Visual design. Social good.

Madeline Sorapure. “Between Modes: Assessing New Media Compositions,” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 10.2 (2005)
Sorapure’s webtext contributes significantly to discussions of new media assessment. As students are frequently assigned an array of new media projects including websites, blogs, images, videos, audio projects, flash projects, etc. Sorapure argues that we need a broad rhetorical approach to assessment, one that can speak to the multimodal aspects of composition.She emphasizes the need for “new lenses” so that we don’t “lose the chance to see new values emerging in the new medium.” In efforts not to limit new media works, Sorapure draws from the tropes of metaphor and metonymy to understand how meaning “emerges from” multimodal works. Drawing on Roman Jakobson’s (1956) essay “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” Sorapure claims that metaphor and metonmy name “two different forces at work in the production of meaning.”
Metaphor designates a relation based on substitution; in a multimodal work, one mode can metaphorically represent or stand in for another, as when an animation of a word dynamically represents its meaning. It is a relation based on similarity between elements in different modes.

Metonymy designates a relation based on combination; modes can be metonymically related when they are linked by an association, as when lines from a poem are combined with a melody from a song. It is a relation based on contiguity between elements in different modes. 

Sorapure shares various student examples to illustrate how she uses the tropes in assessing multimodal compositions. She carefully demonstrates how metaphor and metonymy activate strong or weak relations between visual and verbal modes. (For example, if the composition lacks metaphor…it falls flat.)

While “text, sound, and image  each add their own part to the meaning….” it is also crucial to look at the relations between modes -”because metaphor and metonymy designate relations between two or more entities, they can be used to describe the relations between modes.

“Metaphor and metonymy provide a language with which to talk to our students about how the different modes in their projects come together to make meaning.”
I, too, think that the relation between modes is key to meaning making. I wonder, though. Do text, sound, image, each “add their part to the meaning.” Does meaning “emerge” from text, image, sound as Sorapure posits? Or is it made by the audience’s confrontation with it? This may seem like a small semantics thing, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.
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One Response to “Between Modes: Assessing New Media Compositions”

  1. a composing

    Hello,

    This was fun to see. I know Madeline. She’s phenomenal. Thanks for the review.

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