Cynthia Selfe’s article on “Multimodal Composing” and Richard Miller’s “This is how we dream” YouTube video both stressed the idea of new media’s crucial role in the development of identity in beginning college writers.  I found this outlook on literacy and education to be refreshing-a breath of fresh air from what I consider to sometimes be a stuffy and stifling learning environment.  Learning and education need to move in the direction where the creator has the opportunity to express their ideas through multiple modes of media instead of being confined to a specific genre deemed proper by an archaic and selective institution.

Miller and Selfe agrees that the individual making meaning and producing for a global community is the new frontier for literacy.  New media enables creators to layer different modes and subsequently different ideas for all types of learners.  The process of the individual communicating an idea to a global audience fosters collaboration, another positive aspect of welcoming new media into education.  The self is not as autonomous, producing for a distinct elite who sets the rules and expectations.  Instead the individual is part of the group where learning and sharing can be given, taken, and is accessible to all.

I think its interesting that even though ideas communicated through new media are presented through so many sensory experiences in such a rapid and instant time frame the idea itself is not lost.  New media can even be considered to enhance ideas and creates and focus on the meaning conveyed.  As composition teachers I think it will be of value to evolve and grow along with the mentality and wants of society-socially, technologically, intellectually, artistically and culturally.

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2 comments on “

  1. Teaching Writing in the Age of Digital Media
    Blog post comments

    I find I’m a bit torn about the implications I see built around the idea of “composition” expanding to include “new media” elements such as video, audio, graphics, animation, database systems, and computer language programming. Richard Miller even gives the example of someone who is “composing the web.” I agree that the possibilities around all of these elements can generate a tremendous amount of excitement. And they should certainly be relevant and motivating for students. But I will argue that one fundamental core aspect may be lost, and that certain other visionary ideals may be practically unobtainable.

    I’m not sure about this leap from “writing in an age of digital media” to composing all elements of digital media. I won’t say that there is not an evolutionary rhetorical connection and progression, or even that the act of writing cannot encompass all of these elements (as in scripting for film, video, games, and new media. But scripting is not an end “product”). But I do believe the leap is quantum in nature and that if we, as teachers, try to make that leap without having first facilitated a basis of competence in the rhetorical, formal, and stylistic form of regular old writing (i.e. sentences making a discourse that contributes to critical thinking) that this writing ability is not going to otherwise somehow come through being able to include audio or video in one’s product (ne essay).

    Secondly, the excitement about new media has been with us for quite some time. There’s nothing new about new media other than that the tools are becoming more refined and powerful, and access to them is becoming easier. But the web has also spawned a growth in text-based communication. In other words (my premise): writing *for* new media has grown greatly in its importance. But this, to me, does not directly translate into writing *with* new media. Shooting and editing video is not writing. Animation is not writing. Scripting is coding, not writing. Using a blogging or website building application is not writing.

    But perhaps we want to change the definition of what composition means (I sometimes see inferences to musical composition). So in that case, the composer would be “creator” instead of “writer,” and that is what we would be teaching. But this seems to me to be what used to be called multi-media and is now referred to as new media—we would be teaching new media, not writing for new media.

    I used to program in Flash, one of the main programming languages for animation on the web. It’s a very powerful platform and has the ability to do “data visualization,” that is, building sophisticated interactive charts and graphs. But you have to be a pretty hard core programmer to do this. In the world of web programming there is the idea of mash-ups where developers with programming skills can mix—or you can call it composing if you like—disparate elements from disparate sources across the web—video, data, graphics, animation, and so on. Artists are often drawn to this interactive medium because of its visual nature. Writing certainly can and does play an important part in this, but there is, to my mind, a big difference between the parts and the whole. *Writing* composition is not *everything* composition. It’s great to become involved with all of it as an aspect of creative learning. But I think there should be a caution to not confuse one for the other.

  2. it seems as though you are in line with Doug Hesse, who would try to win this digital debate by sheer power of leverage available by defining the thing. he asks of cynthia selfe: Is the curricular space that our field inhabits “rhetoric/composing” or is it “writing/composing?”…my point is ultimately that the profession needs to have this out, at a high conceptual level rather than an accretive lower one…I see Cindy’s aim in this article as nothing short of calling for an expansive redefinition (she would see it as a reclamation) of composition” (603).

    the argument only gets decided after lots of people argue about it for awhile and then can sorta agree on something (and i am not sure what exactly Hesse means by the “Lower accretive level” vs, the higher conceptual level). But what if, what if, for whatever reason, things get to the point for the average college student, that “writing as composition” does begin dwindling into the tiniest, most embarrassing of nubs, so that even fewer and fewer people want to touch it because it alone is just not that useful for them? then what? I am not for or against anything here, I’m just saying…what if the ways in which students find themselves making meaning on a daily basis has little to do with “just writing”? Are we here to teach just the mechanics of writing? or are we here to help students bring to bear all of the tools at their disposal for making meaning with words? if writing is the ability to record what we think and then revisit it later, then what might that mean for here and now? and i really don’t want spend my time trying to be all that i can technologically be, but what happens if i dont?

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