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Twitter Activity Stream - 20% - 200 points

Everyone enrolled in ENGL328 this semester will participate in a distributed (which is to say "semester-long") writing assignment involving Twitter. Twitter is by now well known as a networked writing platform designed for users to write and post 140-character tweets, follow other Twitter users ("follow," as in, read their tweets, reply, etc.), and thoughtfully chronicle a gamut from everyday encounters, observations, insights, reading notes, online discoveries, and mundane life-annotations. Twitter users have adapted the platform for experiments in creative writing (e.g., tweeted novels, short fiction, and poetry, or "Twitterature"), marketing and public relations (e.g., branding, reputation building), news reporting (e.g., Iran elections), and more. Twitter is dismissed by some as mere chatter because its speed and immediacy opens it to a lot of trivial and casually-produced statements. But it is also consequential in the sense that it generates a real-time web made of written interchanges among affinity networks, networks established according to interests, friendships, and a variety of other purposes.


To get started, you will need to sign up for a free Twitter account. You can create one by following the instructions at Twitter.com. Select "Sign Up Now." If you aren't sure what to use as your Twitter alias, you can find out which ones are available at Tweexchange.com. Once you have established your Twitter account, you can try it out simply by writing something into the input box labeled, "What are you doing?"

What are you doing? The question extends a number of scenes: our course of study, other courses you are taking, campus experiences, curiosities and interests elsewhere, events and activities, and so on. You are welcome to write entries in your activity stream that match with any of these areas. If you refer to the checklist (available in class and in EMU Online), many tweets are prompted; your Twitter activity stream, is in this sense, somewhat structured in relationship to ENGL328. But you will also compose several tweets on your own terms. As you do so, you should continually think about the convergence of style and technology in these writing practices. What is style in the context of Twitter? How does one gain stylistic knowledge in this context? As an aspect of working with Twitter this semester, you will reflect on the convergence of style and technology later in the semester.

Read-Write in Real Time

Getting to know Twitter—a contemporary writing platform—from the inside requires that you not only to write but also that you read regularly, follow other Twitter users, and get acquanited with the interactions available to you where writers and readers converge. You and your classmates will be assembled into a group on Twitter, and you will be able to view and respond to everyone's tweets there. But you should also consider downloading a Twitter client, such as Tweetdeck, to help you toward a more robust experience with the platform. Following and reading other Twitter users on an almost daily basis will be vital to your success with your activity stream and the reflective essay that follows in April.

Twitter How-to

You will have questions as you proceed, and you can always bring those questions to class, share them in your twitter stream, or route them to me via email or direct message (DM). But you should also take full advantage of the resources available to you online, such as Twitter Help and Mashable.com's The Twitter Guide Book. Here is a list of the basics to help you get started with Twitter.

Twitter Shorthand - A Brief Guide for Writing and Coding Entries
The most obvious feature of Twitter, i.e., the feature people bring up again and again, is the 140-character length limit for individual tweets. It's true, tweets are limited to 140 characters. But you can easily sidestep this constraint by posting a series of tweets and then organizing those tweets by a hashtag or an ordinal instruction, such as (1/2) for the first item in the series and (2/2) for the second item.
- Use the AT symbol to refer to another Twitter user. Oftentimes, @username is used to establish conversation, to post a public reply to another user.
D - Adding 'D' to the beginning of a message creates a direct message. "D @username" sends a direct message (i.e., a private message) to an individual user.
RT - RT, or retweet, is a short form citation. Use it when you are re-posting a tweet from another user's activity stream.
# - #, or hashtag, allows you to tag an entry and thereby channel it into likely search clusters. #emu, for example, would make an entry more likely to be discovered by people who watch all "#emu" entries for tweets related to Eastern Michigan University.

This work is more or less self-paced, meaning you should plan to post as many as 8-10 tweets per week. The spirit of the assignment is to introduce you to a distributed, networked writing platform, and this cannot be accomplished in large bursts of writing (e.g., posting 20 updates in an hour four times this semester). Our schedule for this work is distributed so that your twitter stream will be evaluated for basic activity at least four different times before the deadline late in the semester when the checklist and essay are due.

A Cautionary Note About Sp@m
Depending upon the settings you choose for your Twitter account, you may receive follow requests from sp@mmers who want to follow you. That is, it is unfortunately common in Twitter to have an unknown user follow you, and in return, for you to feel like you should follow that person. Watch for requests from newer users who are following a large number of people but who do not have many followers themselves. Also, watch for users whose activity stream contains a lot of links to products and services. Oftentimes such users are marketing bots or others trying to generate a large following on the site.

System Outages
On rare occassion, Twitter will be down for maintenance or for other reasons, such as attempted hacks or heavy, system-wide usage. Usually when problems arise they will be acknowledged at the Twitter Blog. Outages are usually resolved within 24 hours, but they can be a minor nuissance, especially if you are working at the last minute before a deadline. For this reason, it is best to keep your activity stream as evenly distributed as possible. If, however, you experience problems with the system, please email me to explain what has happened.

Where Can I Find More General Twitter Activity?
You can click around at Twitter.com, of course, but you should also spend a few minutes getting to know sites like Twitterfall.com and Tweetscan.com. You might find guides like this one helpful as you get started. If you are interested in photography, you might want to check out Twitpic.com. TweetDeck and Twhirl are a couple of desktop clients for exploring Twitter. And if you find something to add here, please mention it, so we can add it here for everyone to check out.

