This course, Electronic Communication, is one I developed and first taught in 2002; I taught it again in 2004, 06, and 08 but skipped it in 2010 for a variety of reasons, including, I needed to re-invent it!  The emergence of social media forced me to rethink the course in 2012.  In addition to focusing on social media, I made the course less academic and more practical. I continued that trend in 2013 and 2016. I am trying out a new book in 2018, Strategic Social Media that comes at social media from a marketing perspective. I’m not a marketing professor, but I like this book’s focus on theory and principles of social media (rather than platforms) and I really like the social media for social change component. The App Industry has grown significantly since 2013, but rather than chase after all the new cool tools, I am going to stay focused on some the core skills of writing, connecting, and moving people into action. The unofficial title for the class comes from Heather Mansfield: Social Media for Social Good.

Mansfield, in the introduction to her book, provides her story with social media.   I am asking students to do the same, and I promised to share my story.  I know I was introduced to blogging in the 2002 version of this course by Sybil Priebe; Sybil and I went on to collaborate with on a couple of articles, including this one that actually got read and cited. She still teaches very effectively with blogs, wikis, and a variety of other tools down in Wahpeton at NDSCS. I have tried out a variety of blogging platforms; my Ten A Day blog on Blogspot was my most successful, sustained effort but I abandoned it in 2011.  I tried out Tumblr with a very specific theme: From Fire to Fire: The Lives of Refugees in America (and some thoughts on how we can welcome them), but I found I was too textual for Tumblr. I wish I had found a software and developed the blogging habit, but I was curious about the tools, and probably didn’t give my blog enough of an identity or purpose. I’ve set up a personal WordPress blog that I have used sporadically since 2012, but I cannot call myself a blogger.

I jumped on Facebook pretty early on (2005) because it went through campus like a wildfire and I encouraged students to write about, to help people like me figure out its appeal.  Facebook is the primary social media channel for most non-profits today; its shorter daily (or frequent) posts are more digestable than blog posts; it can be visual; Facebook has taken design out of writers hands; it can be a place for conversations.  I do a lot of sharing and reposting of content I am interested in; I am not very personal (or personable) on Facebook–that’s probably a mistake.  I’m assuming everyone in class has a Facebook account and I won’t need to ask you to set one up.  I won’t ask you to follow each other, but I might set up a group page for us.

This about page is exceeding my 400 words suggestion, and I used to list all my social media activity, but I realize that’s a bit ridiculous now.  Here are a few brushstrokes.

Roy Lichenstein's Brushstrokes

Roy Lichenstein’s Brushstrokes

  • I run a  Twitter account for myself and an organization I support, but I tend to forget about Twitter.
  • I signed up for Second Life at the apex (2006), but then got around to doing a pretty cool project 2008-10: The Virtual Peace Garden.  I had to let my expensive property go, however, but am considering rebuilding the site in Minecraft.
  • I made a documentary film, African Soul American Heart, and some short videos related to that project; I’ve also helped my son make some 2 minute movies. We’ve posted those on YouTube, but we haven’t tried to get them to go viral. This little piece has 2,600+ visits, and it is being used by a filmmaker working on a project right now, but I haven’t used You Tube as social media very effectively.

As you can tell, I like to tinker with technology, but I’m not nearly the early-adopter I used to be. I look forward to learning about some interesting new developments in social media from my students; my job will be to try and keep us grounded in the rhetorical, communicative, and socially transformative potential of social media.


Updated January 4, 2018.

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