Revolution Lullabye

March 7, 2009

Selfe, Toward New Media Texts

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Toward New Media Texts: Taking Up the Challenge of Visual Literacy.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 67-110.

A good first step in incorporating and teaching new media texts in composition classrooms is through focusing on visual literacy in print and digital texts. Composition teachers, because many are not formally trained in the applications associated with many digital new media texts (Dreamweaver, desktop publishing, photo editing), feel like they don’t have the expertise to teach and guide students in composing new media texts. The assignments Selfe offers connect visual and alphabetic literacies (which composition teachers are more comfortable with), use rhetorical approaches, not entirely Web-based, and position the teacher and the students as co-learners. Though teachers will probably feel outside their comfort zone at first, Selfe argues for the importance of bridging to visual literacies and to begin to question the privileging alphabetic texts in our society and in the structuring of our writing programs and pedagogies.

Quotable Quotes

“By adding a focus on visual literacy to our existing focus on alphabetic literacy, we may not only learn to pay more serious attention to the ways in which students are now ordering and making sense of the world through the production and consumption of visual images, but we may also extend the usefulness of composition studies in a changing world.” (72)

Notable Notes

faculty feel like they lack the necessary skills to teach new media literacies, to help students compose with it – the faculty has an illiteracy that they have to come to terms with, will “force us to acknowledge gaps in our own literacy sets” (72)

change “author” to “composer/designer” and the reader to “reader/viewer”

assignments include a visual essay, visual argument, visual exhibition, and a text re-design and re-vision for the Web

composition studies needs to continue to be relevant to our students, so we have an obligation to learn about them and use them (new media literacies) in our classrooms as we ask our students to compose

Selfe, Students Who Teach Us

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Students Who Teach Us.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 43-66.

Selfe uses a case study of a student of hers, David Damon, a young black man interested in hip-hop and website design, to show that students are bringing extensive knowledges of new media to our classrooms, and we as writing teachers, in order to stay relevant and important, have a responsibility to both learn these new media literacies and incorporate them into our classrooms and assignments. She pulls out three lessons from Damon’s story: 1. that literacies naturally change and grow at differing rates; they all have lifespans 2. new media literacies play a role in the development of identity, in the construction of power relationships, and the creation of social codes and 3. composition teachers need to move beyond alphabetic texts and learn about composing in other modalities. Composition studies needs to look to students to teach us the kinds of literacies necessary to be successful in the 21st century.

Quotable Quotes

“If, however, English composition teachers recognize the insufficiency of maintaining a single-minded focus on conventional alphabetic texts – which generally comprise hte officially sanctioned literacy in our contemporary society – and, indeed, have an increading level of interest in such texts as they encounter them in their personal and professional lives, they do not necessarily know how to design a meaningful course of study for composition classrooms that accommodates a full range of literacies, expecially those literacies associated with new media texts” (56).

Students’ “enthusiasm about reading/viewing/interacting with and composing/designing/authoring such imaginative texts percolates through the sub-strata of composition classrooms, in direct constrast to students’ laissez faire attitudes towards more conventional texts” (44)

Notable Notes

assignments include literacy autobiography, looking at new media texts identified by students, providing alternative means to composing, affect of new media on different genres

need to pay attention to the literacies our students bring to the classroom

what does it man to be literate in the 21st century?

what to we as writing teachers need to learn and teach?

plagiarism and copying code

Wysocki, Opening New Media to Writing

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 1-41.

Pointing out the divide in new media studies between the study of how to design and compose individual texts (through graphic design maxims) and the study of the broad effects of media structures, Wysocki argues that composition studies can fill the gap between the two by focusing on the material and social conditions of the production and consumption of all texts, both textual, visual, and digital. She forwards five major claims: 1. compositionists have the unique pedagogical expertise to teach students how to think critically about their design and composition choices when writing a text because we already highlight the situated nature of writing. 2. we need to think about the specific material circumstances and choices of the texts we produce, consume, and circulate because no technology is a neutral carrier; our texts contain, in their design and construction, our attitudes, beliefs, and values, both individually and as a society 3. new media texts are any texts, digital or not, whose composer thought deliberately about the range of material design choices they had and who, in their design, highlight the materiality of the text 4. we need, as teachers, to move beyond analysis of new media texts and ask our students to craft and produce them in our classrooms, thinking of new media texts not as objects but rather as material practices, and 5. we need to adopt a generous spirit in our reading, knowing that composing these new media texts requires experimentation, patience, and exploration, and in order to appreciate these efforts, we need to realize that texts need not look identical to what we’re accostomed to in order to be useful, that what we might deem mistakes should be thought of in terms of choices. Her chapter ends with numerous activities writing teachers might use in their classrooms, from undergrad to grad students, to have students think more critically of the materiality of producing and reading texts.

Quotable Quotes

Compositionists can help “composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, to help composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6)

“this materiality – which takes part in the construction of readers – occurs in all texts we comsume, whether print or digital, research essay or technical instruction set. ANd this material functioning occurs when we produce any text as well” (7)

“any material we use for communication is not a blank carrier for our meaning” (10)

“We should call ‘new media texts’ 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 mark as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Technologies do matter because “They are in our worlds and they have weight – but we probably ought not give up our own agency by acting as though technologies come out of nowhere and are autonomous in causing effects” (19)

Notable Notes

classroom activities include writing with crayons, discussing what you need to know to read and produce a “normal” piece of academic text (an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, double spaced, academic essay – type.) They get at appreciating and being aware of the materiality of writing

use of the word “crafting” about producing academic texts (drawing on Andrew Feenberg)

it’s important in new media texts – defined “in terms of materiality instead of digitality” (19) – that we look to how and why we use digital media, not that we do it. A new media text isn’t new media because it’s online. It’s a greater understanding and attention to materiality.

Materiality draws on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition (she quotes that long passage from his introduction)

Creating your identity as a writer – when you’re aware of hte materiality, the technology, you can see your own self and identity as situated in a larger world of choices, making your own choices in those structrues in your text (22)

the subtle, silent, quiet, but real effects of the choices that define our existence

the interplay between agency and materiality

interface design (folders, desktop) as a Western-business centric design, intuitive only to some

Wysocki, Writing New Media

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

This book, containing chapters by Anne Frances Wysocki, Johndan Jordan-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc, explores how a writing classroom (and composition studies) might be opened to new media. Each chapter provides a theoretical framework and argument for incorporating new media in the classroom and several classroom and homework activities, piloted by the authors, that teachers can adapt and use in their classrooms to encourage use and understanding of new media practices.

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