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[ The #9ine Collaborative ]
Rhetoric and Composition Doctoral Program Professional Writing + Emerging Media Emerging Media Initiative

“Practice is always dynamic, arising as a way to mediate between processes and the circumstances in which they are enacted. The reason to study practice is to understand how this dynamic mediation takes place.” ~ Dourish, 2001 What follows are studies of embodied, everyday practices—public, sociotechnical writing practices. This collaborative white paper includes four brief qualitative case studies—microstudies—from researchers in the Rhetoric and Composition doctoral program and the Professional Writing + Emerging Media undergraduate program at Ball State University. One of the primary aims of these microstudies is to increase attention to the ways in which writing technologies are situated in the lived practices of the everyday—in web browsers, on smart phones, and via SMS. All of the studies take a microanalytical approach to examine a specific writing technology: microblogging. Looking at rather than through this technology (Haas, 1996), we examine individual, particular cases to learn more about the ways that writing and/as technology function(s) in peoples’ everyday lives. Our findings shed light on the specific ways that users position themselves online—in the classroom, in relationships, and in the world. Deliberately small in scale, these studies introduce a starting point for further research into pervasive forms of writing work, hopefully raising some interesting questions for ongoing scholarship of dynamic mediation in practice.

Emily Crist Brian McNely Jason Parks Stephanie Hedge Melissa Ditty Sarah Luttenbacher

To cite this White Paper: Crist, E., McNely, B., Parks, J., Hedge, S., Ditty, M., & Luttenbacher, S. (2011). Microstudies of Microblogging. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.


[ TABLE OF CONTENTS ] Introduction “Microstudies of Microblogging”…………………………………………………….….4 Study 1 “Temporality in the Twitterverse”……………………………………………………….6 Study 2 Study 3

“A Twitter Identity”……………………………………………………………………..10 “A Tale of Two Twitters”……………………………………………………………….14

Study 4 “Education Redefined: Twitter Use in the Classroom”…………………………………21 Future Directions …………………………………………………………………………….25 Annotated Bibliography……………………………………………………………………..26


[ Microstudies of Microblogging ]
In an April 2011 blog post about the kinds of intelligent interaction one might expect to see on Facebook, Nicholas Carr, frequent proponent of the distraction trope, cited a study suggesting that the world’s most popular social networking site (SNS) might be “geared to dullards.” It’s an interesting study, one that explores “the associations between SNS and personality traits,” and it’s certainly an area that warrants detailed consideration from researchers in a variety of fields. But as Carr tells it, the study relies exclusively on survey data—436 surveys of college students in 2010. Moreover, the study doesn’t explicitly probe Facebook use at all; Carr says parenthetically that “Given what we know about college students’ social networking in 2010, it can be assumed that the bulk of the [SNS] activity consisted of Facebook use.” This is perhaps a commonsense assumption, but it’s a troubling assumption nonetheless. I wonder how much more we might understand about students’ personality traits and their SNS use by actually following them around for a while, by developing much richer instruments for gauging how and why they use particular social network sites (Facebook et al.). Might we learn more about their personality this way? More than we might from a survey alone? Currently, many of the most cited articles about SNS activity are similar in scope and method to the study that Carr describes in his post. In particular, approaches to studying Twitter frequently deploy quantitative methods for understanding practices and trends in microblogging (see, for example: Naaman, Becker, and Gravano, 2011; Starbird, Palen, Hughes, and Vieweg, 2010; Naaman, Boase, and Lai, 2010; Leskovec, Backstrom, and Kleinberg, 2009; and Kwak, Lee, Park, and Moon 2010). While these studies are tremendously valuable for revealing general patterns in large samples of Twitter activity, they are far less successful in providing the kind of rich detail called for by Kaptelinin and Nardi (2006) and other researchers taking phenomenological, activity theory approaches (see, for example, Nardi and O’Day, 1999; Dourish, 2001; and Spinuzzi, 2003, 2008). These studies consider “the doing of the activity in a rich social matrix of people and artifacts,” grounding complex analyses of people acting with technology in meaningful, often idiosyncratic ways (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2006, p. 9). In order to develop thick descriptions of how people actually use social network sites in their everyday lives, we need richly detailed and varied studies conducted with well-triangulated qualitative methods that explore people acting with technology in situ. We need microstudies of micropractices—the small, sometimes ephemeral and interstitial movements that people make—often through writing—many times each day in social networking sites. Of course, such approaches to the often mundane, everyday activity of human life are nothing new. Design firm IDEO is well known for hiring anthropologists as part of human-centered design teams that study how people actually use the objects produced by their clients. Their approaches are frequently ethnographic, with team members keenly observing and interacting with subjects to better understand everyday contexts of use and practice. Beyer and Holtzblatt (1998) developed a methodology called contextual inquiry for doing similar kinds of work in organizations. These approaches may be especially appropriate for studies of SNS activity. For example, Stacey Pigg’s recently defended doctoral work is a notable example of this kind of rich, in situ research. Among the benefits of qualitative methods of studying SNS activity include a better understanding of localized practices—how real people perform ad hoc, often idiosyncratic interstitial writing work, the stuff that’s hard to track and understand when using only survey instruments or when scraping millions of random, public tweets using the Twitter firehose. Everyday practices are often phatic and affective, sentiments that can only truly be gauged and understood by interacting with actual users in rich contexts.


Here at Ball State University, in the Rhetoric and Composition Doctoral Program and the undergraduate program in Professional Writing and Emerging Media, we’re conducting microstudies of microblogging and other forms of networked writing, using qualitative and mixed-methods approaches to data collection and analysis in order to develop rich profiles of SNS activity. Our 2011 #9ine Collaborative is comprised of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers interested in exploring the fascinating micropractices of everyday SNS use. Microstudies may be short—like the four detailed in this white paper—but they may also be in-depth, longitudinal studies that generate conceptual structures about writing activity and human-computer interaction by closely following the networked writing activity of participants in their everyday environments. The first three explorations that follow may be considered pilot studies; graduate students in our program carried out microstudies of microblogging by focusing first and foremost on building conceptual structures about Twitter activity—coding and analyzing manageable, often comparative samples of tweets. Jason Parks considers themes of movement, temporality, and narrative while examining a small corpus of tweets from a select group of users. Emily Crist and Stephanie Hedge each explore themes of identity and microblogging; Crist looks at the relationship between profile building and the enactment of that profile in practice, while Hedge’s approach is autoethnographic, describing in detail the differences between professional and more personal Twitter identities. Melissa Ditty and Sarah Luttenbacher, undergraduate researchers in our Professional Writing program, conducted a small-scale qualitative study of Twitter use in the classroom. Emily Crist concludes this white paper with some thoughts on the value of microstudies in SNS; she also offers an annotated bibliography of sources that might be useful to researchers embarking on their own microstudies of microblogging. We welcome your feedback, and we eagerly look forward to more microstudies of SNS activity… Brian J. McNely, Ph.D.


