Twitter is a Snark Valve

Although I explained how I track and archive my students’ Twitter activity, I didn’t describe what they actually do on Twitter.

That’s because I wasn’t sure myself what they do.

I mean, of course I’ve reading their tweets and sending my own, but I hadn’t considered in a systematic way how my students use Twitter. That lack of reflection on my part echoes my initial guidelines to the students: my instructions were only that students should tweet several times a week at a minimum. I was deliberately vague about what they should tweet about. I didn’t want overly specific guidelines to constrain what might be possible with Twitter. I wanted my students’ Twitter use to evolve organically.

Now, six weeks into the semester, clear patterns are discernible and I can begin to analyze the value of Twitter as a pedagogical tool.

My most surprising find? Twitter is a snark valve. —Mark Sample

I’m not quite sure why anyone would be surprised to find snark on Twitter, but I think Sample’s greater point is that snark requires some level of engagement. A student in my journalism class tweaked me for publishing an editorial a few years ago that didn’t follow all the guidelines I provided to the class. The result was an opportunity for me to model an appropriate response to criticism, and I ended up revealing a bit more to the class about my reasons for writing that editorial.

BTW, I would not say the student was being snarky; his oppositional stance does, however, demonstrate the kind of energy that an opposing view brings to the discussion, which is part of the reason Sample recognizes and celebrates snark… not to encourage meanness and the knee-jerk rejection of nuance, but rather in the line of Matt Barton’s celebration of plagiarism as a means of forcing those of us who teach writing to confront our own limitations as authors and our need for power structures to wall of what counts as unacceptable stealing of ideas, so that we can continue the very different kind of stealing of ideas that we can mask with citations and present as acceptable academic discourse.