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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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)

The Beginning: Blogging and Social Media Platforms

We begin our new media writing journey with blogging and Tweeting, where success hinges upon on our ability to develop a distinct voice, to identify our audience, and to network. For example, there are thousands of cooking and lifestyle blogs online. To standout you need a unique lens, a fresh perspective, humor, or an innovative approach. Consider one of the most successful examples of a cooking and lifestyle blog, Pioneer Woman, which led to a show on the Food Network. She capitalized on the fact that she lives a lifestyle that most of us can only imagine on a large cattle ranch in Oklahoma. It has humor, tradition, and cowboys. Of course, not all of us are willing to market ourselves and our lives in that much detail.

 “In Confessions, I post photos of cows, horses, and my four weird children…as well as frequent shots of my husband wearing chaps” – The Pioneer Woman

Blogging begins by asking what it is you have to offer your audience.  Could you deliver informed and educated cultural commentary, a humorous take on everyday life, a skill you can teach others, etc.? Examine successful blogs that fall into the same category as yours (technology how-to, parenting, pop culture) — what makes them standout in the crowd? Next, we learn about your potential audience through Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest — discovering what they (moms, gamers, fans) are most likely to retweet, share, or pin.

Like the Pioneer Woman, who left big city life to become a rural homemaker, new media writers are also on a journey. We are operating in a constantly evolving medium. As soon as we learn one application, we must transfer our knowledge to another. I am here to document these journeys. That is what I have to offer my audience. My lens is my academic training, which helps me understand the distributed agency that exists within online writing. We are dependent on our technology and on our network of viewers. To be successful, I not only have to be witty, creative, and informed, I need to have a readership that can put my advice into practice, offer commentary, and spread the word.