Colyar (2008). “Becoming Writing, Becoming Writers”

Colyar demonstrates and describes a method for getting the “shitty first draft” done. She demonstrates placeholder sentences and false start introductions, describing how the work of writing through what she doesn’t yet know how to say will clarify her argument so that she can rewrite it in a more confident tone. She argues that completed products are always rewritten (which reminds me of Nabakov: there is no reading, only re-reading.) and usually hide the process of their construction (which is an old argument about the “false” or deceptive nature of art generally and writing in particular.) She ultimately argues that writing is an important tool for making knowledge (not just representing it) and that qualitative research classes should give more attention to teaching people how to do it.



Hawisher, Selfe, Guo, Liu (2006). “Globalization and Agency: Designing and Redesigning the Literacies of CyberSpace”

Hawisher and Selfe examine the multiple and complex factors that play into the lives of two women building literacy practices in their home languages, English, and digital environments.

“Their narratives, we believe, also empha size the interdependent relationship between learning English(es), learning digital literacies, and acquiring the means of success in an increasingly technological world” (634).

“In an increasingly technological world, per sonal connections and resources can be amplified in reach and scope?but also com plicated in their formation and deployment?within the expanding network of computer networks and through the practice of digital literacies” (635)

Lang (2002): “Electronic Dissertations: Preparing Students for Our past or Their Futures?”

Lang suggests that as electronic archives and publishing possibilities become more ubiquitous, the university will have to be more flexible in how they value and use the dissertation.

“More specifically, what new pressures have been brought to bear on the dissertation as information technology slowly makes inroads into the daily life of English departments?” (680).

“Adding a greater technological element into the composing and distributing of dissertations forces us to consider multiple issues, some new and some that are only brought to the forefront because this elec-tronically assisted or integrated process will make previously tacit behaviors on the part of both students and faculty explicit” (681).

“The movement toward the electronic dissertation, or, more precisely, the electronic distribution of the dissertation, threatens to upset this delicate equilibrium in ways the profession has only begun to imagine and thereby to force us to reevaluate the role and nature of the dissertation in graduate educa-tion” (684).

“The movement toward the electronic dissertation, or, more precisely, the electronic distribution of the dissertation, threatens to upset this delicate equilibrium in ways the profession has only begun to imagine and thereby to force us to reevaluate the role and nature of the dissertation in graduate educa-tion” (693).

“Thus it is imperative that we not only consider the question of what to do about electronically composed or distributed dissertations, but act on that question as well, or else we will find our students, in the course of fulfilling departmental expectations, preparing for an en-vironment that no longer exists. Ethically, we have a responsibility to equip students for their futures, rather than for our past” (694).

Westbrook (2006). “Visual Rhetoric in a Culture of Fear: Impediments to Multimedia Production.”

Westbrook is concerned that students are not given enough opportunities to act as producers of visual arguments and that current (academic and commercial) notions of the primacy of writing and the power of copyright leads teachers to devalue student literacy practices and to discourage students from becoming producers of visual texts. He allows for the importance of teaching students to “read” visual texts – which calms the irritation that I feel when people treat reading as consuming rather than producing.

“That is, we redeploy the lore and paradigms that we have inherited-the advice, warnings, or ways of knowing that the authorities of print culture have given us-whether or not these are entirely appropriate for and ultimately beneficial to writing students of the twenty-first century. In this essay I argue that our inheritance- and here I refer to traditions both inside and outside the academy-sometimes leads us to devalue students’ experiments with visual rhetoric and multimedia composition, regardless of our intentions.” (459)

In other words, to “do” visual rhetoric in composition too often means not to work with students on authoring multimedia visual texts that combine words and images but, rather, to work on critically reading visual artifacts and demonstrating this critical reading through the evidence of a print essay.(460)

However, their arguments represent a minority position, for at present a consumer orientation pervades the professional scholarship of the field. This orientation is revealed in the work of interdisciplinary scholars who have influenced composition’s understanding of visual rhetoric as well as the work of compositionists who have sought to define visual rhetoric from within their own enterprise.