[ Temporality in the Twitterverse ]
The following study will consider the affordances and constraints of Twitter as a writing technology in relation to theories of temporality and narrative, particularly the work of Paul Ricoeur. In particular, I am interested in exploring the design of the Twitter website and the flow of content in individual user tweets in order to understand how users perceive, enact, and construct time in the Twitterverse. By exploring the temporalities of Twitter, researchers may be able to better explain how writers and readers interact with this emerging technology. In fact, if we are able to understand how time is constructed and represented on Twitter, we may also be able to answer larger questions about how emerging writing technologies are affecting human consciousness. These studies also have application, I believe, for students of narrative theory. While this short study cannot fully explain the relationship between Ricoeur’s theories of time and narrative, and the way that time functions on Twitter (and in the minds of its users), I hope to raise some questions and avenues for further research.

Unlike other print and digital writing technologies, Twitter—and its users—are always in motion. Depending on the number of people or organizations one follows, and the frequency of those person’s tweets, one may encounter a very disorienting digital vertigo, at least initially. Every few seconds, new tweets pop up, altering what information is visible and, depending on the content of the tweet, the mood of the entire page. At any given moment, one may receive a silly joke about puppies and, in the next tweet, learn about an atrocious crime that was just committed in Darfur. Hence, readers must constantly make a choice about which tweet to consider and when to respond. While the emotional vertigo is not the main concern of this study, I sense that the juxtaposition and speed at which tweets appear and disappear on the page is incredibly important to how our minds negotiate with this information overload to construct cogent narratives. As Ricoeur (1980) states, “Narrativity and temporality are closely related. . .a language game, and a form of life” (p. 169). Hence, one way of examining Twitter and temporality is to think of a series of tweets as an emerging narrative. Whether we consciously choose to see tweets this way, the design of the medium— particularly the linear timekeeping enacted on the website—forces readers to consider the temporal unfolding of a series of tweets. Thus, I’d like to consider an inversion of Ricoeur’s statement and propose that temporality is closely related to narrativity as well. So, as we examine twitter’s temporalities, we must also see the narratives that emerge as a result of the design. When I first started using Twitter, I followed a variety of users, including humanitarian organizations, professional athletes, journalists, and scholars. The flood of information, however, was overwhelming. For example, one organization I decided to follow, New Congo News, posted 56 tweets in a four-hour period. What I soon realized was that this organization had pulled a variety of feeds and links from various places on the web and then channeled them into Twitter. Although this case was the most extreme, it caused a lot of problems as I tried to sift through the information and scroll down to Tweets from individual users. So, I quickly reduced my list and tried to be more selective about my choices of whom to follow. Even then, however, it took me a while to understand what might be important, whose tweets to respond to, and how and when I should respond. One of the most confusing parts was trying to figure out whether I should take time to formulate replies, or just reply to whatever information was on the screen at that instant. Now, six weeks later, I’m still trying to get a handle on the speed of information.


Designing Time
One way I’ve started to understand Twitter is by looking more closely at its design. Particularly, I have been paying more attention to the visual feedback that twitter offers its users to help them know when a tweet has been posted, which, in turn, helps to signal the beginnings and endings of various conversations. Each of these conversations may also be considered mini narratives. In The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman describes the relationship between design and memory. In chapter three, “Knowledge in the Head and In the World,” Norman offers an overview of the basic psychological understanding of how memory functions and the way that knowledge “in the world” and “in the head” helps us perform everyday tasks (p. 79). Through its design, Twitter offers its users a number of “in the world” options for managing the constant stream of information; and, as a result, leads us to organize this information in a space of hyper-awareness of temporality. One way that Twitter provides “external storage” is through the way that it draws readers attention to time. One of the most direct ways that Twitter projects a linear model of time is through the vertical stacking of tweets. The vertical design allows the most recent tweet to be at the top of the list, helping (leading) readers to discern when tweets were written, and, thus, providing a visual representation of when the events also occurred. Appropriately enough, the tab at the top of your current tweet list is called the Timeline. A problem with this representation; however, is that the size of the text box is always the same, and, regardless of the time between tweets, the separation from one tweet to the next is also always identical. I’m not sure exactly how the time between tweets might be construed differently, but this current design makes it impossible to differentiate the time between tweets in a visual manner, which, according to Norman, would be a major weakness in the design. Another way that tweets indicate time is via a time indicator at the bottom of each tweet. Every individual tweet includes a time indicator just beneath the text of the tweet. These indicators are always updated and based upon the present moment in which one is using Twitter, unless, of course, the tweets are more than a day old. Then, they get archived according to date.

Ten Minutes Ago? Might as well be ten years ago?
Journalist Nicholas Kristof ’s tweet tells readers exactly when he shared this information on Twitter. Thus, one is given a signal as to whether his comments are ripe for response, or if he has already moved on to something completely different. If the tweet does seem to be “outdated,” which, in my understanding of Twitter, means that it has been posted for more than an hour or two, then I also have the option of marking the tweet as a favorite, where it will be stored for as long as I want in a separate location, which I can then reconsider at a later time. Having the ability to mark a tweet as a favorite is quite significant. In particular, it allows you to pause a potential conversation, stopping time. Once a tweet is marked as a favorite, users still have the option of retweeting or replying to that tweet at a later time as well. When you do retweet, however, the original tweet is now reintroduced into the real time stream. Thus, we have a recursive experience of reentering a past event (tweet) back into the present timeline for our followers and ourselves.


TEMPORAL TWEETS Aside from the vertical stack of boxes (the Timeline) and the time indicator, time is also constantly acknowledged and recorded by Twitter users in their tweets. Despite the fact that Twitter provides the time indicator, many users tend to use tweets to report to readers their locations and various times of the day and week in which they are tweeting. I have decided to call these tweets “temporal tweets.” Three examples of “temporal tweets” include when someone: a) reports on his/her current location (CL) b) announces the time of day or an event that indicates the time of day (i.e dinner, tv show, bed time) (TD) c) comments on the day or time of someone else’s tweet (OT) After coding a series of tweets from four avid users that I follow, I have collected samples, grouped, and labeled each of these tweets below: CURRENT LOCATIONS (CL) Now boarding flight to Dallas. Bye DC. –Clay Spinuzzi (CL) I got here ok in Edinburgh!!! Just chilling out the hotel befor dinner... Yeeeeezzzzzzz!! –Mo Farah (CL) At the airport waiting for my food in Cafe Rouge... We were too late for eggs benedict! – MO Farah (CL) On the bus. I don't recognize the driver, but he is very friendly. –Clay Spinuzzi (CL) TIME OF DAY (TD) Thanks everyone for wishing me good luck tomorrow!! Off 2 bed now! Its still snowing out there..!! Good night!! Yeeezzzz” –Mo Farah (TD) Laughing at Modern Family. –Elizabeth Imafuji (TD) Sunrise today 7:43am (I'm a little behind) –Noelle Pullium (TD) COMMENTS ON TIME OF TWEETS (OT) That was a late post. Ouch! –Elizabeth Imafuji (OT) Oh my days bro..... What u doin up this time?????!!!!!! –Mo Farah@Colin Nell (OT)

