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FTT professor uses Twitter as teaching tool

Nicole McAlee | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Christine Becker is looking beyond traditional research studies and surveys to the musings of everyday media fans, trimmed down to 160 characters or less.

Becker, associate professor of the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, has taken an unconventional approach to teaching and researching at the University, tapping into Twitter as an academic tool.

Becker said when she joined Twitter in 2009, she approached the medium casually but with an academic eye.

 “I started out with my group of friends who were grad school friends of mine, so I essentially started out with people who were part of the media studies academia world,” she said. “I started out already kind of steeped in using Twitter as part of media studies academia.”

Becker said her appreciation for Twitter as an informational asset grew over time.

“At first, I thought it was just sort of a fun, cool way to have conversations with people,” she said. “But I also then started following even more academics, more TV critics, more people, actors, writers, directors and started to see it as just this really incredible resource of information.”

Becker runs three Twitter accounts with a combined follower base of nearly 2,500: her personal account, @crsbecker; @goodTVeets, which she calls a collection of “the funniest, most clever, insightful TV-related tweets;” and @N4TVM, the handle for her blog, “News for TV Majors,” where she discusses ratings, media writers and Federal Communications Commission policy.

Twitter has become a teaching resource, she said.

“Right now, I’m teaching a class called ‘Film, Television and Theatre Now,’ and the concept is we have weekly structured topics like marketing or economics, but our case studies are things that are happening right now,” Becker said. “Twitter is really helpful for that because it helps me keep up on things that are going on right now.”

Becker says that Twitter has helped to globalize media studies by opening a worldwide dialogue online.

“The information and the connections possible on Twitter are what really led me to see it especially as kind of vital to my role in the discipline,” she said. “I can communicate with other professors at other institutions and grad students as well – that’s another huge thing.”

She said the benefits of communicating with students working on advanced degrees in the discipline are two-fold.

“I think a connection between grad students and professors at different institutions is really enormous for both pedagogical and research implications,” she said. “The connections that you can make within the discipline, I think it’s really suffused the discipline with a lot more knowledge about what everyone is up to, and I think that can only be a good thing.”

Becker said in addition to being a great academic and social tool, social media has helped her better understand fan culture.

“I wanted to know why people were so captivated by TV storytelling,”
 she said. “The extent to which people care, get wrapped up, are fascinated by television: I think that’s one of the most compelling things to come out of my social media experience, and it’s really been sort of eye-opening and thrilling.”

In addition to teaching, blogging and tweeting, Becker will officially become the first online editor of Cinema Journal, the journal of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, in 2013.

“There’s an incoming editor – his name is Will Brooker – and Will decided he wanted to essentially bring Cinema Journal into the 21st century and have some online content for it,” Becker said. “I’m coming up with resource ideas and reading and editing them.”

Becker said she hopes the Notre Dame community will continue to grow its presence on Twitter and benefit from it as an academic tool.

“I would love to see more people at Notre Dame tweeting,” Becker said.  “I really like getting a feel for what things are going on at Notre Dame beyond film and television.”