Birmingham City University, in England, is offering a Masters degree in Facebook and Twitter. Students can now pay £4000 (about $6000) to earn credit for doing what they normally do to avoid schoolwork.
Birmingham City University's YouTube video introducing its new MA in Social Media
While the British government spies on Facebook, and British scientists remain intent on proving that Facebook causes autism, British academics are busily theorizing social network sites, studying a wildly popular phenomenon through the impenetrable jargon of cultural studies, the kind of language that no one on Facebook or Twitter would ever use.
But it’s not all interrogating heteronormative hermeneutics all the time at Birmingham City U. In addition to theory, students in the program will be offered “access to a peer group and active community of social media practitioners.” Which is theory-speak for saying that the students and faculty at BCU are addicted to Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, students and faculty everywhere are addicted to Facebook and Twitter, but the folks at BCU are so heavily into social networking that when the Guardian and the Telegraph quoted a student who criticized the new Facebook M.A. for teaching students to do what they already know how to do, faculty defended the course in a series of tweets on Twitter and posts on their walls.
The Facebook M.A. is a one-year program. Students take a set of how-to courses where they can pretend to watch Powerpoint presentations about Facebook and Bebo, a popular British social networking site, while surreptitiously reading Shakespeare on their laptops. After formal coursework they move on to “a substantial piece of independent study” in order to create “a social media production project” – they make a Facebook page at home – together with “an original piece of research in the form of a 15000-word dissertation.” At 140 characters a pop, and an average of five characters per word, that dissertation should consist of about 536 separate tweets.
You may be wondering what kind of job a Facebook M.A. prepares a student for. According to the school’s web site, graduates can “become a social media consultant (and understand what that means)” as well as “contribute to the development of the social media industry.”
YouTube video explains what you can do with an MA in Social Media
But you don’t have to take a course to know what “social media consultant” means. A Google search suggests that social media consultants help businesses set up blogs, and one social media consultant warns that many of his colleagues don’t really know what they’re doing. Plus, blogs, Facebook pages, and tweets are all essentially do-it-yourself projects, so it’s not clear that many people are eager to pay either certified or self-appointed consultants to provide these services for them.
In the event that jobs for Birmingham grads are hard to come by, the Facebook M.A. also prepares students to “continue to develop a scholarly interest in social media as part of a further research degree.” In other words, Birmingham City primes its graduates to do what unemployed B.A.s and M.A.s are doing the world over: ride out the recession by going back to school for a Ph.D.
Maybe the economy will turn around after another 10,000 tweets, and employers will start hiring again. But even if that doesn't happen, with all their experience writing 140-character tweets and 132-character text messages, students could always earn their daily bowl of rice by ghost-writing haiku for Zen masters too busy consulting to write their own.