A survey of recently published textbooks reveals the paucity of opportunities for students to engage in the production of visual texts.(461)

Of these 2,620 prompts, only 143, or roughly 5 percent, require students to engage in multimedia or visual production, (462)

Here, the ability to combine images and text depends on “talent” rather than “learning,” and this perceived dependency reveals how foreign many of us in composition consider visual production to be to our enterprise. (463)

This is not to say that students have any ultimate control (the last word?or image, as it were) over the identities that they create, assert, and perhaps share publicly through multimedia production but, rather, that as producers they have the ability to better and more actively negotiate their positions in on- and offline public spheres. (463)

In short, positioning students to author texts in the kinds of media that dominate these spheres provides them with more initial power and responsibility to shape, recognize, and claim their social-textual identities.  (465)

Carter (2008). “Writing with Light: Jacob Riis’s Ambivalent Exposures.”

Carter takes up the image-texts of Jacob Riis and explores his apparent success in persuading (especially) middle class New Yorkers into practicing a kind of socialist “social work” through charity organizations. He ultimately argues that Riis’s work is marked by ambivalence toward capitalist society and did more to alter the look of things than the underlying structures. “Once we grant the materiality of literacy across time, it appears that the digital age represents not the onset but the recent flourish ing of multimodality, a historical accumulation rather than a beginning”(118)

“For audiences seeking both entertainment and civic instruction, Riis’s texts produced effects similar to those that Reynolds attributed to digital media a hundred years later: the interplay of pictures and anecdotes created the feeling of travel, mak ing possible an adventurous but safe form of ‘border crossing'” (121).

Schwartz (2008). “Object Lessons: Teaching Multiliteracies through the Museum.”

Schwartz argues that the multiliteracies set out by The New London Group can be productively taught through rhetorical analysis of museums and how they persuade visitors by appealing to the various modes (verbal, visual, aural, spacial, etc.), noting that “through their ordered display, objects make arguments”(28).  He describes how museums address each of these literacies and then describes a class project that called on students to analyze and re-envision museum displays by creating a virtual alternative.

“This museum-based approach to teaching multiliteracies is integrated, situated, and substantive. It is integrated, in that it com bines rather than isolates instruction in these literacies throughout the course, unit, or activity.8 It is situated, for it locates these skills within the specific social and material context of the museum. It is substantive because it calls for production as well as examination of multimodal forms of communication” (29).

I really like the way this article moves from theory to example to practice, and I’m especially interested in his “integrated, situated, substantive” framework – where did he get that? He spends some time distinguishing between traditional notions of “museum literacy” and what he proposes – developing literacies through rhetorical analysis of museum spaces/displays.

Lauer (2011). “What’s in a name? The anatomy of defining New/Multi/Modal/Digital/Media/Texts.”

For her webtext,

Over a three year period, Lauer interviewed Jonathan Alexander, Cheryl Ball, Cynthia Selfe, Scott DeWitt, Jason Palmeri, Gunther Kress, and Anne Wysocki about how they define the terms they use to describe their work, explaining that “With terms like new media, multimodal, multimedia, and digital media brushing up against each other in our scholarly discourse, my quest to investigate the question of how these terms are named, defined, and differentiated is what ultimately led to my developing this project.” The first part of the text explains her methods and describes the important differences between print and web authoring with special attention to the way multiple modes can complicate and enrich meaning.

“Because of the complexity of multimodal texts, it takes a village to compose them, and this fundamentally changes how it feels to be an author.”

“However, what was different about authoring a multimodal webtext is that the number of semiotic elements to tinker with, not to mention the act of bringing all those elements together to be effectively displayed on a computer screen, far exceeds the number of elements I would have to work with at a sentence or paragraph level in alphabetic text.”

“… the results are usually more beautiful and complex than what I would be able to communicate through a single mode.”

“Using terms that include people is essential for sustaining engagement with the many messages we seek to share in our scholarly and pedagogical work.”

Some quotes that may be useful for my research:

Cheryl Ball – “But often by the end of the semester I’m interchanging those words and using multimodal andnew media. Rarely do I use digital media because I want them to understand that they have flexibility, for students who don’t have access to technology, that they can produce multimodal texts that are scrapbooks or collages or whatever they need to that don’t have to be digital.”

Gunther Kress – “Because I’m mainly an academic, rather than a kind of rhetorician in the public domain, I think for doing academic work, for being precise, the term [Multimedia] is, I think, a hindrance; it’s an obstacle. But if you’re wanting to talk to parents in schools or to politicians, it may be that you don’t go through the kind of mire of attempting to educate them, but you go straight to what you want of them and you know they understand it.”