Twitter Activity Stream - Guidelines and Evaluation

Your activity stream will be evaluated on a 4.0 scale, broken down as follows:

80 points - Eighty tweets between January 11 and March 31.
40 points - Twitter checklist (handout)
80 points - Reflective essay

Reflective Essay
In addition to the activity stream and checklist (120 points, or 12%), you will write a 1000-word essay (80 points, or 8%), that accounts for how you used Twitter this semester and how your uses of Twitter enriched your understanding of the interplay between technology and style. Your essay should also account for the ways you have sought on your own terms to explore dimensions of the platform and, as well, for how your writing activity in this space has amounted to reputation building (i.e., deliberatively constructing a particular presence in Twitter). You are strongly encouraged to begin the essay with a Wordle.net image showing the most frequently recurring terms in your comprehensive Twitter stream. Added: Tweetcloud may be an even better option for capturing your activity stream in the form of a tag cloud. Your essay may incorporate some discussion of surprises in the Wordle or Tweetcloud--either because of high frequency, low frequency, or absence altogether. The reflective essay is due to the EMU Online digital dropbox on Wed., April 7 and the checklist will also be evaluated at that time.

Instructions for Monday, January 11
1. Visit twitter.com and sign up for an account.
2. Search for user "twittorician." Follow twittorician.
3. Post your first update to your Twitter account. In the "What Are You Doing?" input box, enter a tweet that announces your arrival.
5. Before you leave class, write your Twitter alias (username) on the sign-in sheet circulated in class.

How Do I Follow Classmates' Activity Streams?
The best way to keep tabs on classmates' tweets is to download and install a third-party client, such as Tweetdeck. As an alternative you can regularly visit the group set up here.
Finally, you should visit the individual Twitter pages and follow each of your classmates. Here's how:
1. Log in to Twitter.com.
2. Visit this page and click on a given user's alias (listed below).
3. At their Twitter page, select "follow."
4. That's it: Their entries from people you follow will show up when you look at your own Twitter.com page.

11 a.m. Section Twitter Account Initial Idea for Project One
Stephen leettwee The Hip Hop Elements of Style
Carly carly_ash The Biggest Loser Elements of Style
Ashley ashley_bartley The O.C. Elements of Style
Blake blakeberry516 The Beavis and Butthead Elements of Style
Josh C. coudret The Killers Elements of Style
Kay kaycraw6 ---
Jill jillybean803 The Jersey Shore Elements of Style
Katelyn kate_hadyniak The Dance 2XS Elements of Style
Meagan wenightswam The Modest Mouse Elements of Style
Kelsea lackof_interest The South Park Elements of Style
Brock brockma8 The Seinfeld Elements of Style
Allison iamnoodle110 The America's Next Top Model Elements of Style
Jon jreece2 The Office Elements of Style
Rebecca periwinkleMJ The Bluth Family's Elements of Style
Elizabeth mouzaka The Mary Tyler Moore Show Elements of Style
Josh S. jds0789 ---
Andrew DokRobot The Battlestar Galactica Elements of Style
Alex als018 The Jersey Shore Elements of Style
Crystal twitt3r4engl The Whose Line Is It Anyway? Elements of Style
Tisha tisha2974 The Bill O'Reilly Elements of Style

2 p.m. Section Twitter Account Initial Idea for Project One
Emily noxiousburrito The Anthony Bourdain Elements of Style
Kylie kyliesaurus_rex The Dexter Morgan Elements of Style
Saad sadsaad750 The American Idol Elements of Style
Joshua jd1020 The Pearl Jam Elements of Style
Karina kmg319 The Harry Potter Elements of Style
Brittaney brittyrose9 The Twilight Elements of Style
Melissa melissalovessid The Fight Club Elements of Style
Kathryn kathrynhotton The Snatch Elements of Style
Collette colettekathleen The True Blood Elements of Style
Tyler tylerrkane The Big Lebowski Elements of Style
Kaitlyn kaitykrontz ---
Cynthia cyn8980 ---
Laurel emuteacher2be The Grey's Anatomy Elements of Style
Alex apnkwcz The Story of the Eye Elements of Style
Steven jwalkerred86 ---
Brenden brepeter The Edgar Allen Poe Elements of Style
Ashley ashley10201989 The Coca-Cola Elements of Style
Erin estrat The Oatmeal Elements of Style
Lance lvought The Three Days Grace Elements of Style
Brittanie dointhis4eng328 The House Elements of Style

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Office: 612M Pray-Harrold
Winter 2010 office hours: MW, 10-11 a.m., Tu., 9-Noon, and by appointment
Phone: (315) 708-3940 (cell)


"Neither The Elements of Style nor any other style book can be the definitive text on writing in every genre or media." —ENGL328 student, Fall 2009

"We concentrate on utility at the expense of joie de vivre. And we then wonder, as de Tocqueville prophesied we would, why life has lost its savor" (19). —Richard Lanham, Style: An Anti-textbook

"Let us collectively raise the level of discourse online. What starts as a relentless tide of simple-minded chatter resembles the most perfect wave of literary turbulence under the right conditions" (89). —Dom Sagolla, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form

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