Tag Archives: genre

Finding Even Ground: Tutoring Multimodal Texts in the Writing Center

 

OVERVIEW: In this video, I explore how multimodal texts affect writing center tutoring pedagogy. Incorporating interviews with both teachers and tutors, I challenge the notion of “traditional” texts and argue for a genre based understanding of multimodal assignments. This project grew out of my experiences working within a writing center, both as a tutor and as an administrator. And while my own experiences led to my interest in the topic, the interviews that I conducted for the video really shaped my argument and the project as a whole. Through talking to other people about their experiences working with multimodal texts, I was able to gain a better understanding of both what the problems were and what we could do to help fix them.

TutorComputerPROCESS: Because I’ve never created a video of this length before, a large part of the process was acclimating myself to the form.  I began the process by conducting the interviews, because I really wanted these to help guide my thinking. After they were done, I wrote the script that would fill in the space around them. I then created (very) rough storyboards to try and figure out how I wanted it to all fit together. Finally, I started making the actual video itself, which proved to be incredibly recursive. Every element that you see in the final version was done at least 2 or 3 times, some of them many more.

AFFORDANCES: The greatest affordance of this medium was being able to fully incorporate other voices. While collaboration is important in all work, I feel like it is particularly crucial to writing center studies. By weaving interviews into my own essay–and by having people actually speak for themselves–I think that the video form better captures the collaborative nature of my work than a print essay ever could have done. I also think that the video form will make this essay more digestible/shareable in the future. As many of you know, writing center tutor training often involves watching short videos, and I could see this video easily being incorporated into that training format.

CONSTRAINTS: The biggest constraint was balancing out images and words. It was hard to find a balance between not being too literal with the images yet still remaining on topic and useful. Similarly, linking images and sounds were difficult because I wanted to make sure that the images were helping guide my argument, but I didn’t want the video too become too cluttered or too busy that it would detract from the words that I was saying

 

Falling in Line and Getting “In Step”

(Apologies for the slight lateness; hopefully I’ve not kept anyone awake in anticipation for my post).

I approached Adam J. Banks’ Digital Griots with interest, but as many of the previous posts have mentioned, I was unsure of where I was headed once I started reading. This was perhaps not because of any major failing on Banks’s part, but because his book forced me to reevaluate what I expect of a book of the pedagogical cum autobiographical sort (without belaboring generic conventions too much).

After taking Melissa Ianetta’s experimental one-credit “Literature Pedagogy” seminar in Fall 2012, I was no stranger to the academic Bildungsroman, as it were: the most memorable of the texts of this type that we read in that class were Jane Tompkins’s A Life in School and Elaine Showalter’s Teaching Literature, which are as much about the life of the teacher as the methods and materials she discusses along the way. Even though Banks’ book does not really resemble Tompkins’s or Showalter’s in its content in this way, I did still find myself wanting to put it squarely in with theirs, to make it make sense in the ways that theirs had (even if I did not like some of what came out of both).

Naturally, this resulted in frustration on my part because in many cases, that was not what Banks wanted to do—he wanted to tell me about DJ’s and griots and community, but he did not necessarily want to tell me why, for example, he did not formulate his community course with any other partners from his academic community (57-58), or very much detail about the types of students/experiences from each of the classes he brings up in his chapter on “Mix.” There came a point when I had to very sternly remind myself of “the grand law of criticism” suggested in an 1888 article by novelist R. E. Francillon in the Victorian girls’ magazine Atalanta: “Never blame anybody for not doing what he did not make it his business to do [….] Never find fault with good work of one kind because it is not good work of another” (352).

Nonetheless, I had expected Banks to proceed in a certain way at the outset, which explains the sense of displacement. I had expected him to begin by outlining what a griot was and how the concept would come to shape his theory of teaching and praxis; in reality, I do not think he actually defined the term at length until page 23. “Old/new contract!,” I wanted to shout, even though I had long before looked up the term out of curiosity. I found myself noting (with some amount of confusion) places where I felt he flitted around from one topic to the other, seemingly presenting a “shallow” (52) skimming of the deeper ideas he was alluding, or where he seemed to be bashing me over the head with certain points (I get it, “DJing is Writing/Writing is DJing” (1)).

Of course I realize that his entire book, not just the parts that draw attention to themselves as such, is “enact[ing] as well as [stating] an argument”. It took me a while to stop standing around awkwardly in the corner and to allow myself to go along with the “groove,” however tentatively.

This is a fairly true-to-life portrayal of my (therefore nonexistent) dancing skills.

What I initially saw as a random comment was actually a scratch, what I saw as mind-numbing repetition was a chorus. While I still have my reservations about Banks’s book (which will surely come up in class), I acknowledge that the remixing he does within it is not random written chaos; it is innovative in not just the ideas it is presenting but also perhaps in the way it (and the projects it describes within it) reform the expectations for “academic” writing. It is akin to a piece by Girl Talk—like “In Step” from the album Feed the Animals—complicated to the point of sometimes being frustrating, but richly layered enough to merit multiple listens.

Yet, I wonder why this book came in the form of, well…a book? If in this case, as in others, “the Internet would not do” (62), why not? Why not create the project as a multimedia, multimodal, multicultural text if this is what Banks is invested in?

