Monday, November 2, 2015

Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel

Rhetorical Analysis of Multimodal Texts:

Researching Your Project Idea:

Aasa, Maja, et al. Editing Havana: Stories of Popular Housing. Copenhagen: Aristo Publishing, 2011. Print.

Aponte-García, Maribel. "Foreign Investment and Trade in Cuban Development: A 50-Year Reassessment with Emphasis on the Post-1990 Period. Bulletin of Latin American Research 28.4 (Oct. 2009): 480-496. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Carpenter, Craig C. "Copyright Infringement and the Second Generation of Social Media: Why Pinterest Users Should be Protected from Copyright Infringement by the Fair Use Defense." Journal of Internet Law 16.7 (Jan. 2013): 1-21. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Con Nuestros Propios Esfuerzos: Algunas Experiencias Para Enfrentar el Periodo Especial en Tiempo de Paz (With Our Own Efforts: Some Experiences to Face the Special Period in Time of Peace)

Cunha, Miguel Pina, and Rita Campos Cunha. "The Role of Mediatory Myths in Sustaining Ideology: The Case of Cuba after the 'Special Period.'" Culture & Organization 14.3 (Sept. 2008): 207-223. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Gold, Marina. "Peasant, Patriot, Environmentalist: Sustainable Development in Havana." Bulletin of Latin American Research 33.4 (Oct. 2014): 405-418. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Londoño, Johana. "The Latino-ness of Type: Making Design Identities Socially Significant." Social Semiotics 25.2 (April 2015): 142-150. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Oroza, Ernesto. Statement of Necessity. Miami: Alonzo Art, 2008. Print.

Piercy, Emma, et al. "Planning for Peak Oil: Learning from Cuba's 'Special Period.'" Engineering Sustainability (163.4): 169-176. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Powell, Kathy. "Neoliberalism, the Special Period and Solidarity in Cuba. Critique of Anthropology 28.2 (June 2008): 177-197. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Sevitt, David, and Alexandra Samuel. "How Pinterest Puts People in Stores." Harvard Business Review 91.7/8 (Jul./Aug. 2013): 26-27. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

I'll have to keep my comments about the ways in which the two exercises from Writer/Designer might inform the work I do for the final project short, because, as you can see, I got a bit carried away with the research process. There are a whole lot of interesting takeaways from these two assignments, particularly when you juxtapose the prospects for design against research considerations. The multimodal "texts" that I found were interesting to me in terms of the way the materials that were needed to compose another object were represented and, in many cases, taken for granted. For example, the multimodal "text" from Pinterest did not list materials; it just included photographs that provided a step-by-step guide for composing the "pop bottle idea." The "allrecipes" example was generally sensitive about the specific ingredients that were needed while the tools that were required to bring the recipe to fruition were subsumed by and in the instructions. The "Dry Wall Patch Repair" video was generally clear about the tools that were needed, but I found it interesting that it didn't linger on these details in the beginning stages of the video; rather, the gentleman who provided instructions simply launched into how to approach the matter of dry wall patch repair. (It's also important to note that the video was sponsored by Craftsman, a company that obviously manufactures the specific tools that were being used in the video.) These examples are in stark contrast to the DIY solutions articulated in Con Nuestros Propios Esfuerzos: Algunas Experiencias Para Enfrentar el Periodo Especial en Tiempo de Paz, something I will have to keep in mind as I attempt to represent these issues through design in potent and compelling ways. More on this later.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

(Re) Contextualizing Computer Literacy: A Call for Multiliteracies and Systemic Change in Writing and Communication

In Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, Stuart Selber argues for a more robust framework by which to understand and articulate the dynamics of computer literacy. Insofar as existing computer literacy frameworks seem to offer rather narrow definitions of computer literacy as pertaining exclusively to the acquisition of technical skills, Selber attempts to answer the call of these decontextualized frameworks with more dedicated efforts to "account for local social forces and material conditions" (23). Selber's framework seeks to increase the prospects for more responsible and responsive iterations of computer literacy that explore the complex and dynamic interplay between matters of functional literacy, critical literacy, and rhetorical literacy. Ultimately, this complex and dynamic interplay begins to address the panoply of considerations that comprise theories of computer literacy by framing and juxtaposing representations of computers as tools, cultural artifacts, and hypertextual media, a move that potently and productively challenges the one-dimensional theories that have come to dominate debates and conversations about the use of computers.