What each of the tweets in this sample reveals is a hyperconsciousness of temporality on twitter. In part, this is engendered by the design. Twitter pages change rapidly, presenting readers with new information


often before they have time to process the present information. Furthermore, every aspect of a Twitter page is centered around constantly repositioning ideas (tweets) from one place to another, whether that is in the form of a retweet, a favorite, or simply watching old tweets disappear into archives while new ones pop up. Based on some emerging trends in the content of tweets, it seems that Twitter makes its readers constantly aware of intersecting narratives. We are made aware of events as they happen, in multiple locations, and we are encouraged to react and respond immediately. While we do have the option of saving tweets in a favorites folder for later replies, the ratio of tweets to favorites is immensely skewed. Of the thousands of tweets that have crossed through my timeline in the past six weeks, I’ve added merely a handful to my favorites. If you’re going to use Twitter, it seems, you have to be ready to keep up with the pace. While I’m still trying to get a handle on all of the temporalities of Twitter, I’m curious to see how it will impact my own awareness of time. In particular, I’m curious to see if I will start marking and forming my sense of temporality around the conversations and interactions I have within the Twitterverse. While this short study of four Twitter users over the course of three weeks may not reveal any substantial evidence yet, I believe that more research on the temporalities of Twitter needs to be done. In fact, by studying the temporalities of Twitter, I believe that narrative theory as well as rhetorical studies could benefit immensely. Jason Parks


[ a twitter identity ]
Technology vastly influences the ways in which humans interact with each other, themselves, and the external world. In Writing Technologies (1996), Haas explains the ways in which technologies “saturate the world of everyday activity” and argues that “[i]t is vital to understand the technologies and artifacts used in any human practice—from navigation to shopping to engineering—because the heritage of any given practice is carried in its technologies” (p. 45). Put simply, fully examining, or looking at, a technology surrounding an activity lets us more fully understand two things: the way the practice is shaped by technology and the way that technology is shaped by the practice. With an emphasis on how humans engage with these technologies, it is important to “consider the human use of technology within a wider context of human interaction with the world: an interaction mediated by technology (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006, p. 74). Technology, then, does not provide a transparent space, simplifying but not changing human activity, nor does it solely account for change in an action. Rather, both the practice and the technology shape and change human interaction and processes. A relatively recent writing technology, Twitter has quickly become widely implemented throughout the world, constantly and conveniently allowing for the human practices of communication and selfexpression. As a public domain, Twitter also shapes the ways that users go about these practices. As humans act with this technology based upon its design, their behaviors further conclude how the system functions within their daily life. Dourish (2001) argues that “systems come to be ‘appropriated’ by their users and are put to work within particular patterns of practice” and suggests that the importance of a system lies not in “what the system can do, but rather, what it really does do for people in the course of doing their work” (p. 133). While a technology’s affordances and constraints set the preliminary stages for interaction with it, a full understanding of this action cannot be complete without actual user contact. Users appropriate these systems in ways consistent with their desired outcomes. The public nature of social networking systems requires users to act with the technology based on the ways in which they desire to represent themselves in social situations. In this study, I am particularly interested in looking at the ways in which the technology and its affordances shape user interaction and persona.

In 160 characters or less
Although I have been a member of Facebook for quite a few years, I never joined Twitter. I rarely posted Facebook status updates and saw Twitter as a glorified offshoot of Facebook’s Wall. Because I did not engage with Facebook in this way, I assumed I would have no interest in Twitter. Upon eventually joining Twitter, much of my typical behavior remained unchanged. I fully interacted with the technology, following different people and organizations, regularly reading what they would post. Yet as much as I enjoyed following the remarks of others, I rarely posted myself. Suddenly I realized my online persona was lacking. In fact, it was downright boring.


So, I decided to attempt a change. To begin, I would create a profile. This could be done, like the posts themselves, through a predetermined character limit set by the network’s design. Describing oneself in this limited space of 160 characters proved somewhat difficult. As I began to formulate my own profile, I realized how carefully I decided what information to include. Because Twitter only allowed a description of 160 characters, it was essential to pick and choose identification information with care. As I created my Bio, I had to think about the way in which I wanted to represent myself in this online community. I knew who followed me and thought about the types of material that I communicated to these people. Therefore, my persona was physically shaped in length by Twitter’s material constraints while formatted around Twitter’s environment and the ways in which I chose to interact with it.

Affordances: the Bigger Picture
As the previous process shows, much of the way in which we interact with a technology is determined by the technology itself. Norman (1988) describes the affordances of a design as “the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used” (p. 9). These affordances, which allow certain types of behavior, are then influenced by an object’s constraints. Norman distinguishes these constraints as natural constraints that physically limit operations and cultural constraints that socially influence behaviors (p. 55).

The study
In applying this theory to the design of Twitter, I began to look the ways these constraints affected the profiles of other users. Because user’s profiles were constrained to 160 characters and were created solely for their Twitter interactions, I wanted to examine what users chose to include in their profiles and how/if these choices were reflected in their tweets. Did the choices made in their profile shape their Twitter persona? How did the technology, its affordances and its constraints influence the ways in which users created an identity? To begin, I examined the profiles and tweets of three Twitter users: one, a fellow student whom I chose to follow; two, a professor and researcher who was suggested for me to follow; and three, a celebrity whom I chose to follow. These specific users all included information on their profiles and tweeted regularly. In choosing individuals from three different social groups, I hoped to see distinctive and perhaps individualized engagement with Twitter. Was it for pleasure, professional development, branding? Did their profiles support these interactions?

Codes, codes, and more codes
After viewing the users’ profiles, I created categories for each element within the profile, a “combination” category for tweets that fell in between two areas and an “other” category for all tweets that I could not place in an exact section. Then, using these categories, I coded all tweets from February 1 until February


22. I found the following results: USER 1 PROFILE CATEGORY Wife Mother Reader Writer Professor Gardener Coffee Drinker Combination Other User 1 included seven different categories within her Twitter profile and had a total of forty-eight tweets. Of these forty-eight, twenty were clearly related to her profile. Of the remaining twenty-eight tweets, many dealt with her work as a graduate student. Although I knew that many of these comments involved reading and writing, I placed them in the ‘Other’ category, as she did not specifically include ‘Student’ as a part of her profile. This user clearly used Twitter for many different things, but mostly as a social, communicative tool. When she did tweet about professional issues, they were generally in conversational ways to friends or colleagues. She seemed comfortable tweeting about her family, hobbies, and activities in this network. TWEETS 2 2 2 1 7 2 2 2 28 USER 2 PROFILE CATEGORY Professor Research Technology Bus Rides Combination Other User 2 identified himself as a professor in his profile and explicitly stated that he tweets about research, technology and his bus rides. His tweets totaled 404, and 185 of these clearly fell into his profile persona. As I coded this data, I realized that many of his @replies may have revolved around these categories, but if they did not explicitly mention so, I placed them in the ‘Other’ category. Although I feel this influenced my numbers, it was still very clear that this user acts with Twitter to build his persona within his professional field. Although he did include information about his daily activities, such as his bus rides, the majority of this information still dealt with his profession and his research interests. More personal tweets included day-to-day observations and preferences, such as music choices, but did not discuss family or more private emotions. TWEETS 22 23 73 61 6 219 USER 3 PROFILE CATEGORY Chef New Yorker Combination Other User 3, the celebrity, included only two categories in his profile: chef and native New Yorker. He had a total of thirty-two tweets and twenty-six of them clearly matched his profile. Interestingly enough, he had no tweets referencing his identity as a New Yorker. As a vast majority of his tweets revolved around his profession as a chef, User 3 clearly uses Twitter to promote himself as a celebrity chef and his restaurants around the country. No personal information that did not involve his profession was included. TWEETS 21 0 5 6