Scott DeWitt – “The only way that we can sustain the work that we’re doing here is to make sure that people understand what we’re doing here, and that they continue to be engaged… If this were the Center for Multimodal Composition, I don’t think people would have anything to grab onto with that. If we were the New Media Project, a little bit more, but I think people would think that… they would want to know what the “new” means on that”

Cynthis Selfe – “There’s one more reason that I don’t use new media. I don’t want to fool myself into thinking that what I’m doing is new and I don’t want to suggest to other people that what I’m doing is new.”

“I make a distinction between medium and modality. Medium is the delivery mechanism.Modality is the semiotic channel that we use to communicate.”

Wysocki – “So, yeah, I’m probably talking more about the new media here because I’m focusing on issues of not just production, but also circulation and distribution and consumption.”

Palmeri – “But multimodality doesn’t explain the real question he had, which was: once I put this up on YouTube, how am I going to get an audience?… For that we need to talk about networked media and we need to talk about how digital texts circulate, and how there are new affordances for finding an audience that are unique to these kinds of media. And I think multimodality wouldn’t help in there at all.”

Lauer – “Each of these scholars discuss multimodal as describing the features of the text itself, while new media is concerned with how texts circulate and are consumed.”

Tinberg (2005). “Taking (and Teaching) the Shoah Personally.”

Tinberg’s article is a reflection on an interdisciplinary (English and History) unit that he co-taught about the Shoah. Because he is the son of Shoah survivors, he explains that the questions raised about the presentation of the material (especially whether to try to remain detached and “objective” or whether to add reveal the personal connections he has to the subject) are “more than merely academic questions” (73). His article touches on a number of important issues in multimodal projects: the (often personal) convictions of teachers about the importance of the work, the intersection and overlap of public and private, the ways in which multimodal presentation tries to convey a fuller picture of large complex issues, the tension between taking a global and a local view (statistics vs personal narratives), and the power of some presentations to deflect notions of critique. This last is especially interesting (and reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s opening argument in Three Guineas about photographs of war) because he posits that the overpowering pain represented in image, text, and talk by survivors causes students to avoid critical evaluations of the construction of the message. On the one hand, he acknowledges that “to divest Shoah narratives of the personal is to dehumanize the tragedy” (75), but on the other, he proposes that the very personal and painful stories – constructed from imperfect memory and imperfect language – seem unassailable. This seems to imply that more work in reading these kinds of texts is necessary and that perhaps we need more pathways to understand critique as a tool that can recognize the rhetorical moves of a multimodal text without feeling that those moves make the message untrue.

Fleckenstein (2004). “Words Made Flesh: Fusing Imagery and Language in a Polymorphic Literacy.”

Fleckenstein advances a polymorphic literacy that treats writing as a performance that involves both images and language. She describes this interdependency as an entanglement:”Both process and product, imagery is fluid, porous, and malleable. Similarly, as this definition of imagery implicitly highlights, the image-word relationship is fluid, porous, and malleable. Even though an image is by its nature outside of language, we cannot name an image or do anything with an image without language” (619). She relates this interdependency to the “strange loop” phenomenon described by Hofstadter, a kind of chicken-and-egg argument – the image and the word shape each other, and the word is, itself, and image. (Scott McCloud makes a similar argument in understanding comics, though it’s not referenced here.) She calls attention to the way images are differently described by different disciplines (as mental, verbal, art, design, etc.) She argues that language-centric pedagogies cut off access to important streams of meaning and that polymorphic attention to the language/image relationship can restore it.

Mackey (2003). “Television and the Teenage Literate: Discourses of ‘Felicity’.”

Mackey describes a set of literacy practices around the show Felicity. Some are created by the writers of the show (character websites and “authorized” novels) and some are practiced by fans (transcripts of the show, critical commentary, reviews, and fanfictions). She argues that teachers should be aware of the interlocking literacy practices that many teens are growing up accustomed to because of the ways they may shape students’ critical practices. She argues that many of these practices have been utilized in the past (with market successes like Shakespeare and serial publications like Dickens) and that relating current practices to practices of the past may give students a different view of both their own time and literature of the past. The “literacy show” has expanded to include more than just print, and it is important to recognize and value (capitalize on) students’ extracurricular literacy practices. Her emphasis on the age divide seems overblown.