Throughout Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, Selber emphasizes the ways in which instructors in writing and communication departments have neither been deferred to nor taken enough interest in expanding the scope of computer literacy in the ways he proposes with his multiliteracies framework. By arguing for more systemic changes in and around computer literacy, Selber acknowledges that advocacy must pass through a number of different layers of requirements in order to institute real change. Much like his arguments regarding the complex and dynamic interplay between matters of functional literacy, critical literacy, and rhetorical literacy, individual systemic requirements for change cannot be approached in isolation; rather, one ought to consider matters of technical, pedagogical, curricular, departmental, and institutional concerns simultaneously and in conversation with one another.

In my mind, Selber's arguments resonate with many of the other readings we have engaged with throughout the semester. By predicating his multiliteracies framework on efforts to challenge the manner in which existing iterations of computer literacy have remained decidedly decontextualized in nature, Selber rehearses many of the theories that comprise multimodality. In On Multimodality, Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes suggest that conceptualizations of mediated action and multimodal practices require deeper consideration into "specific sociocultural contexts" and "intricacies of location, access, ability, and ideology" in order to better understand the manner in which the mediational means employed by composers emerge and acquire meaning. Similarly, Jody Shipka's "mediated-action framework" in A Composition Made Whole pushes back against a sort of "highly decontextualized skills and drills, linear, single-mode approach to writing instruction," challenging instructors to develop approaches that "offer participants . . . a richer and more intricately textured understanding of how communicative practices are socially, historically, and technologically mediated." In many ways, multiliteracies and multimodality are linked by an impulse to see writing and communication as more than rote or formulaic attempts to express oneself, but, rather, richly-textured, dynamic, and nuanced ontological and epistemological processes, in which composers contribute to the existing wheelhouse, so to speak, of information and subjectivities.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wax On, Wax Off: Anything You Can Say I Can Say Nether

1) In "awaywithwords: On the Possibilities in Unavailable Designs," Anne Frances Wysocki extols the virtues of navigating and discovering "unavailable designs." "Unavailable designs," Wysocki suggests, are those that "have been rendered unavailable by naturalized, unquestioned practice" (304), so the sorts of foundational elements of composing, like the "color of paper and technologies of print typography" (302), that have remained innocuous or salient to existing composing practices.

Wysocki's general approach to composition resonates with me insofar as she treats "conventionalized design" in more nuanced ways, I feel, than some of the other theorists we have read up to this point. While theorists like Shipka and Alexander & Rhodes hark to compelling and important opportunities for granting "analytic primacy" to mediated action and resisting the ways in which composing has been effectively hijacked or "colonized" by traditional compositional frameworks, respectively, these approaches in some ways (inadvertently, of course) remain so committed to interrogating and problematizing text-based composing that they perhaps underestimate the extent to which all modalities (not just technologies of print technology) are fundamentally prescriptive according to the ways in which "available designs" have been socially, culturally, and historically constructed.

That being said, this raises questions about the sort of responsibility we assume as instructors in pushing back against the infrastructures of all or some of the modalities in which our students are composing. In composing my own final project, I will have to really consider not just the relationship between and among the modalities I am using, but also the specific ways in which I may or may not be altering the proverbial landscape of each of said modalities through my purportedly unique and personalized applications or practices.

2) In "The Rhetorical Work of Multimedia Production Practices: It's More than Just Technical Skill," Jennifer Shappard juxtaposes the prospects for imparting technical skills to students engaging in multimedia production against helping to facilitate the development of diverse and significant literacies. In so doing, Sheppard seeks to showcase the ways in which multimedia production is a meaningful, dynamic, and iterative process through which students (as composers) learn to be sensitive to and aware of "technological rhetorical considerations," considerations that must be navigated carefully and consciously, in order to participate in and "interact with the world in thoughtful, informative, and persuasive ways" (403).