Upon examining my data, I found that 42% of User 1’s tweets, 46% of User 2’s tweets, and 81% of User 3’s tweets clearly matched the categories that they created within their profiles.


While these findings do suggest that a good portion of their interactions with Twitter support their created persona, I feel that my data was influenced by several factors. I experienced difficulties coding many of the @replies into their appropriate category because I could not clearly tell what they were referencing. When this happened, I placed them in the ‘Other’ category, which may have adversely affected my numerical results. If I were to enlarge this study, I would take the time to produce more intricate codes that could help me to include many of these comments into their specific categories. Despite these coding issues, this study clearly demonstrates that the constraints of Twitter do indeed influence users’ interactions with it. In creating a profile of 160 characters, users must create an identity affected by both natural and, as this is a public medium, social constraints. This online persona reveals intentions of users to interact with the technology in a certain way. What they choose to include within this profile plays a substantial role in the type of information that they communicate through Twitter. As a writing technology, Twitter clearly provides a framework within which users shape their written communication in a certain way. Emily Crist


[ A Tale of Two Twitters ]
It was the best of tweets, it was the worst of tweets...

Systems and Networks: Situating Twitter Between Public and Private
In Writing Technology (1996), Haas says “a technology is not an object, but rather a vital system that is bound to the world of time and space” (p. xii). Haas here is arguing for an investigation of writing as/and technology that situates technologies in lived contexts and as parts of complex systems. She points to the need to investigate technologies as they are embodied, saying “[q]uestions of technology always and inescapably return to the material, embodied reality of literate practice” (p. xv). Haas points out that technologies are embedded in systems that are instituted in lived practices, and investigations of writing and technology should start with this embodied practice. Twitter, as a writing technology is always already situated in complex systems and networks while it simultaneously supports and creates those networks. Twitter is interesting because of the ways that it collapses boundaries between public and private, and the ways the networks it is enmeshed within afford this collapse. As danah boyd (2009) points out, the rise of social media technologies has led to a “blurring of public and private. These distinctions are normally structured around audience and context... These distinctions are much harder to manage when you have to contend with the shifts in how the environment is organized”(p.7). The binary between public and private is shifting and hard and fast distinctions between what is considered public and what is private are increasingly difficult to make. The networks in which Twitter is entrenched allow for and engage with this collapse between public and private, and I investigate here some of the ways that Twitter affords this collapse. This brief paper investigates the ways I, as a Twitter user, move between two Twitter profiles, and the affordances of Twitter as a writing technology, unpacking public vs private communication through notions of audience and networked communication. This paper situates myself as both researcher and user in the centre of activity, looking at my own engagement with and interpretation of a six week stretch on Twitter, engaging in what Haas calls “embodied practice” (p. 37) through looking at Twitter in use.

Evolution of a Twitter Profile
A Brief History My first Twitter profile, @PopCulture1 was created in January 2009 as a way to follow several actors I was interested in at the time. It took me several weeks to send my first tweet, and it wasn’t until I posted my Twitter name on my LiveJournal account that I gained any followers. At that point, I began to engage in some back and forth conversation with several of my friends across media. Unlike LiveJournal, which supports long-form blogging, Twitter allowed my friends and I to have back and forth conversations that could be asynchronous, which allowed for less time commitment than a synchronous chat. I slowly began to follow other sites where I was a consistent commenter, linking, for example, my profile on to my Twitter account. I began to follow both the writers of sites I followed, like, as well as following other commenters that I frequently communicated with. Although
1 I spent some time thinking about whether or not I was going to share my alternate Twitter name, and decided against it. As you’ll see, I view my @PopCulture Twitter profile as private and would like my information to remain so. Therefore, I’ll be using @PopCulture to refer to that Twitter account.


I would consider many of the people I talk to through this Twitter profile to be friends, I have not met very many of them in person. Despite the fact that my Twitter profile is linked to my other profiles across varied web-spaces, it is not connected to my real name or any accounts that connect back to my “real life”. I first received tweets via iPhone, but when I moved to the States my phone was incompatible with American networks, and I ended up with a cheap pay-as-you-go phone that doesn’t support posting to Twitter. Although I still get tweets sent to my phone, any conversation takes place entirely on my computer. I use Tweet-Deck occasionally, although given my web habits it makes more sense for me to keep a tab in Firefox perpetually open to my profile. My second Twitter profile, @slhedge was created January 13th 2011 specifically for a Writing Technologies class. I was initially uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to use the @PopCulture Twitter for the class, but I decided that I wanted to create a “professional” Twitter - one that would support academic pursuits and would avoid crossover from my private identity into my academic one. I decided to use my real name in my username, using the same combination that my BSU email address does to promote crossover. I use my Just the Facts: full name and actual location and my profile mentions that I am graduate student at BSU. The six weeks that make up this brief study span January 13th 2011 to Feburary 21st 2011 There is very little crossover between the two profiles. at 4pm. The only identifying feature the two share is the avatar - a cartoon of a Bat-Penguin. In those six weeks, I sent 889 tweets from @PopCulture and 250 from @slhedge. My At first, I had trouble navigating between my two @slhedge profile has 26 followers and is Twitter profiles. I would have one open at a time on my following 52 people. My @PopCulture profile computer, and at first would post similar kinds of has sent a total of 22, 434 tweets, has 126 things to either Twitter. For example, on January 18th I followers and is following 187 people. sent 4 tweets responding to the show Million Dollar Money Drop from my @slhedge profile, as that was the profile I had open at the time. This is the kind of activity typically posted to the @PopCulture Twitter. However, shortly after that date I began keeping separate browsers open with a Twitter profile open in each. Follow(ers)(ing) @PopCulture follows people/ websites/ groups that discuss pop culture almost exclusively. Even the few followers I have on that profile that I have met in real life, I met online first through discussion boards, communities or chat centered around discussion of pop culture. Some examples of people I follow on this profile are @avclub and all of the writers at The AV Club, @cracked and all of the columnists for, @neilhimself (author Neil Gaiman), @wilw (actor Wil Wheaton), @God-Damned_Batman and other “joke accounts that post in character, @netflix_instant, an account that posts new titles that have been added to Netflix Instant, and @Stephenathome, Stephen Colbert’s account. The people that follow me tend to be friends that I know from other social spaces like LiveJournal. We often carry over conversations from one place to another - for example, many of us will have back and forth conversations about the show Supernatural while it is airing, then we will move to LiveJournal to post longer episode reviews. I often engage with the writers on my favorite sites; for example, I have frequent discussions with a writer for a pop culture website about bad movies, and our conversations sometimes continue in the comment sections of his reviews.


