Print Volume 25.4 (December 2008)

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Multimodal Composition in a College ESL Class: New Tools, Traditional Norms
— Dong-shin Shin, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, & Tony Simasko, Purdue University

Research has noted that multimodal writing allows for better communication of knowledge and expression of personal identities through various modes of representation. Studies of multimodal composition have tended to examine separate modes, or have looked at connections between only a few selected available modes. Less attention has been devoted to multimodal composition from a holistic perspective. Drawing on the concept of synaesthetic semiosis [Kress, Gunther. (1998). Visual and verbal modes of representation in electronically mediated communication: The potentials of new forms of text. In Ilana Snyder (Ed.), Page to screen: Taking literacy into the electronic era (pp. 53–79). London: Routledge; Kress, Gunther, & Van Leeuwen, Theo. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge], the present study examines how ESL writers in a freshman composition class used available modes in multimodal argumentative essays posted on the World Wide Web. The findings indicate that word-dominated discourse was the primary factor in selecting available modes. Non-linguistic modes were primarily used to illustrate written essays. However, students also used non-linguistic modes to project cultural and national identities and to express emotional connections with their topics. The ways in which the students synthesized multiple meaning-making modes represented the social practices of learning multimodal genres in which they were engaged. The paper concludes with suggestions for pedagogy and research in multimodal composition.

The Invisible Interface: MS Word in the Writing Center
— Amber Buck, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Writing centers have developed best practices in order to help student writers, most popularly, non-directive tutoring pedagogies, based on the use of paper drafts. These same tutoring protocols have been extended to computer-based face-to-face sessions under the assumption that they will have similar outcomes, which subscribes to the myth of technology as a transparent tool that does not affect the writing that emerges from it. A lack of attention to computers in the writing center extends to the use of word processing programs like MS Word. This article discusses these issues in the context of a case study of one tutor in computer-based tutoring sessions in a writing center. Throughout these sessions, situations arose involving the use of the MS Word interface that affected the nature of the session itself. This case study suggests that computers, and particularly the MS Word program, need to be examined critically to consider how their use corresponds with the mission of the writing center itself. There are a number of strategies that can also help tutors use MS Word in ways that will best serve students’ individual needs.

Inventing the Election: Civic Participation and Presidential Candidates’ Websites
— Caroline Dadas, Miami University of Ohio

In this article I propose a three-part schema for analyzing and categorizing the civic participatory potential of three presidential candidates’ websites. Focusing my analysis on the sites of Barack Obama, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, I examine how the rhetorical and technological features of the sites’ interfaces promote robust, moderate, or superficial participatory invention, interaction, and dialogue. My research highlights the ways in which the design of websites may enable users to become more active agents in political campaigns and in the election process. In addition, the three-part schema I propose provides what I hope will be a useful analytic lens for writing instructors to use when seeking to engage students with civic rhetorical analysis.

Penn State University, Teaching with Wikis: Toward a Networked Pedagogy
— Rebecca Wilson Lundin

Computers and writing scholarship is increasingly turning towards the network as a potential pedagogical model, one in which writing is intimately connected to its social contexts. The use of wikis in first-year composition classes can support this networked pedagogy. More specifically, due to unique features such as editability and detailed page histories, wikis can challenge a number of traditional pedagogical assumptions about the teaching of writing. This article shows how wikis can challenge assumptions in four categories of interest to composition studies: new media composition, collaborative writing, critical interaction, and online authority. The analysis demonstrates that wikis, while not automatically revolutionary to composition pedagogy, hold significant potential to help facilitate pedagogical changes.

Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.

Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske

Print to Screen