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Proposal: Object of Study

mzl.worsuyet My object of study for the course is SnapChat. SnapChat is a photo messaging application that allows users to take/record pictures and videos with texts and drawings. The users are able to set the time limit, controlling how long the recipients will be able to see the image. The time limits range from 1 to 10 seconds. Once this time lapses, the recipient will no longer be able to access the images. According to the SnapChat website, once the time lapses the recipient will be unable to access the image and it will be deleted from the Snap Chat’s server.

The design of SnapChat itself is simple. Once the application is open the users camera is activated. The user sees a screen with a large circle, outlined in white at the bottom center of the screen. The user can snap a photo by pressing this circle. The user has the option to hold the circle and record up to 10 seconds of video. To the right of the circle the user has a menu button, which lead to the “My Friends” list. To the left of the circle, the user is able to access a log of sent and received “snaps.” Once a “snap” is taken, the user can add a indexlayer of text by touching the image and typing a message. The user also has the option of selecting a pencil icon, choosing from a list of colors, and drawing on the image. After the user has taken the “snap” added text and/or drawing, the user can select the amount of time the recipient will have to view the image. Finally, the user hits a small arrow, shaped like a paper plane, to send the snap. Once this is selected, the user can decide who will receive the snap. The snap can be sent to as many individuals as desired.

I am interested in examining SnapChat as a network because, currently, the most popular concept of network right now is a social network. Social Networks like MySpace, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all networks that focused on the creation of profiles, sharing, and making lasting connections. What is interesting about SnapChat is that it encourages users to connect with their social network, but between 1 and 10 seconds at a time. SnapChat is interesting as it allows users to make connections with existing friends, but also open themselves up to send and receive chats from people unknown. An interesting aspect of Snap Chat, according to Liz Gannes in “Fast-Growing Photo-Messaging App Snapchat Launches on Android, a significant number of SnapChats are sent to groups instead of individuals. What impact does this have on the concept of social networking? What does this new, ephemeral form of communication mean for social networking and mediated communication?  These are the types of questions, I am interested in exploring in regards to Snap Chat.

Snap Chat is useful to English Studies because it offers a glimpse into rhetoric of messaging, networks, and the study of time/space in communication. SnapChat offers an exploration of kairos and spontaneity, privacy concerns, ephemeral nature of social media, and the role of body in communication.

Proposal: Object of Study — MOOCs in Composition

Over the years, higher education has experienced a variety of shifts, some qualifying as seismic (such as admitting women), others deserving more modest descriptors (for example, electronic textbooks). Add to the seismic column the distance learning classroom. Yet even that arena of growth has seen variations that now may seem tame; for example, distance learning programs have a surprisingly long history, as this graphic from the website Straighterline illustrates.

day of the MOOC gif

Creative Commons image; author M. Branson Smith

In my own lifetime as a composition instructor, I have witnessed the growing demand for online course offerings – and with that growth tensions between pedagogy and university business models. However, the field of English Studies appears to be progressively engaging this trend, if publication records are any indication. (See this link for the CCCC annotated bibliography on online writing practices.) A thread in this conversation appears to invite intense scrutiny, and is my chosen Object of Study for this course: MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

What Is A MOOC?

“What Is A MOOC?” EdTechReview. Image and video. 15 March 2013.

MOOCs, simply defined, are typically tuition- and credit-free classes offered online to any and all interested students, using a variety of methods which include recorded short lectures, discussion boards, and asynchronous activities, depending on the subject matter. Specifically, I plan to examine Composition MOOCs, as writing courses – especially freshman writing – are problematic areas of study given the established theories of best practices that have evolved in concert with our field’s evolution into digital spaces. The subject matter seems especially useful as an object of study given that many discussions of the online or digital classroom in our field often reflect tensions associated with the history of our field’s quest for professionalization. Given the nature of MOOC-based learning systems, questions of best practices and integrity of degree programs are likely to be part of any network.

The demand for online higher education course offerings comes from a variety of sources and stakeholders. The unique characteristics of MOOCs, however, offer additional challenges, many of which mirror common discussions within our field: assessment, access, instructor training / qualifications, questions of labor, plagiarism, student engagement, retention, and pedagogy. Given recent attention paid to the trend of MOOCs by higher education publications (see resources list below), it would appear that this is an area of debate and activity that may promise productive research. For example, MOOC-based composition courses, such as that described in a paper being presented by Sherry Jones’ and Daniel singer at the 2014 CCCC on incorporating gaming in the classroom, also open up new potential for digital pedagogy.

Given the inherent structural nature of MOOCs, it seems self-evident to approach this Object of Study as a network. However, I believe the network (the rhetorical situation of this study) must incorporate more than the rather obvious element of online connectivity among students and teacher. There is the “incorporeal discourse” of which Foucault writes (24) – and what Biesecker might link to Derrida’s concept of “différance” in discussions of rhetorical situation — which might be explored through consideration of the structural / mechanical, economic / business, as well as pedagogical discourses. In short, the network concept offers a way to connect stakeholder discourses with those of the technical and the pedagogical. As I am largely unfamiliar with MOOCs, opportunities for discovery and exploration are rich, and I anticipate unexpected nodes and layers emerging as I progress.

“What is a MOOC?” A Video Explanation.


Preliminary List of Resources:

1.  NY Times article Nov. 2012:

2.  Educause resource list:

3.  Businessweek article Jan. 2014:

4.  Duke Univ. Coursera Comp I course page:

5.  Blog written by a participant in the above:

6.  Georgia Institute of Tech Comp MOOC course page:

7.  Academe blog: “The Gates Foundation and Three Composition Blogs”:

8.  The Chronicle of Higher Education – “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.” Frequently updated hub of articles:

9.  CCCC 2014 – “Composition on a New Scale: Game Studies and Massive Open Online Composition” by Sherry Jones and Daniel Singer

10.  “What Is A MOOC?” EdTechReview.  Image and video. 15 March 2013.