@slhedge follows people that I either know personally in a professional, academic capacity, people in the field, or other groups/ people related to BSU or teaching. Examples of people that I follow include faculty and classmates at BSU, @spinuzzi, @rmhoward (Comp/Rhet scholar Rebecca Moore Howard), @zephoria (dana boyd), @designrelated, @ProfHacker and @bsuenglish (the account for the BSU English department). The people that have followed me back tend to be people I know in person already, like faculty or colleagues. The conversations that I have tend to be with people I know in meat-space - for example, while I have back and forth conversations with actors on my @PopCulture account, I rarely @reply anyone from @slhedge unless I know them.

Comics: A brief example to highlight difference between the two profiles would be my engagement with comics across the two profiles. @PopCulture follows 8 different profiles who are all producers of webcomics. @slhedge follows @scottmccloud, one of the germinal thinkers on comics theory. The difference between the two is the difference between consumption and discussion of pop culture and the explicit academics and theorizing of the same.

Although Twitter has the capability to list the people I follow and therefore allow me to separate the pop culture people and the academic, my tweets and conversations would still be visible to all of my followers. Adding academic followers to my pop culture Twitter would mean that my tweets would be public to all followers. Private vs. Public The rest of this paper will investigate the ways Twitter is both public and private, and my own understanding of the ways my profiles are both public and private. As boyd says, the binary between public and private is collapsing with the rise of social media, and I will look at the ways Twitter as a writing technology affords this collapse. The largest difference I see between my two accounts is the way I view the @PopCulture profile as private, despite the fact that both profiles are set to the same privacy setting. All of my tweets go out to the Internet in the same way, and both profiles have the same level of security. However, the disconnect between my “real life” identity and my @PopCulture profile mean that I view those tweets as private. Although they may be viewed by any number of audiences, they cannot be connected back to my lived experiences and therefore seem less public. Conversely, my @slhedge profile was created to be explicitly public. It is connected to my real name and institutional affiliation, and my tweets are to both fellow students and other scholars in my field. There is a distinct difference between the public nature of the two profiles in my head, which influences the writing I do for each. The Grid of Intimacy In a 2010 interview with, Shirky discusses the “grid of intimacy”, pointing to the fact that “the desire for intimacy in a largely dissociated environment... created a demand that made the Internet.” Shirky says that networked TV managed to create a grid of intimacy that encompassed 10 million viewers - everyone watching the same thing and creating shared social experiences. This intimacy is the fundamental difference I see between the two Twitter accounts I use: one is predicated on a personal intimacy with the people I know and work with while being situated in a scholastic context that defrays intimacy. The other account attempts to create an intimacy with strangers/ the Internet at large through shared social experiences - for example, tweeting throughout an episode of a show.


Twitter and the Information Network Hashtags One of the ways that Twitter maintains and creates networks is through the use of hashtags. Users add a word or words after a #, which makes all tweets on a particular topic immediately searchable. Hashtags are a way of making tweets public to a larger audience beyond those already following you. My use of hashtags varies widely across the two accounts, which demonstrates the differences between the audiences of my two profiles and the ways that I choose to interact between them. I rarely use hashtags in my @PopCulture profile. Of 46 hashtags used, 37 of them are #Supernatural, the hashtag for a show I watch on Friday nights. 25 of those were sent in a single night when myself and several other Twitter users decided to see if we could make #Supernatural a trending topic. Although I frequently discuss the show, I rarely use the hashtag, as I am not attempting to be part of a larger conversation. I don’t care if my tweets can be found by others beyond my list of followers - most of my tweets are specifically to the people I know on my list. The other 9 hashtags were used stylistically to emphasize a point. For example, I use the tag #stilloncampus when Direct Messaging complaining about long hours kept on campus, and not as a way to connect I found that I was using the Direct Messaging function far more with a larger audience. Conversely, my @slhedge profile is far more invested in joining larger conversations. I sent 15 tweets that included hashtags, 12 of which referenced the hashtag of our #9ine collaborative. There was a much lower incidence of “joke” tags, including one when working on a class assignment (#grumpy). Although the higher numbers of using a hashtag that speaks to a large group is due in part to the stipulations of the class and the necessity of using Twitter, I am far more invested in the ways that my tweets reach a larger audience. The ways I use hashtags to engage with a larger system/ network demonstrates some of the ways Twitter as a technology challenges the binary between public and private space. @replies and conversation
often on my academic Twitter. In the six weeks, there were 58 DM’s from @slhedge to 6 different people (a significant percentage of my mutual followers), whereas my @Popculture profile had 6 DM’s to only two different people.

The direct messages from @PopCulture were both sending my phone number to people I was meeting up with so they could text/call, as my phone doesn’t support tweeting. However, the DM’s from @slhedge were much more broad, typically commenting on events in class that we didn’t want everyone to be able to read. As my @PopCulture profile is not connected to my lived identity, I find that I am far freer in the types of comments I am comfortable making - I don’t care if comments about my sex life, for example, are made public because those comments cannot be connected back to Stephanie Hedge. However, I am wary of the kinds of comments that are made on my @slhedge profile, and wary of who is watching that profile. For example, a fellow classmate and I were discussing comments made by another member of our pedagogy class and we wanted to keep our thoughts private. I am less concerned about who is watching my @PopCulture profile, and therefore rarely use the DM function. As Twitter straddles the line between public and private, I found that the affordances of direct messaging became more important the more public I felt my profile to be - it is one way that Twitter can be both private and public and collapses that binary.

