Today’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon (see end of post for bio). This post was guest edited by Samantha Crovatt, Jason Figueroa, Caitlin Hussey, Jordan Jackson, Ben Keefer, Eddie Kihara, and Xiao Li.
Since my earlier post No Fear Gramm(r), I have become increasingly interested in unconventional grammar, especially reflecting on how writers use hashtag (#) grammar as a structure through which they achieve multiple rhetorical goals. My students and I decided this semester to explore four purposes of # grammar that writers can use towards rhetorical goals. We chose Instagram as a platform for our project, which has turned into a digital cultural exchange with a school in Karachi! [As an aside, I must say how amazing my students are, as they earned their undergraduate research certifications through CITI training and our university's IRB office].
Context for Assignment
My digital writing majors are currently nearing the end of a semester in which they have been challenged to re/think and re/vision their uses of grammar in digital spaces. We crowd-sourced an idea that integrates the Instagram social media platform with learning how the hashtag (#) can be used to attain the following goals for effective hashtag usage. For a unique spin on the assignment, we initiated an Instagram exchange with the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, Pakistan, which is a school our university has an existing exchange program with. We framed our Instagram project through the following four rhetorical purposes of # grammar.
- Searchability: using # to find specific posts and curate posts
- Shared Meaning: using # to negotiate meanings for visuals & text
- Storytelling: using # to connect multiple visuals & text in a narrative
- Subversion: using # to make a satirical or social comment about visuals & text
Measurable Learning Objectives for the Assignment
- Combine visual and textual elements with # grammar to tell a story
- Synthesize content-meaning through collaborative, dialogic writing
- Create shared meaning in social media spaces for a specific audience
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in dialogic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.
Writer's Help 2.0 for Lunsford Handbooks: “At a Glance: Guidelines for Creating an Online Text”
Writing in Action: Ch. 4, A Writer’s Choices; Ch. 17, Writing to the World
EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g in Ch.1, A Writer’s Choices
We crowd-sourced the following task list. We would encourage other instructors and students to do the same to make your project unique to your class.
- Divide into groups of writers, video/audio recorders, and photographers. Solicit volunteers for Instagram administrators.
- Create and maintain one Instagram "public account," to which all students will contribute. The Instagram account is managed by class Instagram administrators.
- Post images and videos based on an overarching theme (ours is “Haunted Home”), using hashtags for searchability, shared meaning, and storytelling. We post several images each week while our colleagues at Indus Valley School do the same.
- Research trending hashtags on Instagram and other social media platforms.
- Use popular hashtags that relate to the overarching theme to generate followers and re-posts on Instagram. Sites such as Hashtagify.me and Top-hashtags.com are two examples of great resources for (#) hashtag research.
- Provide feedback and peer review on hashtag grammar and narrative structure to your colleagues (ours were at Indus Valley).
- Your colleagues/collaborators will then provide feedback and peer review on visual elements for our posts.
From our group: "We invite instructors and students to modify our assignment instructions and let us know how your project goes. We would be glad to work with you."
Formative Assignment Reflection
We are still working through our Instagram cultural exchange. Over the next several weeks, we will continue to post our "Haunted Home" thematic visuals, complemented by text and #grammar. We invite you to follow our project on Instagram: KSUculturecanvas
Reflections on Democratic Learning from Our Group
As a cultural exchange project, our group had the opportunity to collaborate internationally through a social media platform that allowed for a democratic and organic brainstorming process. This became a complex, multi-layered group assignment that encouraged creativity and engagement through its involvement that avoided becoming overbearing and intimidating. It made for a stunning Instagram narrative through images and text.
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Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth through authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: email@example.com and www.rhetoricmatters.or