I’ve written previously on this site about the use of Groupon in the classroom. Specifically, this post outlines an in-class writing workshop that teaches students about the conventions of scholarly introductions using the example of Groupon’s highly stylized coupon writing guide. The popularity of this post among users searching for various kinds of information about Groupon spurred me to write an additional post about Groupons where I explain why I think they are interesting and useful from an academic standpoint — Groupons are digital “found objects,” intimate and familiar to students. Drawing on these kinds of things as they come into and out of existence in our digital world helps to make the classroom relevant to the things students see in the digital spaces they inhabit. Groupon is not the only object that does this, but it’s one I’ve thought a lot about.
So I was excited to be contacted recently by Allison Morris of CreditScore.net. Allison let me know about a graphic she helped to create that, in her words, “takes an in-depth look at the current state of companies like Groupon and why they may be headed for trouble.” My first response to looking at the graphic was to wish that it had existed back when I first taught my own Groupon workshop. I had a student who was taking my class as a gen-ed writing requirement who was from the business school. We had already talked several times about his final project before I introduced the workshop (our focus until then had been on workshops that covered research, thesis statements, and the logistics of providing helpful peer review.) He had been fairly open about not feeling connected to the class. He didn’t love the idea he had for his final paper and he kept telling me he couldn’t find primary sources, despite my frequent attempts to explain what they were. I practically begged him to go to the subject librarians. The Groupon workshop was a turning point. The connections to business theory and Groupons pulled him in to the workshop. The usefulness of the Groupon model for writing helped him to see how engaging with the writing process could actually speak to the academic problems he was interested in. I love to show my students that writing is an integral aspect of knowledge production rather than an ancillary chore. For this particular student, the Groupon workshop was what allowed him to make that connection. He wrote a final paper on writing and business in relation to psychoanalysis and also presented on Groupon in a business class. Cross-disciplinary pollination FTW! 🙂
With this Groupon graphic, I can imagine extending the use of this “digital found object” to teach about visual and digital storytelling. The graphic, which you can view after the jump, tells a story about Groupon using data about how the business has developed over time. The introductory graphic, a Tombstone, does exactly what I ask for my students to do in their introduction. It introduces the problem, it explains how this graphic will present the problem, and it highlights what is at stake by taking an “angle”, connecting Groupon’s financial issues with the experience of its users. In relation to my own personal research, I’m also interested in the way that the graphic uses somber colors and images to connect Groupon’s fortunes to the affective response that consumers have developed to Groupons over time. The problem the graphic traces, in just a few sentences, is not only Groupon’s financial health, but also a shift in its emotional impact on consumers. The graphic may not cover every single aspect of Groupon’s history — in particular, I’m curious as to the success (or not) of the company’s attempts to branch out of the coupon market — but it tells a specific, compelling story. And perhaps it suggests that I may need a new object of evidence in future writing workshops where my students might ask “What is a Groupon?”
I’m also excited to note that the graphic is available under a Creative Commons license. As long as you attribute the graphic to CreditScore.net, you can distribute it as you wish. I’ll continue to use lots of different ideas in the classroom to connect writing instruction with the problems and questions students are interest in, and if I’m faced with another business student struggling to connect with placing their business knowledge into narrative structure, this graphic could be part of that process.