Wysocki et al (2004): Writing New Media

Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition by Geoffrey Sirc

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In this fine collection, Wysocki, Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Sirc provide a chapter or two each arguing about an aspect of new media and composition studies, and then a section offering classroom activities with rationales. This is the second time I’ve read it (January 2010), and I found even richer than the first time.

Just a few key notes that I want to remember from this text:

Wysocki: Because writing teachers are practiced in situating writing in context and situating writers, then new media studies can benefit from the input of writing teachers, and writing teachers are well-suited to implement new media in the classroom (5-7). Wysocki argues persuasively to pay attention to the materiality of texts (10-15) and defines “new media texts” as “those texts that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/views stay alert to how any text—like its composers and readers—doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that make as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Selfe: Selfe encourages us to understand that literacies aren’t a matter of linear progression: new ones don’t replace older ones, and new ones do not necessarily continue, but instead might disappear (49). Her second lesson explains that “new media literacies play an important role in identity formation, the exercise of power, and the negotiation of social codes” (51). Selfe also encourages composition teachers to incorporate new media texts into class, to expand their notions of what counts as composition, because to do otherwise (to neglect new media) is irresponsible to how people communicate (54-55). Selfe also provides an argument for including visual rhetoric in composition courses (67-74).

Sirc: Drawing on the art of Joseph Cornell as a model, Sirc argues against the formal essay and instead for what he calls “box-logic,” which involves the juxtaposition of already-made objects. He claims that “notions of articulate coherence, conventional organization, and extensive development seem irrelevant” (115). Arguing that students should be designers, not essayists (121), Sirc views the Internet as a virtual urban arcade where writers engage in “textual journeys” to study texts, employ them in their own designs, and annotate them (122).

Wysocki: Wysocki argues that much discussion of visual rhetoric and graphic design relies on notions of beauty developed in the eighteenth century that create the idea of universal beauty, but that this is harmful to understanding how bodies and history influence texts and their reception (149-152). Her case example, an advertisement with a naked women, shows how these notions lead us to see the woman not as a woman, but as a shape (152). The guidelines offered by graphic design are not neutral, but actually shape ourselves — thus, teaching visual in composition courses cannot just be about form (158-159).

Johnson-Eilola: Through a discussion of intellectual property law and court cases, Johnson-Eilola shows how “For better or worse—or, in fact, for better and worse—texts no longer function as discrete objects, but as contingent, fragmented objects in circulation, as elements within constantly configured and shifting networks” (208). A few lessons: writing cannot be separated from economics; students must be showed how information is not neutral, composition cannot ignore the database background of reading and writing online (e.g., search engines are a form of writing; writing is a form of architecture) (212, 218-220, 225).

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