Not Newness: Wherein I Don’t Say Anything Unexpected

Banks’ first moves threatened to drive me nuts. He posits, as many other eminent compositionists have, that we now live in a remix culture, and that this paradigm was launched by DJs. That scared me, as far as an assertion goes, because (as you all now know), my whole soapbox is: We have already, always lived in the RW, remix, intertextual culture, this paradigm is not new at all, perhaps only disrupted by the Enlightenment’s love of the image of the lonely artist operating in a vacuum to create works of sacred creativity. This is not new!

No doubt part of this is me taking pleasure in everyone else finally realizing, as I have in the course of accidentally becoming a genre theorist, that all writing is remixing (genre, after all, might be seen as a shared convention of what you remix from, with deviations/scratches being celebrated as innovation) and that the stodgy literary elitism of the past century (and this century still) has no legs left to stand on: it posits that remixes are inherently derivative, that genre texts are inherently inferior to the romantically-conceived, independent artiste writing a truly unique work of universalizeable and immortal literature, and this position simply cannot be sustained. Neither, really, can the laws that pretend it’s true. Just ask the RIAA.

Even if you literally show me pictures of myself writing my novel at 4am in a locked room, I will not buy the idea that there’s an un-remix-ed version of writing, or that this is new. There are novels in the room, and in my head, so no. Nope. No.

Nope.
Nope.

But then, within syllables, Banks saves himself (see page 2)–this is a book about locating African American cultural agency inside a paradigm that has suddenly returned to the fore after being mythologized out of modernity by a system built to construct African American as “other” (in the same way non-Enlightenment, non-European, “non-modern” groups get Othered to create the Us). The DJs hearken back to oral storytelling–the griots–meaning that this is not new, that this is just one way of looking at it that might be cool.

Digital Griots is a tool for reimagining what is going on–for scholars who have discovered the model in a new fashion, not an absolute pronunciation of the newness of the system itself. The DJ is “a figure through whom African American rhetoric can be reimagined in a new century” (2). The griot maintains the past within the present (see epigraph on 10), which of course makes the distinction really fuzzy. The way it ought to be.

That, at least, makes the academic in me happy. And it also helps to explain the really weird phenomenon that happened on Twitter–somehow, Tweetku has taken on a life of its own and has its own twitter, but we’re not sure if we made it or if we just happened to be doing the same thing while it was already there all along. Remix obfuscates historicity. The agent (the romantic author) blurs into the griot (the person speaking right now, the re-vision) (156).

My attempts, and our fixation, with locating an originator are probably possible but really counter to how the internet works structurally–the internet does not make allowances for the purity (and the myth) of the original. CNN’s silly attempts, every week, to find out about the source of viral things feels about as in-touch as their five weeks of coverage for a plane crash: they’re fixated on originators. Likewise, TV news networks talk about the hacker collective Anonymous as if it’s a thing, with leaders or consistent members. It is *not*. That’s the point. There’s no satisfying author at the end of the trail of remixes.

I did not make this image. It did not spring solely from me. I do not know who made it, and even if I did, it's an appropriation of another text.
I did not make this image. It did not spring solely from me. I do not know who made it, and even if I did, it’s an appropriation of another text.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t protect remixers work, or reward particularly effective innovation, its just that we need to acknowledge that

  1. we’ve been doing that to certain remixers, called authors, but not to others,
  2. nobody operates in a vacuum (see the most recent presidential election’s key debate), and
  3. academic culture still creates systems of value, good or bad, around arbitrary distinctions between remix and original, derivative text and magical “springs fully formed from the head of the author, like Athena from Zeus” literature.
  4. Tweetku probably went viral somehow.

    This image is a pastiche of several memes, combined with a famous internet haiku. There are too many potential layered remixes here.
    This image is a pastiche of several memes, combined with a famous internet haiku. There are too many potential layered remixes here.

 

Class, Fri, 3/14

Concepts in 60

Let’s watch the videos together and talk about both what they accomplish and what struggles their authors experienced. And, let’s try to come up with at least two more tags for each video identifying its distinctive  genre.

Thinking About Twitter

jay-rosen-yearbook-1978In pairs: Jay Rosen says that what he values in a tweet includes beauty, economy, continuity, and rereadability. Using the #685dw feed as a corpus, identify several tweets that exemplify these values.

CCCC 2014

K22: From Page to Screen: Rhetorical Theory, Text, and Originality in New Media

  • Christine Cucciarre, “A Digital Humanity: Using Classical Rhetoric in the New Media Classroom”
  • Joseph Harris, “Teaching the Essay in a Digital Age”

To do

  1. Tues, 3/18, 11:59 pm: Post your response to Lessig’s Remix (x5).
  2. Thurs, 3/20, and Fri, 3/21: Keep the conversation of this class moving forward by (a) commenting on several x5 posts, and (b) participating in both the #685dw and  #4C14 Twitter feeds.
  3. Tues, 3/25, 11:59 pm: Post your response to Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence (x6).
  4. Thurs, 3/27, 11:59pm: Post comments on x6.
  5. Fri, 3/28, class: Richard Miller visits. Please be ready to talk about both Fitzpatrick and his web project, text2cloud.