Wysocki, Anne Frances et al. Writing New Media : Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Utah State University Press, 2004. Print.

Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications (Wysocki)

  • W. references Bolter and Kress early on in this first chapter to point out the fact that writing is always changing; however, today, writing’s “material practice” is changing in fairly quick and momentous ways.  W. claims that this book offers some “carpet scraps” or a smattering of materials that can act as openings in this particular time of writing change (2).
  • W. relies heavily on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition because H.’s book articulates a “materiality of writing” or:

  • W. notes that Horner (relying on Gibbons) argues that our agency and structure are mutually constitutive: we can have agency insomuch as we recognize that our actions are given possibility through historically situated and contingent material structures.
  • W. claims that we don’t need to bring new media to the writing classroom; rather, new media needs to be informed by what writing teachers know about textual creation and situated writing practices in order to make new media make things happen (5).  W. claims that new media scholarship outside Writing Studies is about either the ways to analyze or design isolated new media texts or the ways that new media functions in media structures and broad contexts in general.  In other words, there isn’t a lot outside writing studies (according to W.) that makes new media a rhetorical enterprise.
  • What exactly is she after?  “writing teachers are already practiced with helping others understand how writing – as a print-based practice – is embedded among the relations of agency and extensive material practices and structures that are our lives.  Writing teachers can help others consider how the choices we make in producing a text necessarily situate us in the midst of ongoing, concrete, and continually up-for-grabs decisions about the shapes of our lives.  Writing teachers can thus fill a large gap in current scholarship on new media; they can bring to new media texts a humane and thoughtful attention to materiality, production, and consumption, which is currently missing” (7).
  • Recap of the collection contents on pg. 9.
  • W. argues that the advancements in digital technology should encourage us to consider the material choices of all textual production – print-based and digital alike . . . in so doing we can draw attention to the role of materiality in writing practice both for the old and the not-so-old writing technologies of the lifeworld.  This practice has a lot of repercussions because it constantly forces questions about authority, textual production, property, and the solitary, unified subject (12) . . . especially when you consider the values embedded in something like the print book.
  • W. argues we should consider the linearity of texts, perspective sight, generic conventions of academic publication, and functional forms when we consider the material of our texts. . . what do these things value?  what sorts of subjectivities do they create?
  • W. defines new media texts as “those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality:  such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text – like its composers and readers – doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts.  Such composers design texts that make them as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).  [1. Think intellectual property licensing here.]  This attention to materiality leads to a researcher position that sees texts as more than simple digital representation. . . it situates textual practices within the realm of the social/ideological/contextual.  So, by paying attention to materiality, W. avoids technological determinism and recenters the discourse around the individual’s engagement with technologies of writing.
  • W. claims that by teaching new media production in our classes we can foreground the notion that the writer is positioned while at the same time building positions in written discourse by seeing the reflection of the material conditions of the world in the object of writing itself (20-1).
  • W. argues that we should be “generous readers” become the shifts in composing and consuming texts require familiarization and a time for learning (22).

Students Who Teach Us: A Case Study of a New Media Text Designer (Selfe)

  • S. argues in this chapter that teachers of composition should be interested in new media texts and should incorporate them in their classrooms as a means of teaching about new literacies.  To make this argument S. considers a case study of a former student who, she argues, “can help us understand how such texts are changing our understanding of what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century and help us understand our own role in relation to change” (44).
  • S. provides a couple of lessons on literacy from David’s case:

  • When considering Lesson 2 (new media literacy as important to identity formation, power, and social codes), S. acknowledges that new forms of organization (through association rather than geographical/ethnic bounds) can provide opportunities for connection but also pitfalls of alienation, fragmentation, and disenfranchisement (53).
  • Relying on the New London Group, S. notes that multimodal composition practices will be fundamentally important if our students intend to continue being relevant agents involved in the conduct of public, community, and economic life (55).  By ignoring new media, S. cautions, the disciplinary apparatus will crumble under the weight of irrelevance.

Toward New Media Texts: Taking up the Challenges of Visual Literacy (Selfe)

  • In this chapter S. argues that one productive way that new media noobs (comp teachers) can productively engage new media is through work in visual literacy (67).
  • For S., visual literacy is the ability to “read, understand, value, and learn from visual materials . . . especially as these visual artifacts are combined to create a text” (69).  Visual literacy also encompasses the ability to “create, combine, and use visual elements and messages for the purposes of communicating” (69).
  • In considering why teachers of composition usually devalue the visual, S. points to the usual suspects (habit, familiarity, personal investment in print, etc) but also systemic factors (educational systems preference alphabetic texts) and material constraints (tech costs $$$).  By paying attention to the visual we meet our students own literacies more intimately while making a step toward our own institutional relevance in a world characterized by rapid communicative change (72).

