This year WSU Global Campus Connections is incorporating the rather wily beast known as Twitter into our programming. Social media is often touted as an untapped gold-mine in established institutions, and with the constant barrage of praise that Twitter receives; it’s hard to ignore the inkling that perhaps it could be an asset to any student engagement program. We’re going to Twitter to get students and faculty talking about the Common Reading text, Being Wrong.
Participating in the Common Reading Twitter book club is quite simple – use #WSUCR (short for hashtag Washington State University Common Reading) at the end of each tweet you write containing content or ideas about this year's book. One could even tweet about the Common Reading events this semester and the amazing faculty who will be presenting on a huge array of topics from brains and chemicals to travel.
To read the entire conversation, type #WSUCR into the search bar at the top of the Twitter interface and you can see what everyone else is saying in regards. You can click ‘respond’ underneath their post, or re-tweet to share what others have said.
The Twitter Book Club, like many conversations on Twitter, is essentially driven by the use of the hashtag. Twitter claims that hashtags “organically” developed by Twitter users themselves as a way to topically group conversations. “Hashtags were widely used before Twitter, but caught on within Twitter in 2010 when Twitter introduced ‘Trending Topics’ which was a main page feature displaying popular hashtags of the moment” (see the Lightbug's article in Light Span Digital, "How to Use a Hashtag.")
Of course, more dubious social-media gurus, like Samantha Matt of Huffington Post states, “hashtags were originally created as a way to promote content in Tweets. Once you put a # in front of a word, it automatically becomes a link that takes you to a page where other people have hash tagged the same thing.” Taken from Matt's article, "How to Properly Use a Hashtag."
Hashtags are indeed curious creatures. Despite having been widely parodied, they hold a surprising rhetorical complexity. The hashtag can indicate authenticity – such as revealing an embarrassing or surprising fact. For example, “I can’t stand studying anymore! Going out for coffee #dyslexiasucks”. They can also contain humor or imply sarcasm. Such as, “I love my roommates new music #hurtsmyears.” These are mediocre examples at best, but if you’re interested, poke around online. You’ll find some very entertaining examples.
Regardless of how one uses a hashtag, the fact remains they are powerful, capable of tracking and cataloging entire conversations. I certainly can’t think of a better way to harness such power than to engage in an interactive cross-disciplinary conversation about a great, challenging book.