Sheppard's efforts to expand (and honor) the scope of what constitutes multimedia production beyond the realm of mere "technical skills" interest me immensely because they begin to drive at the sorts of challenges and obstacles that inhere in activities, assignments, and major inquiry projects that ask students to not only navigate a particular rhetorical situation but to do so in genres and media that exacerbate the rhetorical demands and expectations that are placed on them as composers.

By design, all of the theorists we have read up to this point share Sheppard's philosophy in terms of honoring the rich and rigorous set of rhetorical choices that students (as composers) make in the course of multimedia production. What distinguishes Sheppard, though, is her commitment to sharing the theoretical promise of multimedia production and its "technological rhetorical considerations" with administrators and colleagues.

My final project is predicated on surveying the landscape of students' previous experiences and preference with regard to being required to use mobile devices to complete in- and out-of-class course activities, so Sheppard's approach to multimedia production will likely play an important role in how I represent my findings from the questionnaire I am distributing to students in writing-intensive courses. Indeed, the questionnaire is designed in some ways to better understand how students are internalizing the instructions and technologies instructors are explicitly (or implicitly) prescribing to students in their activities, assignments, and major inquiry projects, which will hopefully help speculate about the role that both "technical skills" and "technological rhetorical considerations" play in terms of the work that they compose.

3) In "Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery," Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss explore the extent to which considerations of delivery have infiltrated conversations and practices of rhetoric in digital spaces. Ridolfo and DeVoss are particularly interested in what they dub, "rhetorical velocity," a term that drives at the speed at which content that is delivered digitally is actually re-mixed and appropriated in many ways by users in their efforts to communicate their own compositions, compositions that re-work components of existing compositions and extend them to new (and perhaps unintended) contexts or communicative landscapes. "Rhetorical velocity" is significant, they argue, because composers are responding in particular ways to the prospect of such re-mixing and appropriating.

Ridolfo and DeVoss' ideas are important to keep in mind in terms of the ways in which we theorize and define production and composition. I was reminded in many ways of Kress and van Leuwen's attempt to articulate a schema for multimodality in Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. Kress and van Leuwen design their schema to speak to the unique and personalized ways that composers actually enrich existing debates and conversations about communicative action in the ways that they navigate and acknowledge matters of discourse, design, production, and distribution, in the course of developing and delivering content. Yet, as we discussed issues of distribution in class, it was difficult not to gesture to the prospects for re-mixing and/or appropriating in varying degrees of heavy-handedness. Which is to say, militating (and/or guarding) against efforts to extend existing content into new (and perhaps unintended) contexts can only go so far, even if these efforts include severe legal implications.

Ridolfo and DeVoss' notion of "rhetorical velocity" was incredibly interesting to me in terms of considering ways in which I might invite re-mixing and/or appropriation in the content I compose for my final project. I wonder, too, whether calling direct attention to these opportunities will cheapen or somehow delimit the transgressive potential embedded in users' efforts to extend existing content into new (and perhaps unintended) contexts of their own choosing.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Composer <===> Audience: Communication, or the Twice-Social-Semiotic Exchange

In the first half of Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication, Gunther Kress attempts to articulate a "social-semiotic theory of multimodality" through which composers and audiences might make productive distinctions between design practices, insofar as they do or do not promote "competence," on the one hand, or "critique," on the other. For Kress, the current media and communication landscape is far less stable and immutable than previous generations. The act of meaning-making therefore requires composers and audiences alike to navigate and respond to differing distributions of power. In so doing, the composer's interests are juxtaposed alongside those of their audience, therefore creating important spaces in which knowledge can be produced as opposed to merely acquired.

