In his video, ‘An Anthropologial Introduction to YouTube” Michael Wesch explores the YouTube phenomenon. YouTube is so prevalent in our culture it’s likened to ‘google’ – it’s avideo uploading site, it’s a social networking site, it’s a comment platform, it’s a verb. I appreciate Wesch’s discussion of the many different roles that YouTube has and the many ways people use it. It’s not only a place to rewatch old 90’s tv shows anymore.
But what about the classroom? Others have asked this question already and I think it’s an important one. During Wesch’s talk, I was keyed into what he terms “user-generated filtering.” This is when websites give the power of promoting or demoting comments or submissions to the users. Wesbites like Reddit, Digg, and even YouTube, deem what is popular by what their users deem popular. When someone first visits a website they don’t see what the editors think is important, they see what the public has voted is important.
One of out goals in our writing courses is teaching rhetorical awareness and hopefully be able to gauge how to write well in a specific context. Could we use user generated filtering to encourage this? Maybe students’ thesis statements have to get a collective number of upvotes or promotions to be deemed successful. Or maybe students discussion questions would have to get a certain amount of popularity to be used in a discussion. Would this encourage students? Or maybe this would be too harsh for a classroom? I do think there is something cool, as well as productive, about having students deem what is good or bad writing for the classroom.
I had an assignment (which I didn’t end up using) that had students do a rhetorical analysis on a social media website. They would have to discover what type of writing typically occurs on this website, what it’s purpose was (to inform, to share, to entertain) and articulate what made a good or successful post (short? witty? using pictures?). I thought this would get at the same habits of mind that using user generated filtering would – we are responsible for what is successful writing/posting. Further, we always write to an audience and to a reader.
Do we think user-generated filtering would work in a composition course?