My problem with this essay, and other essays that promote social networking sites because students are "writing and reading," is that they never dwell on the rhetorical lessons these sites teach. Granted, I think any teacher should be able to have an account for private purposes, but I don't think social networking sites are a good idea in the classroom. Teachers cannot control students on Facebook & Myspace. Are we to spend our waking hours writing: "that's inappropriate," "that's rude," "stop that," "not in my space" etc.? What's the point of Myspace if you aren't really exploring your space in the manner you choose?
I feel this article doesn't accomplish what it set out to do. They definitely promote Facebook and Myspace because of its benefits, but they don't really spend too much time discussing the benefits in relation to rhetorical writing. I think they start the essay well in the beginning:
"Determining whether or how teachers, scholars, and students should use Facebook and MySpace brings up many thorny and difficult issues. This article situates current theoretical, rhetorical, and ethical analyses of social networking sites and explores the implications of bringing (or not bringing) these web sites into the classroom by comparing how students, teachers, and administrators use (and abuse) these spaces. We contend that teachers should not try to colonize these spaces, but rather should enact pedagogical practices and theoretical approaches that employ them as a means of teaching students about identity construction and social networking." (38)
They're not shy - they're definitely in favor of bringing it in the classroom setting. The argument sounds sophisticated as it's phrased in the quote, but I think they spend less time discussing the "rhetorical" aspect than the "theoretical." Isn't the writing the most important consideration when this type of move towards social networking is made? They vaguely mention the different discourse students use on these sites, and the lack of proper grammar being used by students.
I suppose that could be an opportunity to teach students grammar while using Facebook or Myspace, but would they listen when you're not monitoring? Students relish the misuse of words, and the growing number of abbreviations for words and phrases. Those social networking sites are their space to do whatever, so I'm not sure they would like "rules" to be thrown at them. The would feel more constricted with their posts because they would try to avoid making mistakes since the teacher is monitoring. It's the same thing with student papers: they write what they think we want them to write. Not many students are adventurous with their writing, especially high school students, because they are afraid of being "wrong." We would also be robbing them of their creative, social persona if we meddled in that domain. It's difficult to break down the student - teacher barrier in the classroom, how is to be accomplished online? I personally would not like to be the one doing online patrol.
Would students post as much, especially if we force them to interact with each other as "friends?" Maranto and Barton claim that identities are created online. Sure, but are those identities 100% real? People always want to sound and seem awesome. I sometimes don't trust online identities, and for good reason because there are many impostors, as they mention. I don't like the idea of students showcasing their identities in a shared "F & M" classroom space where we'll be "cruisin' along cyberspace getting to know each other and our writing." Don't students deal with enough peer pressure and public censure in school? However, on the flip side, this could have a different effect because students might be more careful if they feel as if they were monitored. Whichever way, I think it would be difficult for the student to become totally comfortable in either situation.
I have one last quote to discuss from the Maranto and Barton article and I will leave it alone.
"High school and underprivileged students may seek membership on Facebook and similar sites for reasons beyond simply wanting to be “cool.” It’s entirely conceivable, for instance, that a high school senior may wish to befriend Facebook users who are currently attending her chosen college, and others might use them to learn how best to prepare themselves for the transition from secondary to higher education. Of course, this “other crowd” might simply want to create their own social networks and enjoy the same benefits enjoyed by the college students, yet our cultural norms still insist that anyone under eighteen years of age is irresponsible and ill-equipped." (41)
Isn't this ridiculous? I felt this was the weakest aspect of their argument, but sadly true. I do believe that if a student was to request someone from the college they wanted to attend, the college student would most likely accept just to increase the number of friends. I have a problem with the word "friend" on Facebook. I am not familiar with Myspace, so I'm not sure if it uses the same word to refer to acquaintances. Facebook has totally abused the word "friend." What does the word mean? Facebook is a way for people, that are acquaintances, to showcase themselves online. Most people you interact with on Facebook is people you are in regular correspondence with via email or phone. Everyone else is either an acquaintance or someone you don't know. Have you ever accepted someone as a friend that you barely knew, or didn't know at all? The list of "friends" can become a bit out of control. The number of friends people typically have are somewhere in the hundreds. Are all those people friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, or unknown people? What about the waiting period before you're accepted as someone's friend? It can be absolute torture! What if someone you don't want to accept request you? It's a gamble with people's emotions and online sanity.
I probably should stop there because I could go on and on about social networking. James Paul Gee's article discussion of "situating meaning" in the "domain" is more insightful than the Maranto and Barton article because he is more specific. The quote below provides a better understanding of possible rhetorical approaches to social networking.
"This issue of networking is deeply consequential for schooling. We have tended to ask very general questions about why some groups of people (e.g., certain minorities and lower socioeconomic groups) tend to do less well in school and to seek very general comparisons and contrasts between “home culture” and “school culture”. The framework I am developing here would suggest that we need also to ask how specific semiotic domains mastered (or not) locally in homes and communities, as well as in peer groups, relate to (or don’t relate to) specific semiotic domains encountered in school (e.g., types of science, art, music, math, etc.) and in society." (Gee 9)
Gee is always writing about the different discourses that is immersed in mainstream schooling. I think it's fascinating that he is sort of attempting a Bartholomew "Study of Error" stunt online. But, this is more specific to the relationship between networking and school. This approach suggests a more thorough research to help students improve in school using the sources available to them. Maranto and Barron might have been suggesting the same thing, but their argument seemed less organized to me. Gee has experience discussing struggles students face from different cultural and racial backgrounds. I don't agree with some of his arguments, but I think he did a better job articulating the kinds of relationships that would benefit students between learning and establishing a "semiotic domain." We could discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both articles in class.
Barton, Matt & Gina Maranto. "Paradox and Promise: MySpace, Facebook, and the Sociopolitics of Social Networking in the Writing Classroom." Computers and Composition 27 (2010) 36–47. Print.
Gee, James Paul. "Learning in Semiotic Domains: A Social and Situated Account." Literacies, Global, and Local. Philadelphia, PA: John Bejamins Publishing Co., 2008. Print.