A Week in Boston, 2.0

Downtown Boston (Aerial)

Used under CC license from Emmanuel Huybrechts, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ensh/4743271422/

So much of what happened in the days after the Boston Marathon relied on social media. Photos of persons wanted for questioning appeared in Facebook feeds (as did updates from my own good friend in Watertown, who spent a sleepless 27 hours). Boston-related tweets appeared by the thousands, some tearful, some defiant, some shocked.

It’s a perfect opportunity for students to explore issues of truth, American reactions to violence, media sensationalism, and many other current-events topics. It also can be useful for a discussion of problem-solving gone wrong, stereotypes about terrorists, foot-in-mouth syndrome, or the best of intentions becoming prematurely public (and therefore viral):

L.A. Times, Reddit Learns How ‘Witch Hunts Can Start’

Hats Off to Reddit for Boston Bomb Sleuthing 

Arkansas Lawmaker Nate Bell Apologizes for Timing of Boston Tweet

After Boston Bombing, Fears of Backlash Against Muslim Students

A few ideas for web-based lessons…

  • Examine the top two links above, which have very different takes on Reddit’s role in events after the Marathon bombing. Which makes a more persuasive argument? Since the Reddit page itself is no longer active, you’ll have to rely on these second-hand reports.
  • Research the phenomenon of “crowdsourcing.” Is this a good idea in a global world? Why or why not?
  • Do a Google News search for Boston-bombing stories. How many are positive in tone and how many are negative? What do you think about your findings?
  • Look at photos attached to news stories. Do they make you feel scared, angry, sympathetic? Make a chart of at least 10 images and the emotions they stir up. Then, compare your list with a classmate’s. Did you have the same reactions? Discuss any similarities and differences.
  • Does it matter what color, race, religion, or nationality a perpetrator of violence has? Why or why not? Examine Twitter posts tagged #boston to see how people are talking about the two suspects.
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