Much of my chatter on Twitter - on both profiles - is in the form of conversation and @replies. For example, of the total 250 tweets sent from @slhedge, 159 of them were


@replies, and several of those were sent to more than one person. Twitter affords back and forth communication like this in two ways: the first is in the design, where hovering over a tweet gives the user an option to reply. Posting a response is as simple as pushing a button - as Shirky (2008) would say, the cost of sharing and communication is low (p. 48-9). The other way that Twitter affords conversation is through feedback that can be both synchronous and asynchronous. Posting to Twitter can create immediate back and forth conversation, like those my colleagues and I engage in during class time. Unlike chat programs that also support synchronous communication, tweets stay live and users can respond to them even after hours have passed, providing more opportunities for feedback and replies. Users do not have to be in the same place or on Twitter at the same time to engage in long conversations. Feedback As Norman (2008) points out, feedback is necessary to any good design (p. 27), as users need to know that their actions have had an impact on the world. Twitter provides for this feedback in the form of the @reply and back and forth conversation. Our words are not simply shouted into a void, but rather are always already situated into meaningful contexts and networks. Twitter hashtags, which I discussed above, are one way of providing for that feedback, as are @reply conversations. Twitter as a technology is designed to support the kinds of feedback that are required for meaningful interaction with technology and situate users in complex networks and ecologies. This cycle of feedback is a part of what makes Twitter compelling as a writing technology, and also what situates Twitter between public and private. All tweets are sent into the public sphere, as boyd says, but the responses may be private. Tweeting in Place I have discovered that the vast majority of my Tweets occur when I am engaged in doing something. Although some of my tweets are the kind of “I’m bored” shouting into the emptiness of the Internet, most of them are driven by what I am doing at any given time, and are generally seeking validation for what I am doing.
A study In Capslock One immediately noticeable difference between my two profiles is my overall tone, which is demonstrated through the prevalence of capslock. @PopCulture had 181 tweets that were entirely in capslock. @slhedge had only 24 tweets which contained one or more words in capslock, and only 4 tweets written entirely in capslock. Clearly there is a huge difference in the ways I use capslock between the two profiles. My tendancy to capslock seems to be tied to subject matter - the times that my tweets are entirely Capslock in my professional profile are related to pop culture. For example, my first capslock tweet is sharing the link for the new Game of Thrones trailer, and subsequent capslock tweets are related to the shows Cupcake Wars and Million Dollar Money Drop. As there is far less pop culture discussion on my academic profile, there is far less capslocking.


The difference between the two profiles is what I am usually doing when I tweet in either one and where I am when I tweet. The vast majority of my @slhedge tweets are from when I am on campus, either in class or in my office doing readings for class. Tweets about the readings or back and forth conversations between myself and colleagues are centered around school, while I am physically on campus. Only 20 of 250 tweets were sent on a weekend, and the bulk of the tweets were sent on Tuesday/ Thursday—the days that I have classes. Conversely, my @PopCulture account sees the most use when I am sitting on my couch. The vast majority of the tweets are sent during evenings and weekends, generally when I am watching TV or engaging in conversation on other spaces. For example, on Friday, February 4th, new episodes of Supernatural returned and I sent 106 tweets in the span of two hours, from 9:00pm - 11:00pm, discussing the new episode with different people. These tweets all looked different - capslocky excitement with other fans of the show, measured critique with critics and other commenters, and excited comments to my own feed. However, an hour after the episode had ended, my friends came over for drinks, and my tweets stopped. Once I was no longer engaged in the episode and, perhaps more importantly, sitting on my couch, I lost the desire to tweet. All it took was movement from the couch to the kitchen to stop my tweets, even though my laptop moved with me.

“Things...” A Brief Study Interestingly, there is one type of tweet that I consistently make across both Twitter profiles, which is a stylized way of giving an update on what I am doing/ have done. The tweets always start with “Things” and although they are phrased differently, they always relate to my activities. For example, I posted the following tweets to my different Twitter feeds on February 3 rd: @PopCulture: Things I don't want to be doing: Reading for class; going to class; sitting on campus; thinking; discussing discourse communities. @PopCulture: Things I am doing: See below. @slhedge: Things I did today: Watched Supernatural; ate toast. Things I did not do today: Readings for class. : ( Despite the acknowledged differences between audience and purpose across the two profiles, I still make some of the same rhetorical moves and use some of the same language. I suspect that this is based on the affordances of Twitter and the fact that the character count is so limited - with only 140 characters to work with, I have found particular language patterns that make arguments succinctly and effectively, contributing to stylistic tics that stay with me despite very different purposes across my two profiles.

One of the key affordances of Twitter is that it supports this kind of movement when tweeting - I am able to tweet from anywhere that I have my laptop (and previously, my phone). Of course, not having my phone limits the kinds of conversation I can have - I am unable to engage in “bus tweets”, like @Spinuzzi, for example. The conversation is constrained and defined by space specifically - where I am defines what I will tweet. My ‘private’ profile, @PopCulture feels private partly because I am in private, generally, when I send the tweets. I am in my house and on my couch, engaged in personal conversations inscrutable to those who are not “in the know”. My ‘public’ profile feels that way because I am generally tweeting in public spaces and to public ends.


Drunk Tweets One thing I have been very careful to limit to my personal Twitter is the incidence of “drunk tweets” - tweets sent while drinking or out socially with friends. Despite the fact that both of my Twitter profiles are public, publishing “drunk tweets” to my academic profile feels like making my personal life public in the wrong way. Conversely, many of my friends will tweet together while we are out socially on my private profile. For example, on January 29th, the friends I was with and I all posted the same tweet: @PopCulture: BUT WHY IS ALL THE RUM GONE? ...SHIT. THE TEQUILA TOO. We then retweeted each other, so that friends who followed all three of us had the same message pop up on their lists 9 times in a row. This is an example of the kinds of social grooming that I avoid on my academic Twitter partly because I wouldn’t want faculty or future employers to see unprofessional behaviour, but mostly because the genre of the drunk tweet is not one that has the same social cache among my academic followers.

Backchannel Communication The bulk of my Tweets in my @slhedge profile are from when I was in class, or reading books for class. For example, on February 3rd between 5:00 and 6:15pm I sent 11 tweets to a classmate who was absent from class, including her in the conversation. However, these tweets were not simply reporting on the discussion in class, but added commentary and inside jokes to the conversation. Although the tweets were made publicly, they were directed specifically at my colleague and were separate from and private to the larger conversation in the class.

There is further investigation into tweeting as backchannel communication here, but I wanted to point out the ways that tweeting during class is both public and private conversation - my conversations are public and open to anyone watching as well as other members of the class, but they are private in the sense that they are “silent” discussion of classroom activity - a private back and forth between students.

The elasticity of Twitter as a medium allows for this movement between types of intimacy, allowing the same user to navigate between levels of intimacy and privacy. As danah boyd (2009) says, “the culture of Twitter is all about participation in a large public square” (p. 5), but the ways that interaction takes place shifts between constructed social networks. Public does not necessarily mean public to everyone, and users can customize the Twitter experience to reflect and engage in differently public networks, as I have done. This brief study only begins to look at some of the data collected over six weeks. There was far more data than could be discussed here, and there is lots of room for further investigation of Twitter as a writing technology. For example, this paper has focused on the tweets that I have sent, largely ignoring the tweets sent by other people. Further study should investigate @mentions of either account by other people, for example, or retweets as part of the network. I hope that this paper has suggested where conversations about Twitter can begin and opens the door to further reflections on Twitter as a writing technology embodied in networks that straddle public and private binaries. Stephanie Hedge


[ Education Redefined; Twitter Use in the Classroom ]
Twitter is the most popular microblogging site, and it is often used as a listening and publishing tool for public use. Twitter’s structure may serve as a tool for public discourse; this structure can aid the primary research of other users. One of the most recent trends in Twitter usage is how Twitter promotes the wellbeing of student collaboration in a classroom setting.

