Getting Twitter setup on your mobile phone: http://www.butterscotch.com/tutorial/Getting-Twitter-Setup-On-Your-Mobile-Phone
- 20 ways to use Twitter from your mobile phone: http://www.simplehelp.net/2008/04/16/20-ways-to-use-twitter-on-your-cell-phone-or-mobile-internet-device/
- Twits to Go: Top 12 Twitter Apps for Your Phone: http://mashable.com/2007/07/09/twitter-mobile-2/
For more news and ideas on using Twitter, reviews of social media, see:
- (3) Gaining access and negotiating entry: As you make your way around Twitter and begin to look a little more closely at interactions and Twitter profiles, and begin trying to converse with the tweeter(s) at the focus of your study, record your observations separately. This is essentially the first step of any ethnographic project, concerning how you gained entry, any experience you had of disorientation, and how you gained familiarity. Also record your first impressions of Twitter. (If you already have experience in Twitter, try to recall your first impressions, and write about these.)
Note: Whenever answering questions about the purpose and nature of your research, be as open as possible. Also mention that your research paper will not be published or otherwise distributed (except to those at the focus of your research), and that you do will not write in public (on Twitter) about what they told you in private (in an interview, if you should secure the chance). Otherwise, emphasize that the bulk of what you will write about is what they have already decided to make public. If your interlocutor is anonymous, do not ask personal questions that might compromise their anonymity.
Please submit a short statement describing these experiences, in less than 500 words, for the start of class on Tuesday, February 2. > 5% of the final course grade
- (4) Who are their “significant others”? As you continue observing and interacting with the tweeter(s) at the focus of your research, try to determine who their most important partners or contacts are in Twitter, and try to figure out why. Do they regularly send tweets to particular tweeters? Do they tend to retweet more from some sources than others? Which ones? What appears to be the purpose of the retweet? Are their own messages regularly retweeted, and if so, by whom? What do you think accounts for the observed regularities?
- Try using Bettween (track a conversation between two tweeters): http://www.bettween.com/
Please submit a short overview of what you have learned in carrying out this step, and submit it in print, keeping yourself to no more than 750 words, for the start of class on Tuesday, February 16. > 7.5% of the final course grade
- (5) The central narrative: Having had some time to follow, read, and reflect on the messages generated from the tweeter(s) at the centre of your study, what is the dominant theme of their messages? Does this theme have certain consistent components to it? What are they? Do their ideas fit together to produce a coherent whole?
Please submit a short synthesis of the dominant narrative of the messages produced by those at the focus of your study, printed, in no more than 500 words, submitted for the start of class on Tuesday, March 16. > 5% of the final course grade
- (6) Statistical overview: Using the online analytical tools below, produce the statistical output concerning your primary tweeter. What are your preliminary conclusions from the statistics you see? Use these tools:
- TweetStats (copy and paste a screen capture of this page, if you can): http://tweetstats.com/
- Twitalyzer (report the five percentages, i.e., “Impact 0.6% down,” and what significance this might have in your view): http://www.twitalyzer.com/
- TwitterGrader (report the numerical grade, and copy and paste their “tweet cloud”): http://twitter.grader.com/
- Retweet Rank (report the numerical result): http://www.retweetrank.com/
- TweepDiff (compare followers between two Twitter users – for example, compare your the main person you follow, and their most significant other in Twitter, from assignment #4 above — do both “followers” and “following”, and report the numerical results alone): http://tweepdiff.com/
- TweetEffect (report the numerical result alone – what is your impression of the result?): http://tweeteffect.com/
- Bettween (enter only the screen name of the main person/account you follow, and report the numerical result and the three top people they converse with. Does that correspond in any way to what you found in Research Exercise #4? Also, check who they have the most conversations with, and the result for “replies to” in #1.): http://www.bettween.com/
Please print out the main findings generated from each report, in the order shown above, and conclude with a final paragraph on what overall conclusions you think you can draw from these analyses. Submit this for the start of class on Tuesday, March 30. > 10% of the final course grade
Overall Research Path:
Students should not resign themselves to thinking that following the guided research exercises above is enough to produce a complete research paper. It is expected, and intended, that each of the steps above will produce valuable material that will appear again in some form in the final research paper – but they are not enough, by themselves.
In producing a research paper, students need a comprehensive strategy that combines personal experience of being immersed in Twitter, with description, and analysis. The guided research exercises above accompany the personal experience of immersion, producing the kind of ethnographic and statistical data needed for the descriptive parts of a research paper.
However, a little more work is required:
(1) Students should connect what they learn directly and personally in Twitter, with broader studies of Twitter, using published reports and journal articles that very often are themselves available online for free.
(2) In turn, students should connect what they learn in Twitter, and about Twitter, with broader background research and theorizing on the political phenomenon they are studying.
For example, a student studying a women’s rights organization, and how it uses Twitter, should:
(a) be able to place some of what they learn within the context of studies of Twitter as a whole, and,
(b) intersect their work with research on contemporary women’s rights struggles, studies of civil society, and new social movements, for example.
Rather than aim for reading whole books, students should rely more on journal articles, or items of similar length, available through the Concordia journal databases (JSTOR, EBSCOhost, etc.) and online in open access journals (as one example, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication).
Students should thus emulate the case studies presented in, and read for, our seminar sessions.
Useful Resources for Effective Research Papers:
All students in the course should invest some time in studying the following resources, some of which are mandatory for this course.
1. How to Find Research Articles: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/perindex.html
2. How to Write a Research Paper: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/researchpaper.html
3. How to Use the Web for Research: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/internethandout.html
4. Info Research 101 – Interactive Tutorial: http://library.concordia.ca/help/tutorial/#
5. APA Citation Style Guide – *the mandatory way to cite sources in this course*: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/apa.php
6. All Concordia Library “How To” Guides: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/
You might also consider becoming involved with Concordia’s Community University Research Exchange – see: http://www.qpirgconcordia.org/cure/
ACADEMIC REGULATIONS & PLAGIARISM ISSUES
Section 16 (Academic Information: Definitions and Regulations) of the Undergraduate Calendar will be strictly administered – particularly on deadlines, Failing Grades, Administrative Notations, Late Completions=‘INCompletes’ (Grade/INC), ‘Failed No Supplementals’ (FNS), ‘Did Not Writes’ (Grade/DNW).
Students must familiarize themselves with Concordia University’s Academic Integrity Websitehttp://provost.concordia.ca/academicintegrity/), and in particular its page devoted to plagiarismhttp://provost.concordia.ca/academicintegrity/plagiarism/).