Tuesday, February 9, 2016

WPAs, mutlimodality, and new media composing

 Andrea Lunsford redefined writing in this way: 

A technology for creating conceptual frameworks and creating, sustaining, and performing lines of thought within those frameworks, drawing from and expanding on existing conventions and genres, utilizing signs and symbols, incorporating materials drawn from multiple sources, and taking advantage of the resources of a full range of media.
(qtd. in Leverenz 37-8).

It is crucial that WPAs consider alternate definitions of writing like this one in conceiving of how their writing programs should take shape and what ought to be in the curriculum. Incorporating multimodality into the program is one way to do this that we are familiar with, but it is important to remember that not all writing instructors have the same degree of familiarity with multimodality, and they may not see how it relates to academic writing.

However, it is apparent by Lunsford's definition that notions of writing are changing, and it's important that WPAs and writing instructors get on board with the changing nature of composition so that they can ensure that their students are equipped with the digital literacies they will need to compose in new media. 

Leverenz describes new media as contrasting with the 8.5 by 11," "word-only" texts traditionally associated with composition. She notes that these can include videos, flyers, posters, websites, and pamphlets (39). However, these are only a few of the options available in terms of constructing a new media composition.  Students can work with a range of mediums if given the opportunity, such as graphic design and photo essays. Cope and Katalantzis contend that teaching writing has to shift toward changes in the culture occurring in personal lives, the public sphere, and workplaces (qtd. in Leverenz 39). Learning the traditional genres of academic writing is important because these are often the ones that allow students to advance to the next level academically, which in turn can lead to economic advancement. However, these new media forms of writing are infiltrating our culture, and the skills that students learn from composing them could be used in other settings and could also lead to personal and/or economic advancement. 

The challenge is making space in the curriculum for new media composing, which cannot be simply an add-on if it is to be taught well. When students seem to struggle with traditional academic writing, it can seem like a difficult decision to devote curricular space to new media composing because it can divert time away from traditional composition. I do not think that a writing program should prescribe for their instructors exactly how to incorporate new media composing into their courses. The instructors are in the optimal place to know the context of their own courses and what they have sufficient skill and knowledge to teach. However, new media composing ought to be encouraged in writing programs, at the very least, and ideally, writing program instructors would receive some kind of training in how to incorporate it.

Leverenz writes that WPAs have a great deal of bureaucratic obligations which can lead them to postpone thinking about multiliteracy or new media composing in a serious way (44). However, it is worth prioritizing, ideally with a lot of flexibility for the instructors and students using it in their courses.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of the conversation many of us had in Teaching with Technology last semester about whether we should use the word "writing" or "composing". I'm a huge fan of "composing" because it doesn't convey the same sort of action. When most people think of writing, they think of pen to paper or fingers on a keyboard. Composing, however, suggests a thoughtful piecing together of things (information, images, whatever it might be)--taking things that were separate and putting them together to form new meaning. Lunsford's definition of writing certainly goes beyond the pen to paper connotation of the word, but how do we get a general audience to think of writing in this way? Perhaps it isn't necessary that a general audience think this way as long as we can at least get writing program instructors on board with thinking about writing in this way. But even that is a struggle. I am currently working on a project where I will (if IRB-approval is obtained) be surveying writing instructors in our writing program to see how they incorporate multimodality in the classroom and whether or not they see it as a valuable component of the first-year writing classroom. I will keep y'all updated on the results...