Introduction and Outside Research
Gabriela Grosseck and Carmen Holotescu (2008) define Twitter as the most popular microblogging application/social network in modern education. Twitter helps students see education in a fun new ways, they argue. They also claim that Twitter fosters cognitive trials and encourages reflective editing. Many studies of Twitter’s use in the classroom have discussed how Twitter is a grammatical tool utilizing both listening and publishing. Contemporary uses of Twitter have expanded beyond simple status updates and have clearly exceeded the expectations of its founders. This study contributes to the ongoing research of Twitter use in the classroom. It relies primarily on survey data and interviews regarding the Twitter usage of participants to improve the understanding of Twitter use in the classroom. Social network sites are changing the way the world communicates. Twitter initially began as a listening tool and has since merged into a publishing tool. ‘Listening’ involves following a user just to gain information, such as following a news source like CNN; ‘publishing,’ however, involves posting content in various forms of media. Twitter also has affordances as a collaborative tool that allows educators to create accounts for both groups and individuals. One study by Kuroneko (2009) examines how students can post responses to a question on Twitter that can then be read by their peers, allowing for immediate feedback. Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) discuss how Twitter contributes to the classroom community, and the authors talk in detail about Twitter’s capabilities to help students explore collaborative writing and receive reader response in an informal setting. It is suggested that for students to become fully engaged in classroom collaboration, they need to not only publish their thoughts, but listen to their classmates as well. According to a study completed by researchers at the University of New Hampshire, eighty percent of faculty use social media for some aspect of their course (McHugh, 2011). Although, just how much of the ‘social media’ they describe is attributable to Twitter is unnoted. Twitter usage seems to be rising in popularity when one rifles through all the research explaining how to use Twitter in the classroom. Online communities, such as, offer instructive guidelines for professors looking to implement these platforms. Although purely a guidance tool for a Twitter user, this site obviously regards Twitter’s format as both a listening and publishing tool. It suggests that students can “[c]ollaborate on projects,” and that professors can, “[m]ake announcements” about classroom events or procedures (“50 Ways to Use Twitter in the College Classroom,” 2009). Twitter is often misunderstood, as it is seen to serve the same purposes as Facebook, where games and instant click video links are the norm. It is easy for most to understand why Facebook is so popular, but Twitter doesn’t seem so accepting to first time users. This is true for David Parry, an assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas at Dallas. Jeff Young (2008) explains


that Parry did not understand Twitter and only made a Twitter account to encourage student collaboration. One could say that he wanted to listen, but once he fully grasped how publishing quick 140 character notes could be listened to in real time, he became hooked to the network (Young, 2008). Monica Rankin, another professor from the University of Texas at Dallas, conducted an experiment with Twitter in her classroom, trying to determine its usefulness to both students and herself. While she found that it was useful to collaborate with the entire student body of a classroom, Twitter was limiting in its 140 character posts. However, she noted that “it encouraged students to engage who otherwise would not,” and she discusses how students could listen to multiple streams while publishing to others at the same time (Rankin, 2011).

In our own research, we sought to further examine Twitter’s utilization in the classroom. We began our data collection by conducting an online survey that was sent randomly to students at Ball State University via email and social network sites, acquiring participation from twelve respondents. They were asked questions regarding their Twitter use in the classroom and their feelings as to its affect on their educational experience. We designed open-ended questions to allow for the study participants to add any information that could be further coded, helping us to derive additional insights inductively from their individual responses. We conducted an in-depth semi-structured interview with a journalism professor about his strategy for using Twitter in his classes. We began our interview by asking the same questions that we asked online survey respondents, but we left room for follow-up questions that emerged during our conversation.

In the beginning, we thought that our data would reflect similar findings as the research we explored before beginning the study. We were surprised to find that research at our local site did not correlate with these previous findings. As mentioned above, eighty percent of the faculty at the University of New Hampshire uses social network sites in their curriculum. However, we found very few students at Ball State University who used Twitter in a classroom setting, and only two professors that encouraged Twitter usage. We also found that out of the respondents using Twitter in the classroom, only thirty-three percent utilized hashtags to help organize their classroom discussions. This was rather surprising because hashtags are a seemingly simple way of organizing social interaction. Although the majority of the respondents had not used Twitter in the classroom, they still had opinions about its potential usage. When the respondents were asked if they thought that Twitter would help facilitate discussion in the classroom, only thirty-three percent answered in the affirmative. The rest of the respondents were neutral on the subject or did not think Twitter could be used in this way. The respondents were also asked if they thought Twitter affected classroom collaboration in a positive or negative way. Fifty-four percent felt that it was positive. One of the respondents elaborated on this statement by noting the backchannel of relevant discussion running parallel to the formal lecture, thereby helping students to more fully grasp classroom concepts. The respondent also thought that Twitter positively affected classroom collaboration because it provides a space where students and teachers alike can quickly share and receive information.


Along these lines, when asked why they thought Twitter is a tool being used in the classroom, the respondents mentioned its capabilities for quick and effective communication. Another respondent also mentioned that Twitter is a tool that builds community among students, making for a better educational experience overall. Most respondents thought Twitter was an effective tool to build relationships with their classmates and liked how Twitter could foster a sense of community. They used Twitter to easily keep in contact with classmates in order to share class information or learn about each other to build friendships outside of the classroom. We were also interested to find whom the respondents were following on Twitter, especially if they were following anyone specifically for a class, such as an academic or business source. We found that only a few of the respondents followed specific users for a class. The majority of the respondents were just following news organizations, their friends, or celebrities. One respondent only wrote, ‘Justin Bieber.’

It was in ENG 431—Rhetoric, Writing and Emerging Media—now known primarily by its hashtag, #4E1, that we were first introduced to Twitter’s usefulness in a classroom setting. In our previous experience, Twitter usage was frowned upon during classroom discussion time. This was not the case for #4E1, however, where the professor asked each student to create a Twitter account and encouraged students to not only follow classmates, but also people they were interested in. The professor created the #4E1 hash tag for the class to help organize pertinent information. Whenever the professor or a student wanted to post something that was of interest to class discussion, all they had to do was add #4E1 to the end of their posts. In this particular class, the use of the hashtag allowed students to contribute to class discussion, even if it was not verbally, or even in the classroom. This activity sparked our interest on the subject of Twitter, and hence, the current study. Was Twitter use in the classroom normal for a classroom setting, or was this one of those freak classes where you create a web blog that you never really use and are unsure of why you created it? This was quickly answered as Twitter blew up with tweets from fellow classmates, and before we could fully grasp what was happening, Twitter had become the place for collaboration in and outside of the classroom. Our study began with the simple question of how and why this happened. What aspect of human agency caused our classmates to find Twitter so useful for a class like #4E1? After paying attention to the subjects that our classmates tweeted about, we conducted some research to see if other professors or classrooms in general used Twitter as a source of collaboration. Because of the small response rate for surveys, and because of the need to triangulate our survey results, we turned to professors that use Twitter in the classroom. After all, it was suggested by a previous study that eighty percent of professors at one institution use social media for some aspect in their classes. Therefore, we interviewed a journalism professor who we hoped would provide us with some insights. The professor seemed to suggest that Twitter was a tool aiding in listening as well as publishing. This thought was interesting when compared to our survey response where many respondents admitted to following people, but never tweeting. According to what this professor suggested, these users were missing out on part of Twitter’s function. After the interview with the professor, we re-examined our data only to find that further on in the survey, these respondents stated that they were unclear about Twitter’s overall purpose. This was exactly in line with what the professor had claimed. This insight provided a new


