Sweetland New Media Writing Course Focuses on “the Rhetoric of Memes”

The ability to process and employ information in different media is an essential aspect of education, and offering resources that can help students to sharpen their analytical power has beneficial effects on learning. The website Simone Sessolo and his Writing 200 students developed, The Rhetoric of Memes, facilitates innovations in studying and approaching new media. The website was published in issue 5.2 of TheJUMP (The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects) in June 2014. As Sessolo and his students claim in their publication:

Internet memes not only entertain, they also make claims about our world and how it does, could, and should work. They are a form of communication that is becoming more and more important in the new media world, and they have an unrealized potential for understanding rhetorical strategies. […] The combination of the visual and the verbal in memes, and their ability to build up separate elements into a connected whole, offer insights about how ideas can develop, mutate, and be replicated.

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The Rhetoric of Memes site is the end result of a course in new media writing offered at the University of Michigan in Fall 2013. The website claims that using memes in the classroom can become a writing practice that fosters success for students of all academic backgrounds. This novel application of technology can offer a more sophisticated kind of learning, helping students to practice analogous thinking between academic concepts and their connection with popular culture.

Students in the class actively contributed to the creation of the website, where they “published” their contributions. They created all the meme entries that appear on the site and are listed as contributors, along with student Nadeem Persico-Shammas, who revised the website and serves as its managing editor, and Dr. Sessolo, who is the webmaster or administrator.  This student-created project demonstrates the excellent work students can do in new media classes. View Sweetland’s current offering of new media writing courses on our website.

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