Using Rhetorical Media to Meet Outcomes

and Satisfy Stakeholders


Section 3: Knowledge of Writing Processes.

The promotion of students’ knowledge of processes includes the students’ ability to understand drafting, revising and proofreading as an open process that allows writers to return to the stage of invention to revise their draft.  Furthermore, the outcomes statement stresses the importance in students learning about the “collaborative and social aspects” of writing, including the ability to critique the writing of others and themselves.  The WPA also indicates that students should be able to use “a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences” (Harrington et al, 2001, p. 325).

Visuals have long been a part of the writing process in the form of mind-mapping or “clustering” as it is more often called in writing related works.  Writing teachers have long acknowledged the ability for this visualization to help students organize their thoughts and develop their ideas when preparing to write.  However, visual and other multimedia need not only serve the writing processes, as these other forms of communication require processes of their own.      

For example, in the context of taking a photograph, one must first determine the camera form to be used (i.e. traditional film or digital), the setting, and the subject matter.  Once the photographer has determined their topic and method, he or she must determine how to frame the subject matter, choose the lighting, and set a number of preferences with his or her camera.  The conscientious photographer will revise his or her choices throughout his or her preparation for the shot.  In addition, in the age of digital photography, the photographer will review the picture and make changes in settings, lighting or angle to “revise” the shot he or she is taking.  Preparing and taking a picture, in the manner described here, demonstrates the process involved with forming a picture; however, the very existence of image editing software expands the number of processes related to image creation.  This software allows the creator to continue to revise their work by cropping it, changing the contrast, sharpening the image, etc.  The ability to print pictures, develop film or paste photographs into websites or documents reveals the ability for visuals to complete the formation process and, like verbal texts, be “delivered” or “published.”

This procedure might not exactly parallel the writing process in it’s traditional “Brainstorm, Draft, Edit, Revise, Submit” structure that has been common to the composition classroom, but it is well suited to contemporary understanding of the rhetorical canons.  Numerous scholars have begun to re-imagine how the rhetorical canons might be interpreted in this digital age. Bolter (1993) explains that the very nature of hypertext alters the way the canons of rhetoric operate. Delivery, in particular, is a much more complicated area of the composition process than it may have been in the past.  For example, while in traditional word processing and oral composition, delivery is always the last stage of development, delivery is central to the composition of hypertext.  Other canons of rhetoric, arrangement in particular, are approached differently as a result of the means in which the text will be delivered.

Porter (2007) also argues for  how this canon can be seen as  important to contemporary composition particularly in the digital age.  He suggests five areas wherein important considerations must be given to delivery when composing in the digital age.  He names these components “Body/Identity,” “Distribution/Circulation,” “Access/Accessibility,” “Interaction,” and “Economics” (Porter, 2007, p. 208).  Body/Identity refers to a concerns over the representations of one’s self in an online environment; for example, how one's gestures, might be represented through online correspondence.  Distribution/Circulation addresses technical aspects of delivery related to publishing and distributing texts.  Access/Accessibility raises questions of how a population might be able to connect to web-based information, while Interaction refers to the engagement between people and information in the digital space.  Lastly, Economics accounts for a concern over issues of information policy, such as fair use, copyright and the like.  

Addressing these concerns pushes past the traditional boundaries of the writing process.  However, through examination of the rhetorical canons, as defined through contemporary scholarship, students might better be prepared for the complexity of the choices they must make as digital communicators. Therefore, once again, it seems as rhetorical study, rather than study of writing alone, will best prepare students for their future.

Film Project Units Emphasizing This Outcome:

        Unit 1

        Unit 2

        Unit 3

        Unit 4

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