Amicucci, “Rhetorical Choices in FB Discourse”

Amicucci offers a close observation of one college student’s Facebook use to construct a persona and writing voice. She frames her research primarily with Gee (2015) and Ivanič (1998). Per Gee, she finds that the participant, JJ, has developed a kind of Facebook literacy, a mastery of Discourse (capital D) or the participation within a constructed social network that scripts or expects particular sayings, writings, doings, beings, valuing, and believing. JJ enacts a Discourse in that she “must not only ‘say the “right” thing’ but also ‘do the “right” thing as in such saying and doing also express the “right” beliefs, values and attitudes” (Gee 168 qtd in Amicucci 38). Per Ivanič, the development of a writer’s persona is contingent upon a number of factors including “the writer’s past and the writer’s stance on a subject, the writer’s perception of his or her audience’s expectations” (39). Each of these factors plays into the writer’s “anticipation of known or imagined reader(s)” (Ivanič 215 qtd in Amicucci 39). Explaining Ivanič further, “dominant ideologies are filtered through readers, and the values that a writer actually witnesses or imagines readers to hold—values that often uphold these dominant ideologies—are what shape the writer’s construction of a discoursal self on the page… Facebook literacy, then, requires a user to have Facebook Discourse and to be able to critique his or her participation on it” (39).

Some key findings:

  • Critique: JJ would express critique of something say by others: JJ “offered minimal but biting commentary of the foolishness of speakers whose words she had recreated” (42). She would often receive buy-in from others who would comment or like her critiques; however, neither JJ or her friend would substantiate their opinions by providing reasons behind their preferences.
  • Audience & Circulation: Amiccuci points to a few motivations behind JJ’s writing/posting choices. The two motives expressed by JJ was to (a) make her content visible and (b) have an impact on her friends/followers on FB. Amicucci describes the kind of method JJ uses to figure out what makes the greatest visibility/impact. For instance, JJ reflects upon her own choices and the way she likes/shares material of others as a point of departure to consider how others will react to her material: “JJ used her own behavior on FB to make decisions about how her audience would react to what she shared; she had reflected on her tendency to scroll through the news feed without reading everything and used this reflection to inform her choices of what to post” (45). As such, she strung together a somewhat unstable or temporary theory of FB literacy that includes some unwritten rules. For example, JJ reflects, “I feel like its kind of a rule if you’re going to post a lot, use Twitter. If you’re not going to post a lot, use Facebook because if you post a lot on Facebook, people are gonna give you a lot of crap about it” (45). She, thus, is motivated by the ways others engage with her content, i.e. comments and likes. For instance, she considers the timing of her content—which times of day should she post to get the greatest amount of engagement.
  • Values of imagined audience: Amicucci observes that JJ’s use of FB to construct persona was a response to the values of her imagined audience. Per Ivanič, “writers’ identities are ‘shaped, nurtured or constrained by their anticipation of known or imagined reader(s);’” Ivanič finds that “writers make a range of choices in whether to kowtow to what they perceive to readers’ expectations or resist those expectations in favor of forwarding an identity they personally prefer” (Ivanič 215 qtd in Amicucci 47). Amicucci continues, “a Discousre sphere …does not come with a rulebook. Thus, not only was JJ defining her own rules for effective participation, she was simultaneously defining the parameters of her imagined networked publics’ behavior” (47).
  • Curation: JJ is “someone who chooses what to share and the arrangement in which to share it while keeping herself largely absent form the collection. As a curator of FB content, JJ’s role is similar to that of a museum curator” (47). IN other words, the content she shares is not of her own creation and typically does not re-frame or comment on the material, yet the presentation of it “is geared toward the reception it will receive from an audience” (47).
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