In an increasingly technological world, students need to be experienced and skilled not only in reading (consuming) texts employing multiple modalities, but also in composing in multiple modalities, if they hope to communicate successfully within the digital communication networks that characterize workplaces, schools, civic life, and span traditional cultural, national, and geopolitical borders. (Takayoshi & Selfe, 2007, p. 3)
On this site, we present a set of products composed in a graduate seminar held in Fall 2014 focused on visual rhetoric, document design, and multimodal composing. The specific products are book reviews--more specifically, multimediated book reviews. On this initial page, we describe some of the theoretical and pedagogical beliefs that framed our work, along with pointing toward some of the contextual class materials. Across the other pages of this webtext, readers will find links to our book reviews, brief bios of the reviewers, and a conclusion that pulls across the texts reviewed.
Our Goals and Purpose
Our goals in creating multimediated book reviews was to:
Engage in the practice of composing multimedia work. Across the work we explored and engaged during the semester were claims related to the necessity of play, practice, and craft. We agreed that it’s not enough to research, analyze, and write alphabetically about multimodal work, but deep analysis must be complemented by creation and production. We thus situated ourselves as composers/designers/producers. One of the texts we read in the seminar that provides excellent articulations of and robust models for doing so was Writing New Media , by Anne Wysocki, Johnson Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc (2004).
Express the expansiveness of multimodality. Crafting digital-visual work allowed us to engage rhetorical means and moves in ways that, certainly, alphabetic text alone allows, but layering modes allowed us to differently reveal affect and engage our audiences, and to do justice to the concepts explored in the books we reviewed, all of which focus to some extent on multimodal composing and/or visual rhetorics. To conceptualize "multimodality," we read pieces from Cheryl Ball (2004), Bump Halbritter (2012), Claire Lauer (2009), and others.
Demonstrate collaboration through our composing practices. Digital composing requires collaboration--across spaces, places, materialities, and more. Composing multimodal pieces requires that we be writers, designers, coders, audio production experts, video developers, front-end designers, and more; indeed, it is difficult for any one scholar to engage these practices. Rather, it takes a community to foster and support multimodal composition. Our webtext is evidence of such collaboration.
Offer a resource, and model a way in which we can perhaps more broadly share the multimodal texts we create, in a curated and prefaced way. Digital delivery, we reminded ourselves across the course, is in many ways different than our practices of print delivery. Multimodal compositions often require, we would argue, curation. When texts can exist under sites and within databases, for users/readers to discover from different paths, we must be attentive to the ways in which the multimodal compositions live and breathe in digital space.
- Put a set of texts in conversation. Typically, the thing that is a "book review" lives in isolation. One or two might appear in the back pages of an academic journal. We constructed this webtext deliberately to put a set of reviews in conversation with one another. In doing so, we hope to call attention to each text, across the multiple texts, and to the ways in which our scholarship is best (and is typically always) framed by a constellation of resources.
The reason we chose the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative site as the space to hold our reviews is because we believe that the developers of and the community engaged by the DRC shares the beliefs that we hold about multimodal composing, about collaboration, and about curation of digital texts. The DRC is "a space for shared inquiry into the range of ideas, conversations, and activities that together constitute the work of digital rhetoricians and of the computers and writing community." The site and its community of participants, bloggers, writers, fellows, and others, focuses on and encourages innovation in composition, the celebration of multimodal compositions and webtexts, and the extension of invitations to conversation.
One of the emergences across our graduate seminar this semester was that of community. Across our seminar, we saw the ways in which scholars spoke to each other in their work--the ways in which they contrasted, questioned, complemented, and drew upon each other’s claims in rich and layered ways. We hope to lend our voices to this conversation through the constellated analyses of and homage to some of the compelling texts published related to multimodal composing reviewed within this webtext.
A Bit About the Seminar
The seminar in which we produced this webtext is titled WRA 860 Visual Rhetoric Theory for Professional Writers. In the past, it has been co-listed with an undergraduate document design course. As the demand for both versions of the course expanded, the faculty curriculum committees in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures found it both practically and pedagogically necessary to separate the course. The undergraduate course focuses more on document design in professional writing contexts (you can read more about the undergraduate course and review its syllabus at https://www.msu.edu/~devossda/360).
When the instructor of WRA 860 for the fall of 2014 (Dànielle Nicole DeVoss) originally conceptualized, the course, she imagined it as a course focused on scholarly explorations of visual rhetoric theory with a heavy emphasis on producing multimodal texts; the course was designed to toggle across analysis, research, and theory and creating, designing, and producing.
The key claim that framed the course is that: Writers not only compose a range of documents—including memos, letters, reports, slideshow presentations, web pages, brochures, flyers, forms, instruction sets, documentation and help files, and many others—we also design these documents. Document design requires that we think about how the structure and the elements of texts help readers understand and use the documents we write. Thus, students in the seminar--which included working professionals pursuing master's degrees to doctoral students teaching composition at the university--were situated as teachers, as researchers, as practitioners, and as professionals.
The course activities engaged participants in:
- situating and framing our work through scholarship related to visual rhetoric, document design, and multimodal composing;
- playing in the spaces where document design and rhetorical practices rub up against one another;
- exploring how document design elements work within different types of documents;
- considering and experimenting with the different rhetorical moves that can be made with different formatting and design choices; and
- describing, analyzing, articulating, and justifying our design decisions.
ReferencesBall, Cheryl. (2004). Show, not tell: The value of new media Scholarship. Computers and Composition, 21, 403–425. Halbritter, Bump. (2012). Mics, cameras, symbolic action: Audio-visual rhetoric for writing teachers. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.
Lauer, Claire. (2009). Contending with terms: "Multimodal" and "Multimedia" in the academic and public spheres. Computers and Composition, 26, 225–239.
Selfe, Cynthia L., & Takayoshi, Pamela. (2007). Thinking about multimodality. In Cynthia L. Selfe (Ed.), Multimodal composition: Resources for teachers (pp. 1–12). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.