Box-Logic (Sirc)

  • S. begins this essay by admitting a problem facing many composition teachers today:  if I leave the linear prose of the essay, what do I teach?  In trying to decide what to teach, “What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (Johnson-Eilola, 114).
  • As an answer to this question, Sirc considers the Box – a frame for storing and showing one’s most cherished items.  According to S., the box “offers a grammar which could prove useful in guiding our classroom practice in light of rapidly shifting compositional media:  it allows both textual pleasure, as students archive their personal collections of text and imagery, and formal practice in learning the compositional skills that seem increasingly important in contemporary culture” (114).
  • S.’s first recommendation for new media composition is to use technology to create an archive of sorts – an archive filled with objects of the collector’s desire (student desire).  The associational logics that link the objects of that desire together becomes an integral, organizing theme of the text.  In this way, students become curators of collections . . . collections that will eventually be exhibited as new media texts.  As S. notes, “So, text as box = author as collector, as passionate re-fashioner of an idiosyncratic, metonymic world; students working to find their own personal symbologies” (117).
  • By pushing students to consider non-traditional texts as parts of the collection they curate, S. moves students beyond mere affinities for objects toward a curiosity or intellectual fascination that operates as a pleasure-inducing mechanism:  the student gains pleasure from fulfilling their own intellectual curiosity surrounding the objects of their desire.
  • S. argues against “polish” in new media textual production, arguing that “I want students – designers, now not essayists – free for such associational drifts; entering things naively, without countless rehearsals; trying to capture a mood or vision” (121).   As such, this is a form of ludic composition.
  • This form of associational composition and research encourages a pedagogy that teaches arrangement (think the remix) and the process of annotation (you need to remember the bits and fragments in order to remix them) (123).
  • Taken in total Sirc sees this work of box-logic (or remix) as a return of the expressive (albeit refined) in the Humanities curriculum . . . a rejoinder to the decades long emphasis on the strictly analytic (124).
  • As teachers of composition, S. argues, we are curators . . . and as curators we have the ability to build writing courses that don’t necessarily support the conservative aims of the status quo or the academy (127).

The Database and the Essay: Understanding Composition as Articulation (Johnson-Eilola)

  • J-E begins by noting that while we all tend to recognize the postmodern nature of things (no authors [except as constructs], free play of signifiers, singular texts with a multiplicity of meanings, social construction, etc.) we are often fairly anxious to embrace this sort of POV in our composition pedagogy . . . in fact, we often don’t and instead teach writing as the “creative production of original words in linear streams that some reader receives and understands” (200).
  • In this chapter (or network) J-E considers different ways of understanding textuality and literacy by exploring the contradictions and contingencies that constitute the fundamental tension between postmodern philosophy and modernist pedagogy (current-traditional).
  • In answering the question, “Where does writing come from?” J-E offers two theoretical explanations: symbolic-analytic work and articulation theory.
  • In the section “Writing as Symbolic-Analytic Work,” J-E explains that this concept (drawn from U.S. labor secretary Robert Reich but developed across much more interesting works like Zuboff & Maxmin, Hardt/Negri, and other Italian communists) understands writing work as the ability to “understand users and technologies, bringing together multiple, fragmented contexts in an attempt to broker solutions” (201).  Solitary authorship is key to literacy; however, it isn’t the form of networked, distributed writing that will structure the future of writing in the 21st century.
  • In “Writing as Articulation” J-E works through articulation – or “the idea that ideology functions like a language, being constructed contingently across groups of people over time and from context to context” (201).  In other words, this recognizes that meaning is the product of context . . . not the product of the sender-transmission-receiver model of communication.  What we have here is a “theory of contexts” or an understanding that ideology and language are moving targets whose meaning is rhetorical in that it is contingent upon the elements of the ecology it is circulating in/through (202).
  • J-E makes an interesting argument in this chapter concerning the connection between IP and postmodern conceptions of authorship.  According to J-E, postmodern explanations of the death of the author have enabled capitalist forces to fragment larger works and protect the constituent parts that may have, at one time, composed a larger apparatus.  In his words, “textual content has become commodified, put into motion in the capitalist system, forced to earn its keep by moving incessantly . . . . in order to facilitate movement, texts are increasingly fragmented and broken apart so that they will fit into the increasingly micro-channels of capitalist circulation” (203).  This is one example of the IP-related implications of modular/distributed production.
  • J-E troubles the distinction between “writing” and “compilation” in this chapter as a means of getting at exactly what constitutes composition in the contemporary era (205).
  • Considering the cases Basic Books, Inc. v Kinko’s Graphics Corporation and Princeton University Press v Michigan Document Services J-E highlights how the “four-factor” approach to fair use has been abandoned in favor of an emphasis on the last factor: the effect of the reproduction of a text on a market (208).  The takeaway of  these cases (beyond that stated) is that IP shifts away from a “work” and moves toward the commodification and protection of “chunks” or marketable portions of a work [5. The implications for new media production are remarkable.]
  • J-E points out how HR2652, HR354 and the WIPO are doing everything they can to commodify data, statistics, and other facts that are gathered and placed in database form.  This would constitute the first time that facts have been made copyrightable (SCARY).
  • The practice of “deep linking” draws attention to the problem of citation on the web:  in the academy citation is a non-economic motive (capital is exchanged; however, it isn’t monetary); yet, linking on the web is often an economic practice.  So, the question of citation (economic vs. ethos) is a point of tension for composing practices on the web.
  • J-E claims there are two points to take away from this discussion:

  • J-E claims that the weblog serves as a form of symbolic-analytic writing: “authors scan the Web, culling out interesting bits of information, rearranging them, posting pointers to them on blogs” before serving as the site for a secondary “tier of activities” wherein folks scan blogs and blog networks to continually circulate information across sites of engagement (215).


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