Race, Writing, and Web 2: Introducing Students to Online Discussion
When NPR reporter Michele Norris came to campus to discuss her Race Card Project website, she provided an opportunity to examine topics of the course theme, Race and Social Justice, combined with issues of digital literacy and the rhetoric of public engagement. Students were tasked with evaluating the rhetorical task assigned on the website, which takes its cue from the pun on “Race Card” and displays 6-word comments on graphic “cards.” In analyzing the rhetoric of the discussions that followed, students examined how the presentation of the material, including the ethos bestowed by Norris, affected the discussions that followed.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, touted the promise of Web 2 for making it possible to gather the sum of all knowledge through collaboration and make it available for free. Actual results of public interactive websites are mixed. As an instructor in a traditionalist program, I work to introduce my students to the possibilities and pitfalls of online discourse, but it can be difficult to keep within the constraints of a standard or thematic FYC course.
NPR reporter Michele Norris' visit to campus to speak on her Race Card Project website created a perfect opportunity to examine topics of the course theme, Race and Social Movements, and to combine that with issues of digital literacy and the rhetoric of public engagement. The Race Card Project is a website that invites contributors to create a 6-word “Race Card” and post it on the site’s wall, inviting commentary and response.
Students evaluated the rhetorical task assigned on the website--coming up with a 6-word entry--and with the design, which takes its cue from the pun on “Race Card” and displays the 6-word comments on graphic “cards.” In analyzing the rhetoric of the discussions that followed, students examined how the presentation of the material, including the ethos bestowed by Norris herself, affected the discussions that followed. Students also followed Norris on Twitter, where she frquently re-posts provocative "cards" from her site, and joined the discussion there as well. In this presentation, I hope to share the experiences shaping online discourse and ideas for promoting a form of ethical rhetoric in a public forum. The website has been recently re-designed, and contributors are encouraged now to post pictures with their contributions. The redesign suggests new questions for students to analyze; how does this personalization affect the content of the site? Is it more difficult to engage in the honest, provocative discussion that Norris requests? Or does the increased civility lead to more productive discourse? And what does that say about discourse online?
In my presentation, I will be discussing the value of using a site such as this one for helping students analyze and navigate interactive discussion online.