Kress' emphasis on the prospects for producing and/or fashioning knowledge is integral to understanding his overall project in Multimodality. Indeed, his entire schema seems predicated on the idea that the rhetorical choices that both composers as well as audiences make in the course of their representative and interpretative acts, denote or communicate a sort of agency and style that is indispensable to understanding the scope and tenor of the ways in which social spaces might produce communicational and semiotic change at the level of culture and identity politics. Leaving the possibility for this sort of negotiation open, then, accentuates the ways in which both composers as well as audiences might circumvent the "grooves of convention" and perhaps even realize the political and semiotic aspirations of their communicative acts. In so doing, the semiotic work that they engage in serves as a potent and realistic forum through which to re-think the existing epistemologies and ontologies that comprise communication writ large.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Affordances and Limitations of Culture and/as Affordances and Limitations of Media

A Summary
In Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication, Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen attempt to articulate a set of "common semiotic principles [that] operate in and across different modes" (2). Their focus on multimodal practices is significant insofar as it accentuates the unique and personalized ways in which composers actually enrich existing debates and conversations about communicative action in the ways that they navigate and acknowledge matters of discourse, design, production, and distribution, in the course of developing and delivering content. This approach, however, is as much concerned with the affordances and limitations that comprise various modes and media as the affordances and limitations imposed by particular cultures.

A Synthesis
As a great deal of my reading of Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen's Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication resonated with many of the ideas articulated in previous readings this semester, I felt it might be productive at this stage in the semester, to briefly touch on some of these resonances. Throughout Multimodal Discourse, Kress and Van Leeuwen comment on the changing landscape of communicative action, a landscape in which the seemingly exclusive and predominant practice of monomodality has been demystified in favor of a more fluid and variable landscape in which one can and does manipulate the semiotic components and mediational means available to them. In so doing, Kress and Van Leeuwen, like Jody Shipka in A Composition Made Whole, grant "analytic primacy" to mediated action, a move that very much extols the virtues of the profound rhetorical and cultural work accomplished by the "individual-interacting-with-mediational-means." Yet, for Kress and Van Leeuwen and Shipka, as well as for Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes in On Multimodality, placing an emphasis on the scope and breadth of mediated action and multimodal practices requires a more nuanced understanding of the "specific sociocultural contexts, bounded by intricacies of location, access, ability, and ideology," through which the mediational means emerge and acquire meaning. Without this sort of contextualized approch, Kress and Van Leeuwen remind us, we risk undermining and occluding the very real and profound ways in which composers add to the existing repertoire of available "grammars of design."

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Ontologies of Microsoft Word: A Noir Storyboard with Captions

He knew something was up when it told him "interpellate" isn't a word.
He didn't know who it was that was underlining all of those "misspelled" words . . .
who it was that was lurking in the shadows, equal parts architect and gatekeeper, correcting and disciplining . . .

but he knew there had to be a reason they preferred that he use "interpolate" . . .

in lieu of using "interpellate."

Whatever their reasons, he knew he didn't trust them . . .

 but he also knew that no matter how hard he tried to get away . . .
 or defer to someone or something else . . .

they would be there, waiting.

He knew this was about more than just words, though . . .

that it was about more than just being followed or corrected or disciplined.

He began to wonder who he was in relation to them . . .

 and who they wanted him to be.

He wondered how he could be in the driver's seat . . .

 how he could manage to work within the constraints they imposed and possibilities they offered while realizing some semblance of the identity and message he sought to deliver all the while.

 And even if that identity and that message weren't exactly what he expected or desired . . .

 at least he came away from it all with a better understanding of the figure in the shadows . . .

and the network of affordances and limitations he was working in as he composed his life in this place.

Reflections on "The Ontologies of Microsoft Word: A Noir Storyboard with Captions":
In A Composition Made Whole, Jody Shipka discusses the ways in which representational systems and technologies outside or supplemental to the purview of textual production tend to be undervalued, derided, and/or ridiculed as playful, uncritical, and unsophisticated gestures that merely distract from the "real work" of higher education. Shipka places a great deal of emphasis on having compositionists work to facilitate an understanding of the "complex ways that texts come to be," a habit of mind that celebrates the “complex and highly distributed processes associated with the production of texts" (13). In my multimodal representation, I sought to elucidate the process by which texts are produced by harking to moments where users might work with writing technologies, like Microsoft Word, and bump up against the affordances and limitations of the medium they’re working in when they attempt to convey meaning. I represented all of this through the Noir genre, because it underscored the insidious, elusive, and mysterious character of the unique affordances and limitations that comprise mediational means and their capacity to become naturalized, common, and neutral without adequate critical attention. The shadowy figure that hangs over efforts to convey meaning like a specter serves as a reminder of the constraints that all media impose. Though this shadowy figure cannot necessarily be done away with entirely by users, like Shipka, I attempt to extol the virtues of creatively and critically navigating these obstacles by representing this particular user as a prospective "individual-interacting-with-mediational-means," a user who is beginning to form a sort of media ecology around their nascent understandings of the network of affordances and limitations they are working in when using a particular medium.

