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Teaching New Media Composition

Overview
In an increasingly networked society, the way we think about sharing information, constructing meaning, and participating in discourse is fundamentally changing. As such, even “traditional” composition courses are forced to at least acknowledge the role new media plays in twenty first century communication. The following resources provide an overview of the issues surrounding new media pedagogy as well as ways to think through and enact exercises in media literacy within the composition classroom. All articles are linked from this page, or are available through the WSU online journal database.

Anderson, Daniel. “Prosumer Approaches to New Media Composition.” Kairos 8.1 (2003)
In his own multimedia hybrid, Daniel Anderson suggests various techniques for “prosumer” media composition within the classroom as a way of developing students into critical media consumers while at the same time empowering them with skills to skills to act as a producer. Prosumer is defined as “the convergence of professional and consumer level equipment and software.” Production techniques can range from analyzing film and explicating images as a precursor to literary analysis to creating hybrid, non-textual arguments using repurposed media, music, consumer-grade cameras, and video editing software.

Ball, Cheryl E., and Ryan M. Moeller. “Reinventing the Possibilities: Academic Literacy and New Media.” Fibreculture Journal 20 (2007)
This webtext offers a point of convergence (as well as a demonstrative example) between rhetorical theory and English studies on the use of multimodal texts to engage a reader on a variety of levels. The authors advance a standard of new commonplaces – orienting points of reference based on the ways in which groups construct meaning from read “texts” – and new topoi – aesthetic design strategies and material factors (software, images, sound files) available for use in constructing an argument. They argue that such critical discussion is crucial to informing and legitimizing new media pedagogy.

DeVoss, Danielle Nicole, et al. “Infrastructure and Composing: The When of New-Media Writing.” College Composition and Communication 57.1 (2005)
This piece focuses on the institutional, political, and cultural infrastructures (based on Star and Ruhleder’s characteristics of infrastructure) surrounding the moment of a media composition. These infrastructures are not merely the existing limitations of media, but are the sum of environmental factors “deeply embedded in the decision-making processes of writing” (16). As such, the authors argue that an understanding of the relationship between these environmental factors and the writing that they determine is critical for attaining the possibilities of the new media classroom. They explore this understanding through three questions and propose a new framework for critically evaluating the spaces of new media composition: “What material, technical, discursive, institutional, and cultural conditions prohibit and enable writing with multiple media? How does an infrastructural approach offer a lens through which we can better interpret and understand the multiple conditions at play in our writing classrooms? How can an infrastructural interpretation support and enable new-media writing?” (23).

Selfe, Cynthia L. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning.” College Composition and Communication 60.4 (2009)
Cynthia Selfe begins this article by tracing a brief cultural and academic history of aurality throughout the latter half of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She argues that the focus on written text as the primary mode of academic work is a relatively recent instructional phenomenon that not only increasingly separated writing and reading from speech but also tended to marginalize minority groups. She then moves to consider how, despite being largely subsumed by writing, aurality’s persistence within cultural and academic practices of the twentieth century demonstrates its importance as part of emerging literacies, discursive practices, and identity formation within our increasingly technologized world. As such, she argues for an increase in our classroom “bandwidth” to develop more opportunities for students to engage and develop expertise with a range of technologies through composing multimodal/text hybrids that convey meaning in multiple ways. She feels this is crucial to helping students develop as functionally literate citizens capable of using “all available means of persuasion, all available dimensions, all available approaches” in a world of complex, networked, multimodal communications (645 emphasis original). Examples of the type of work she advocates can be found here.

Stoupe, Craig. “Hacking the Cool.” Computers and Composition 24.4 (2007)
This article examines the possibilities and problems related to creating New Media genres or potentially successful spaces for the convergence of traditional and digital forms. Stoupe argues that attempts to map traditional writing forms onto digital genres results in varied degrees of success which reveals the problematic relations emerging between print and digital cultures. The first involves providing a “gathering shape” which balances the discontinuity of pages and random sprawl of hyperlinks characteristic of the Web with a central situation, concept, or event. The second approach is termed “elaborationism” where the effects of a work are developed through the complex interplay of its literal meaning and style of presentation. He claims that while the first two approaches impose literary rigidity on a dynamic network environment, a third approach – Parody – allows for a more fluid continuity between the two. Native informational web content, such as eBay postings, are experimentally repurposed as parodies of contemporary culture in the style of Web hoaxes and satire. He hails this approach as providing a space wherein new digital/literary forms may emerge as people continuously adapt existing technologies and discourses to their own creative purposes.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Made Not Only in Words.” College Composition and Communication 56.2 (2004)
In her chair’s address, Kathleen Blake Yancy considers issues such as the disparity between public conceptions of composition and the writing that instructors teach and test, as well as the emergence and assemblages of new mediums, technologies, and methods of delivery. Further, she explores these in their complex relations to composition pedagogy, higher education, and cultural phenomenon in the twenty-first century. This article provides a good overview of the state of Composition and New Media particularly in light of her three charges: develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise our writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric. The latter half of her essay is devoted to the first of these charges and calls for a fundamental shift not only in the concepts and techniques taught, but in the very concept of composition as it exists today.

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