The Fall 2013 Issue of Computers and Composition Online represents the field’s ongoing attention to the ways that technology mediates and remediates (ala Bolter & Grusin, 1999) writing as process across genres and modalities. Equally important, such processes are grounded in contexts that cross disciplines and spaces and, as a result, are aligned with the larger field of rhetoric and composition’s turn to post-process.
Our Theory into Practice section highlights these relationships through several compelling contributions. In “Composing Text / Shaping Process: How Digital Environments Mediate Writing Activity,” Derek Van Ittersum (Kent State University) and Kory Lawson Ching (San Francisco State University) call for awareness of the impact of “distraction-free” writing tools upon the act of composing, as opposed to the use of higher end, proprietary word-processing packages that have users attending to format perhaps even more so than content. Relying upon a cultural-history activity theory framework (CHAT), as well as upon the practices of small sample of bloggers who make use of distraction-free software, the authors conclude that the tools we use to write “can focus attention to particular aspects of writing, or they can create an immersive, interactive experience that motivates writers.” This emphasis on tools also drives Jude Edminster’s (Bowling Green State University) “From Manuscript to Digital: Remediating the Geology Field Notebook.” Edminster reports the results of her observational research into Geology students’ “use of two writing technologies in the field: (1) the traditional manuscript field notebook that practicing geologists regularly use to record data in the field, and (2) pocket PCs used to enhance the basic skills necessary for fieldwork and to enable students to perform digital mapping.” For Edminster, such research has the potential to help both technical communication scholars and discipline-specific composers better understand the mediating roles technologies of writing have upon knowledge-making.
Indeed, As Carly Finseth (Texas Tech University) suggests in “An Open Source Composition Space: Redefining Invention for a New Technological Age,” open source has the potential to make such knowledge-making a highly collaborative act. As part of her argument, Finseth asks several important questions: “How might we use notions of ‘open’ to enhance our own forms of composition, as well as broaden our ideas of authorship? How might it extend traditional ideologies of collaborative academic scholarship? And what lessons might we learn from open source culture and practices that could be applied to the writing classroom?” Ultimately, those lessons move us not only to “open source” but also to “open invention,” which, as Finseth contends, foster more desire, motivation, and joy in composing and learning. The emphasis on the power of new media spaces in enabling writerly identity is just as significant for Paul Muhlhauser (McDaniel College) and Kelly Bradbury (College of Staten Island). As they note in “Moving Images: Slideshows, Rhetoric, and Representation,” “We see opportunity in digital spaces in what they afford or allow us to do with imagery, but we also understand that these different display technologies also constrain how we represent ourselves and others.” Through a series of examples and the overarching visual metaphor of the slideshow, the authors ground their point in the understanding that both static and dynamic visual interfaces have relative affordances for users that should be explored and articulated in a practical, experimental fashion. Such experimentation is evident in our final piece in this section, Zach Warzecka’s (University of Texas at El Paso) “Lost In Translation: Emplacement, Disruption and Digital Videography.” In this four-part video essay, Warzecka relies on examples from the field and a range of interviews with colleagues to document how, despite our best efforts, we continue to define “digital videography through the inventional lens of conventional textual composition, limiting the relationships scholars can maintain with videographic production.” Warzeka concludes that we must shift our understanding of video as a potential composing tool from its presumed role as a supplement to a role that enables its primacy as a meaning-making technology.
The Virtual Classroom Section hosts two pieces emphasizing the role of reflection and self-assessment for student multimodal composers. The first, Tiffany Bourelle, Andrew Bourelle, and Sherry Rankins-Robertson’s (Arizona State University) “Employing a Multiliteracies Pedagogy through Multimodal Composition: Preparing Twenty-First Century Writers,” reports the result of a pilot to integrate multiliterate assignments into their first-year composition program and includes the role of student portfolio reflections. As the authors conclude, “the digital multimodal components engaged and challenged students in ways they didn’t expect. Other students expressed how stepping outside of their comfort zones and working with new media helped them understand the concept of genre, and how form and medium—and not just subject matter—are important to consider when addressing an intended audience.” In this way, students become more fully multiliterate, understanding how such choices are part of any rhetorical situation. Our second Virtual Classroom contribution, Courtney L. Werner’s (Hope College) “Dear Professor X, This is not my best work: Multimodal composition meets (e)portfolio,” also demonstrates the challenges for students in moving from print to digital composing conventions. In her development of a hypothetical student eportfolio, Werner contends that undergraduates’ initial multimodal composing efforts, as well as their teachers’, frequently reflect linear understandings of writing. Werner argues that combining the goals of portfolio assessment with multimodal composing strategies affords both groups the opportunity to “continuously assess the transferable nature of rhetorical skills makes for a more robust composition classroom, and such a classroom can be encouraged by teachers who are willing to help students see and use the bridges built by composing portfolios and multimodal documents.”
Admittedly, keeping up with these many shifts from alphabetic to multimodal writing spaces is difficult, even as we attempt as scholar-teachers to theorize the impact of this shift on literacy and meaning-making, along with identity and representation. Our Professional Development Section features Scott Singleton, Jessica Price, Walter Elmore, and Zola Matingu’s (Kennesaw State University) “Key Terms in Social Media,” an immensely helpful organization of social media concepts into areas of community, theory, usage, technologies, and experts, and one that provides not only definitions but also examples.
Also helping us all to “keep-up” with the latest discussions in the field are the three pieces in this issues Reviews Section: Alex Layne’s (Purdue University) review of Patrick W. Berry, Gail E. Hawisher, and Cynthia Selfe’s Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times ; Talitha May’s (Ohio University) review of Jason Palmeri’s Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy; and Shawn Apostel’s (Bellarmine University) review of Laura McGrath’s collection Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies . These reviews are powerful texts in that they represent the field’s historical focus on multimodality—as Palmeri powerfully states, “composition has always been multimodal”—but also its present and its future as we experiment with the newest composing tools to create and sustain scholarship, especially given that two of the books are born-digital projects. The editorial team at Computers and Composition Online is honored to be part of that ongoing process, and hope you will enjoy this issue as much as we do.
Kristine L. Blair,