Sharing, Tweeting, and Authorial Control

The purpose of sharing information on social media is to spread content. However, in order for it to spread, it requires the creator to let go of some of the control. As Johnson-Eilola points out, the model of a single author speaking in a unified voice needs to be revised as “we live (and literally are at least partially ‘composed’) at the nexus connecting an apparently infinite number of social and technological forces of varying weights, strengths, and directions.” While most instructors of process-driven writing argue that a text can be endlessly revised and improved/updated, the revision and updating is often discussed in terms of the original author. We may have “conversations” with others’ writings, but their writing does not become our own. This type of ownership does not fit in the online environment, where words are easily copied, quoted, linked, rearranged, etc. For example, no one has complete authorial ownership of a Wikipedia entry.

One of the new media sites that best conveys the concept of writing in fragments is Twitter. A Twitter feed is composed of microblogs — some self authored, some retweeted, some retweeted with comments, some quotes, some images, and some merely links. We are not self-contained univocal writers on Twitter, but curators of information, remixed beings organizing and reorganizing our identities through sound bytes and images. Topics aren’t explored by one authoritative voice but by defined by multiple voices via hashtags. It is here that we can explore true collaborative writing.

Unfortunately, not every user of the web is able to let go of their authorial control. Earlier this summer I read a blog post I liked and I clicked the icon to share it on Twitter. A Tweet was automatically generated with the title and a link. Subsequently, the author complained because her name was not cited in the Tweet, nor was her Twitter handle. The question is, did she have a right to complain?

Yes, I could have taken the time to add more to the automated Tweet. I could have went to her Twitter feed to search if she had posted a link there and then retweeted it. I could have added my own commentary. However, if she did not want people to share an automated Tweet, she should not have that function available on her blog posts. By including it, she is not only giving her permission, but encouraging this type of sharing.

Writing online is more than just typing and posting words. The way a writer presents their words and the navigation/web functions they choose dictate how people will interact with those words. If an individual wants their ideas to be shared widely, then they need to make sharing a click away. When individuals share a blog post on Twitter or Facebook, they drive traffic to the site. Ultimately, this writer caused herself more harm by complaining, as I removed the Tweet, shutting down a possible avenue for site traffic. To use a cliché, she won the battle but lost the war. Her print mindset does not fit in with the rhetorical situation of her content. What she should of responded to those who chose to include her content on their curated Twitter feeds: thanks for sharing!

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Blogging: The Case Against Immediacy

In our New Media Writing class this week, we are preparing to enter the blogosphere. Part of that preparation involves considering the genre of a blog. As an introduction, we read Andrew Sullivan’s essay, “Why I Blog?”. When I first read this piece nearly a decade ago, I felt the wave of techno-optimism as a true public sphere emerged online where everyone could have a voice. Today, I feel less optimistic reading about the power of free expression, as we have become inundated with perspectives and have begun to treat all perspectives as valid, even those that perpetuate the oppression and the suffering of others. It’s become difficult for many to differentiate between fact and opinion, between well-reasoned analysis and false causality. Because of this, I believe we need to abandon our goal of speed when it comes to posting, commenting on, and sharing information online.

In his essay, Sullivan writes, “We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges. We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge.” Having access to information at all times has created a world that is constantly being fed bits of stories, not just online, but on our 24/7 cable news stations. We do not need more truths that are likely to changes as details emerge. We do not need more cherry picked facts with commentary instead of context. What we need to do is redirect our attention to the longview, to the aggregated facts. Our attention drives the media cycle.

Our blogs can still be expressive and written in one sitting (ala Doogie Howser-style). However, when facts are involved, verify them. Proceed cautiously with emerging stories and new studies. Speed is not the ultimate value. Let’s approach blogging as an endurance sport.

Building a Blog and Twitter Rhetorical Analysis Worksheet

Here’s the questions I have so far. Please comment with suggestions if think an additional question needs to be added. I’m basing these off of the Norton Handbook’s defining of the rhetorical situation:

  1. What do you want to do with your Twitter feed and blog. Entertain? Inform? Persuade? Self promote? Make money? Write to learn? Gain professional development?
  2. How do you want to be perceived? Authoritative? Relatable? Witty? Well-read?
  3. What do you want your audience to do, think, or feel? How will they use what you tell them or share with them? What kind of response do you want? How can you elicit it?
  4. What is your audience’s background—their education and life experiences?
  5. What’s your relationship with your audience, and how does it affect your language and tone?
  6. How can you best appeal to your audience?
  7. What’s the appropriate look for your rhetorical situation? Should your blog design/profile picture look serious? Whimsical? Personal?
  8. How can you make best use of the mediums? (For example: What can be visual? What hashtags are relevant? Where can you add links?)
  9. How does the genre dictate your design style and writing choices? (For example: You should have shorter paragraphs and more white space when writing online)