Monday, September 14, 2015

Twitter by Kate Lavelle

As a Communication Studies instructor who specializes in issues of Advocacy and Communication Criticism, evaluating new and popular communication tools is a critical part of evaluating how Advocacy works in American society. In the Summer of 2015, I taught an online course which was a Special Topics class focusing on Communication and Sport. One of the major assignments in this course had students study the use of Twitter by a professional athlete.

Twitter is a popular social media tool used by athletes and sports journalists to break news, interact with fans, and discuss a variety of relevant issues. Numerous communication scholars have examined Twitter to evaluate how a variety of social, cultural, and political issues are expressed by Twitter users. While Twitter is not the most popular social media tool in terms of users, because it is a public site that doesn’t require a login or permission to follow for public accounts, important sports information and discussion takes place via Twitter. Students do not need to be active on Twitter (or even have a Twitter account) in order to complete the assignment.

For the Communication and Sport class, each student chose an athlete to follow on Twitter throughout the semester. Athletes were chosen who were active on Twitter, and students applied a variety of communication and sport concepts to the tweets. Popular concepts included parasocial relationships (where athletes interacted with fans through replying or retweeting posts), issues of speaker credibility, and a variety of public relations strategies (where athletes promote charitable works and other interests using Twitter). Students provided weekly updates on their Twitter athlete, and then wrote a final paper using a communication concept and evaluated how this concept was used by the athlete. The goal of this assignment is to encourage students to think critically about sports media discourse using communication concepts.

If you are interested in learning more about Twitter, please check out their website.

Kate Lavelle
Assistant Professor

Department of Communication Studies