The computer-mediated communication (CMC) analysis assignment is the second assignment in the Language, Identity, and World Englishes course that I teach at NYU Shanghai (上海纽约大学). The CMC analysis is used to move students away from writing about the wholly personal and towards more objective academic analysis.
Designing the Assignment
In creating this assignment, I sought to create an opportunity to move students away from the totally personal writing of the literacy narrative towards more objective academic analysis. To facilitate this step, I decided to make progress towards a more analytic genre, while still scaffolding them by allowing them to use their personal CMC streams as data and our course readings to provide the analytic lens.
I wanted to give the students a place to engage with identity theory and to apply what they’ve learned about linguistics. To do that, I decided to have them examine their own CMC interactions. This would give them the ability to work with data that they had some knowledge and agency over. It also gave them a chance to see that things like Facebook posts, WeChat conversations, and even YouTube comments all serve as both a text to be analyzed that these CMC exchanges can also be a site of identity performance.
Teaching the Assignment
When teaching this assignment, we begin with readings on the theoretical construct of identity and how identity is performative. That is, identity is something that we do and not just something that is attached to, or taken on by, the individual. From there, I introduce them to the IMRaD organization pattern used in reporting many empirical studies. The IMRaD pattern gets its name from the first letters of each section of the paper: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.
After this, we do two things. First, we perform a dissection of an examplar essay. During this activity, we tear apart the sample piece to uncover how the IMRaD organization works, and how to use register and hedging to build authorial ethos. Once this is complete, we talk about what kinds of CMC examples might be the best to deploy in a piece like this. Afterward, the students are given time to look through their CMC streams to find examples they might want to use. Then, the next class period is dedicated to a handful of volunteers to share their examples and their analysis of their identity performance. This sharing allows for real-time feedback from their me and their peers.
Assessing the Assignment
To evaluate this assignment, I make use of a specially designed rubric, which I distribute to the students a few weeks before the final draft is due. The rubric is skewed towards the presentation of evidence and the use of that evidence to support their analysis of how they use CMC to enact a given identity. The remainder of the rubric is dedicated to correctly using the IMRaD format and matters like linguistic accuracy.