Prior to SXSW, Dr. Tere Garza instructed students on how to write Associated Press Style reviews. This year, Hannah Thornby the Life and Arts editor for the Hilltop Views (the St. Edward’s University campus newspaper) visited with the class to provide article submission instructions. During SXSW, students enrolled in the class take on the role of journalists. They have a 48-hour submission deadline to produce reviews, take photos, and/or edit film of SXSW events for print or online publication in Hilltop Views. Their final assignment for the course requires an application a rhetorical or cultural studies theory and method in writing an extended critical analysis of an emerging form of popular culture (music, film, game, or new media technology) that they encountered at SXSW.
The purpose of this service-learning project is to give students the opportunity to contemplate and apply the theoretical lessons learned in class. By participating in SXSW, students are able to see firsthand the process by which popular culture functions as a rhetorical and cultural artifact and how it carries meaning, manifests group identity, and sometimes becomes a site of political, social, and cultural struggle. They learn how rhetorical criticism contributes to the shaping of popular culture and how they can utilize rhetorical critique to evaluate new forms of popular culture as well as their ensuing debates.