In "Baby, We Were Born to Tweet," I use a grounded theory approach to offer a view into the writing practices of one group of media contributors, Bruce Springsteen fans, as they tweet before, during, and after a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert on April 12, 2012 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ. My interest in how fans are composing emerges from Kathleen Blake Yancey's (2004) call to better understand how and why people are writing outside of the classroom—especially in the age of Web 2.0. As Yancey (2004) wrote, "no one is making anyone do any of this writing" (p. 298). No one is making anyone tweet, yet millions are tweeting every day.
Callouts under the heading, "What's happening?" will provide additional information about content related to the main text. For example:
"Baby, We Were Born to Tweet" may be read more linearly by following the Track List at the top left or links at the bottom of each page. Color-coded in-text links bring readers to content along three main grooves: Fans and Writing, Methods & Thought Processes, and Results & Interpretations. Black-and-white photographs I recorded at the April 4, 2012 concert provide a visual representation of the ideas discussed.
Grounded theory is a qualitative research methodology where theories about the object of study emerge from the data itself (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Charmaz, 2006; Creswell, 2006). Researchers withhold applying theoretical constructs to data until phenomena emerging from the data suggest either new theories or new applications of existing theories. As such, I have taken advantage of the nonlinear structure of webtexts to replicate as close as possible my process of discovery. Therefore, content traditionally found in an introduction—namely, a discussion of the main theories that inform the findings—have been withheld until the conclusion. It wasn't until I was able to draw conclusions from the data that theories became instructive. I situate the study by presenting background information on the evolution of writing on Twitter and a brief history of fan readings and writings. I then move into a discussion of grounded theory methods, my research process, and results, including insights into my reasons for coding tweets as I did.
What are you doing?
As part of my process of understanding study data and Springsteen fan activities, I reached out to members of the Springsteen fan community via direct message and email to see if they could answer questions about certain fan activities. I also emulated Henry Jenkins's (2013) practice of providing fans copies of scholarship in draft form to encourage feedback on the accuracy of my depiction of fans and provide opportunities for critique and disagreement. Jenkins (2013) considered his "fellow fans as active collaborators in the research process" (p. 7). I do as well. Information informed by fans appears in callouts under the heading, "What are you doing?"
It is important, however, to note my goal is not to attempt to show uniqueness in fan tweets; even those that might be considered run-of-the-mill fan-type writings that express fan-type adoration are important and meaningful. Rather, I present composing practices as suggested by a grounded theory approach so fan writing on Twitter may begin to be understood on its own terms and not through pre-conceived (and often incorrect) notions about fans, fan writing, and writing on Twitter. Though scholars in rhetoric, composition, and technical writing (as well as fan studies) have started examining how various communities and individuals are composing on Twitter (for example, L. Bennett, 2014; Jones, 2014; McNely, 2010; Potts, Seitzinger, Jones, & Harrison, 2011), there is still much to learn. I hope my study helps close the knowledge gap, if ever so slightly, while also showing how grounded theory methods can be used to study new media texts to reveal nuances that might otherwise be missed.