Vie, Stephanie (2008) Digital Divide 2.0: “Generation M” and Online Social Networking Sites in the Composition Classroom. Computers and Composition 25, 9-23.
In her 2008 article, Vie, while not directly mentioning the rhetoric of social networking technologies, puts out a call to action with respect to changing how composition is taught in the classroom. The traditional approach using the academic essay as the central focus in the composition classroom, according to Vie, needs to be adapted to foster a technological literacy that is required to navigate and compose within and across the new Web 2.0 technologies. Shifts in the perception of authorship and audience and the extremely participatory nature of these technologies need to be addressed by instructors in order to remain relevant.
She outlines the digital divide not in terms of access versus no access to new communication technologies but rather frames it as a divide between students’ and composition instructors’ level of knowledge and technological expertise with Web 2.0 communication technologies. Vie argues that students of ‘Generation M’ have left composition instructors behind causing questions of authority.
According to Vie, ‘Generation M’ students posses the technological know-how to navigate and compose in social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and others, but they lack critical technological literacy skills. The textured literacy skills required, and in many cases mastered, for self-expression on these sites should not be underestimated. Multi-modal composition of a user profile necessitates a combination of new media composing and technological literacy skills that many composition instructors find intimidating. Jenkins (2006) names this phenomenon media convergence and contends that the importance of these social networking sites lies in their inherent call for user participation.
In order to support her argument to focus academic attention on social networking sites because of their relevance today for students, Vie examines various definitions of technological literacy. Vie acknowledges that the field is struggling with a clear definition of information and technological literacy. As proof points she reviews the definition for information literacy posited by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in 2000 and contends that it might not be sufficient if we are moving away from using the academic essay as the central focus of the composition classroom. Selfe and Hawisher (2004), rejecting the ACRL proposition, suggest a technological literacy that can “connect social practices, people, technology, values, and literate activity, which in turn, are embedded in a larger cultural ecology”. Vie proposed to use online social networking sites into the writing classroom to teach students critical technological literacies.
In summary, I interpret Vie’s call for a new approach to teaching composition that includes the teaching of critical technological literacy as a call to devise a rhetorical model that applies for today’s participatory social networking spaces. This is the point where traditional models of rhetoric have to be challenged and adapted to account for the new arrangement and invention that is required to succeed in this space, possibly not unlike the one proposed by Jeff Rice in ‘Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network.’