breakthrough for us; our circles were finally coming to ends. One of the recurring themes in our research was respondents’ uncertainty regarding Twitter’s potential function in the classroom. Most of the responses that were recorded tended to take a neutral or unsure stance on the questions that were being asked. From this data, combined with insights from our interview, we inferred that these respondents had not experienced Twitter in a classroom setting or they had not yet come to realize Twitter’s full potential to enhance the classroom experience, as we had in #4E1. The time period for this IRB approved study was limited, which in turn narrowed our data collection period. The low response rate to our survey was disappointing, and with more time, we would have loved to find more participants. We also would have liked to include more input from other professors on campus. Unfortunately, busy schedules and time constraints did not allow for this. Despite these setbacks, we feel that the study was an overall success. It was interesting to find out how Twitter use in the classroom differs at Ball State University compared to other universities where similar studies have been conducted. We have personally had positive experiences with our use of Twitter in the classroom. It has enabled us to form relationships with people that might not have occurred without this medium. Twitter itself aided in the completion of this study, and we feel that it positively impacts the educational process. Melissa Ditty Sarah Luttenbacher


[ Future Directions ]
The basis of these microstudies lies in a qualitative approach as defined by Creswell (2009), to incorporate “research that honors an inductive style, a focus on individual meaning, and the importance of rendering the complexity of a situation” (p. 4). These studies differ from macrostudies in their attention to the individual over the aggregate (Stake, 2010). Through such microanalysis, our research sought to examine the actual, embodied human interactions surrounding SNS activities. By studying individual cases of actual users, we have stepped away from the widely implemented quantitative approaches more typical of social networking studies to examine the particular: the individual accounts of real people in real settings. Located behind the measurements of numerical data are actual human agents interacting with SNS for specific, individualized reasons. Taking a qualitative approach to study these interactions has allowed for a closer, more in-depth look at the actual, meaningful ways that these technologies exist in lived practices. As users of technology, we constantly take part in reciprocal, co-evolving relationships. Engaging with technology causes a transformation in the use and purpose of the technology, as well as a transformation in the actions of the user. When numerous users are involved, such as in online social networking platforms, the relationships occurring between users also evolve. A closer look at these relationships entails an examination of “the interplay of multiple motives of multiple actors” (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2006, p. 153). These microstudies provide such an examination. While they focus on different themes within SNS, they all consider user interaction through examining “the why of activity and not just the how” (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2006, p. 153). These interactions, however, do not take place in a solitary, individual environment but are embedded in social meaning (Dourish, 2001; Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006). Dourish explains that “the key question is to understand how the relationship between technology and social action comes to be worked out in different situations, and from these to understand how the features of technological design and the features of everyday social settings are related” (p. 97). Therefore, it is important to look at the meaning of artifact and human interaction as it is embedded in the functioning of a society. We feel that such an understanding can be gleaned from microstudies. While they certainly don’t provide all of the answers behind user activity, these studies act as a starting point for further discussions and ongoing research. We hope to continue seeing qualitative approaches redefine the way that we look at human-computer interactions. A rich resource with a prolific collection of additional studies exists in danah boyd’s bibliographies on research of social network sites and twitter and microblogging. For those interested in embarking upon similar research projects, we have included a brief annotated bibliography. The sources in this bibliography spurred much of our interest in qualitative studies of writing technologies, and we hope they can serve as a similar jumping off point for those wishing to engage in like research. Emily Crist


[ annotated bibliography ]
Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. Creswell’s Research Design provides an informative, clear overview of research work, unpacking the differences between qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches for the entire research process. This text walks researchers through the steps necessary to plan and implement a study, providing relevant examples to direct the reader at each step. A solid reference text for researchers of all skill levels, Research Design functions as a valuable starting text for research projects. Dourish, P. (2001). Where the action is: The foundations of embodied interaction. Cambridge: The MIT Press. In this text, Dourish introduces readers to the term “embodied interaction,” a new approach calling for human-computer interaction (HCI) that focuses on the engaged, lived practices of users of technology. Dourish seeks to concentrate HCI as a field that “places interaction at the center of the picture…not only as what is being done, but also as how is being done” (p. 4). Ideal for readers of multiple backgrounds and fields, Dourish’s book makes a compelling argument for the need of ongoing study in the interplay between computer systems and the everyday lives and performances of those using them. Haas, C. (1996). Writing technology: Studies on the materiality of literacy. New York: Routledge. In this book, Haas examines the relationship between writing and technology, arguing that the two are “inextricably linked—indeed that imagining writing without technology is both practically impossible and theoretically nonsensical” (p. xii). Haas argues against views of technology as transparent or all-powerful and suggests that the field of Technology Studies can open up insights into the link between literacy and technology and the new types of writing continuing to emerge. Haas includes studies of her own to represent this symbiotic relationship and to develop the concept of “writing as an embodied practice, a practice based in culture, in mind, and in body…” (p. xv). Kaptelinin, V., & Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology: activity theory and interaction design. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Kaptelinin and Nardi’s book proposes activity theory as a means to better understand the relationship between humans and technology. In this influential discussion, the authors include a comprehensive explanation of the major components of activity theory, which views everyday, mundane activities as the initiators of meaning and consciousness. This includes an examination of the ways that people act with technology, valuing the action itself as the integral mediator between subject and object. This book furthers previous conversations of Kaptelinin and Nardi that support activity theory “as a framework for thinking about human activity as it is expressed in the use of technology” (p. 9). The authors outline this theory in rich detail, arguing for its inclusion in ongoing studies of human and technology interaction. Norman, D. (1988). The design of everyday things. New York: Basic Books. While Norman’s book is not new to the field, its presence retains value for anyone interested in thinking about the relationship between design and usability. Norman argues for an increased attention to the actual user in the design of all products and insists that much design not considering this user results in ineffective, confusing and useless outcomes. Norman provides a clear overview of topics such as affordances, constraints and visibility within design. This argument for human-centered products can be applied to multiple settings of use, especially that of writing technologies that our studies focused upon.


Stake, R. (2010). Qualitative research: Studying how things work. New York: The Guildford Press. Stake’s book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in undertaking qualitative research. The compelling, readable prose encourages readers to examine “how things work” through the study of the particular based in experiential knowledge. Stake argues for the importance of looking at the common as unique and the value of studying the individual. With rich detail and interesting examples, Stake walks readers through the steps necessary to plan, implement and present qualitative research projects.

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