You’re Probably Reading this Because You Googled “Groupon”

Image: “Poppy’s Frozen Yogurt” CC-licensed by Groupon on Flickr

The post on this blog that gets the most hits by far is the one about using Groupon in the classroom. You can find that post, about drawing on Groupon’s unique writing style guidelines to familiarize students with the conventions of academic introductions here.

When I say this post gets the most hits, I mean BY FAR. Many more people care about Groupons than my C.V., for instance. (Understandable.) And no one has ever commented on my favorite post about writing and our attachment (or lack therof) to words. I get hundreds of hits in a month on this website, with no advertising and infrequent posting, just for that word “Groupon.” (Hi, search engines!)

A frugal living blog I read one time has stuck out in my memory for reporting on a similair trend that occurred after she wrote about her successful search for replacement balls for the Playschool Busy Ball Popper. After she saw a huge spike in new visitors to her site, she created a specific post with the info, which she describes as her most frequently visited on what has become a reasonably popular blog. (Need replacement balls for your kids Playschool Busy Ball Popper? The post is here.)

Just in case you came to me looking for help:

HERE is where you can sign up for Groupon

HERE is a version of the Groupon style guide

HERE are instructions for an app that unsubscribes you from Groupon e-mails

HERE is Groupon’s return policy/terms of sale

To the person who searched “Groupon dissertation,” I am intrigued. Were you looking for 40 percent off having someone magically write your dissertation for you? (I like writing my dissertation, but I still dream some days about waking up to a completed manuscript on my desk, warm from the printer, courtesy of some kind of intelligent elf or something.) Or, were you seeking dissertations about Groupon? Is your dissertation about Groupon? If so, please feel free to e-mail me at kira (dot) walsh (at) gmail (dot) com. That sounds cool.

I was spurred to write this follow-up post on Groupon not because of all the blog hits, but because the level of interest in my small little corner of Groupon knowledge has (hopefully) allowed a few people to adapt my Groupon idea for classroom use. Or to come up with their own way of using this particular digital “found object” for teaching or research or other personal interest. Lately, I have become really interested in the digital humanities (thanks in part to following the ProfHacker blog.) Digital humanities fits really well with the things I am interested in, especially in terms of thinking about the importance of the history of technology and communication to aspects of my dissertation work. I’m also really excited about the potential for teaching from a digital humanities perspective in the classroom.

My favorite part of teaching is helping students learn to write polished, effective argumentative essays. Above all, I want them to be curious, to use the tactic of pulling lots of ways of responding to and writing about ideas as they craft a final paper. Tools like Twitter (if the thesis for your five page paper isn’t Tweet-able, revise until you know your core argument), 750words.com (get in the habit of writing every day!), Wordle (you’re using the word “however” too much), and Scrivener (it’s just fun) help do some of the “legwork” in encouraging students to think about the process of writing and of organizing ideas in different ways.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the idea of the digital humanities because I’m not an expert in a lot of it. I can’t write HTML. I’m just learning how to tweak WordPress. I struggled through a single Final Cut project for a seminar class. The central technology that I discuss in my dissertation, the telephone, has apparently been killed.

But the popularity of my Groupon post helped remind me that digital humanities is also about using a variety of tactics, mediums, ways of thinking, organizing, experiencing, accessing. Not all of these things are complicated or require unique expertise. The Groupon is a digital “found object” — uniquely connected, intimate with its appearance in our personal e-mail, tactile when those of us without smart phones print our giant coupons and carry them into the yogurt shop for our wonderful, wonderful discount. And that’s what the humanities has always been about — trying lots of things, gathering lots of objects, thinking critically with the tools we have and learning to see the contours of the tools and capacities that are emerging or, possibly, fading away.

HTML code in the classroom can do that. Groupon can too. It can’t — and shouldn’t — all be simple. But ignoring the value of things that are accessible to me as a scholar makes what I don’t know a roadblock rather than a possibility.

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