(Re) Mediating Composition: The Case for Sociohistorical and Contextualized Approaches to First-year (Multimodal) Composition

In Toward a Composition Made Whole, Jody Shipka articulates a "mediated action framework" through which compositionists might rethink the epistemological and ontological underpinnings of traditional composition pedagogies, in order to speak more directly to the demands that inhere in the growth of available and existing technologies and the virtues of facilitating the sort of rhetorical and material awareness that might help students negotiate situations and contexts that may or may not lie within the narrow confines of curricular environments. The "individual-interacting-with-mediational-means" serves as the protagonist of Shipka's "mediated action framework," a sort of "promiscuous" figure who extols and performs the virtues and meaning-making potentialities of various representational systems and technologies, systems and technologies that are ultimately not restricted to or defined by strict textual production. In so doing, Shipka productively re-hashes debates and conversations within composition studies about distinctions between product- and process-oriented approaches to the work that students do in the classroom.

Despite the sorts of mandates and expectations that inhere in these debates and conversations, though, by design the "mediated action framework" does not neatly or conveniently align itself with one camp or another, it seeks in many ways to problematize efforts to "too quickly dismiss the highly purposeful and rigorous dimensions of unfamiliar-looking texts." This move, Shipka goes on to suggest, "involves directing . . . attention away from the look, sound, or feel of a final product and toward a consideration of that product in relation to the complex processes composers employed while producing that text" (134). By granting "analytic primacy" to mediated action, then, she does not so much endeavor to frame either a product- or process-oriented approach as much as demystify this binary and, perhaps more important, unmoor traditional composition pedagogies from the sorts of prescriptive and uncritical postures that seem to comprise strict textual production.

Unilaterally determining the choices and contexts and situations and tools that are available to students, in this sense, merely provides students with a "highly decontextualized skills and drills, linear, single-mode approach to writing instruction" rather than one that "offers participants . . . a richer and more intricately textured understanding of how communicative practices are socially, historically, and technologically mediated" (85). Shipka's "mediated action framework," therefore, places more of the onus and responsibility on students themselves to navigate the complex and dynamic miasma of variables that serve as both affordances and limitations to the manner in which they invent, compose, deliver, and revise their approaches to projects. Ultimately, the goals associated with the "mediated action framework" have less to do with "pleasing the teacher" or arbitrarily "doing whatever one feels like doing," than helping students "learn to view tasks as problems, the solutions to which must be carefully negotiated" (106).

I know my question for Jody Shipka is coming in a bit late, seeming as how class is today, but it really has/is taken/taking me some time to really digest all of the ideas in A Composition Made Whole. There are so many parts of what I read that resonated with my larger research interests in conceptualizing Cuban digital literacies and understanding DIY cultures that I spent much of my time scrawling "CUBA" and "DIY" in the margin and trying to find points of convergence between the composition pedagogies I aspire to and my continued work in the aforementioned areas. I hope that the question that follows begins to drive at the sorts of intersections and nuances that I am at least attempting to flesh out and actualize in all of the work I do.

Throughout A Composition Made Whole, you call for "a richer and more intricately textured understanding of how communicative practices are socially, historically, and technologically mediated" (85). This implies that the sociohistorical aspects of students' unique and personalized composing processes ought to remain central to their understandings and articulations of the work they do throughout the semester. While the "Lost and Found" (LF) task seems to express some sensitivity towards limiting the added economic pressures that students incur as they navigate assignments and course activities that in many ways require them to purchase or acquire additional materials, I found myself wondering about the role that "critical consciousness" and "prosumerism" ought to play as students invent, compose, revise, and deliver their projects. This is not to say that there are necessarily "ideal" or requisite conditions in which "critical consciousness" and "prosumerism" can or should take place; rather, I guess I am asking how we as compositionists might continue to make them more central as we construct multimodal assignments and curricula.