Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts tagged ‘Multiliteracy’

Ellen Cushman. “Toward a Praxis of New Media: The Allotment Period in Cherokee History.” Reflections 5.1-2 (Spring 2006): 111-132.

In this article Ellen Cushman outlines a praxis of new media, a theoretical and pedagogical model, which frames the ways in which “community, critical, and digital literacies, when combined in community literacy initiatives,  can be transformative for those who engage them” (Cushman 115). Cushman illustrates the need for sustainable community literacy initiatives/projects–ones which have support at curricular, departmental and administrative levels. Cushman claims that a praxis of new media can be viewed as an improvement on the Designs of Meaning as made known by the New London Group’s “Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” and their later offering: Multiliteracies: Literacy Leaning and the Design of Social Futures. In this work, the authors bring together an interdisciplinary understanding of language and literacy to describe what they call “designs,” or those flexibly structured social organizations, knowledge bases, and cultural practices that influence daily meaning-making practices and life chances” (Cushman 115). One aspect of the mulitliteracies framework includes the Designs of Meaning that writers and readers use when creating meaning. These Designs of Meaning include the means of available designs (e.g. the tools, grammars, and media used); the designing process; and the re-designed product. (Cushman 115). As Cushman cites: “the power of this theoretical framework rests in it multidiscplinary perspective of meaning-making and its inclusion and equal weighting of various sign technologies. In this theory of mulitliteracies, the letter, print, and word are valued equally in relation to other forms of meaning-making that include images, motion, graphics and sound (Cushman 115). She also claims that the model is good, except for what happens in the social dimension of meaning-making. Cushman claims that the New London Group’s model lacks the socio-cultural exigencies that influence meaning -making.  What it still needs is a rhetoric.

Cushman’s praxis of new media compliments the NLG’s model while adding more rhetorical purpose as well as ethical traction. This helps to take into consideration the audience’s needs and desires and how to facilitate projects that meet at the intersections of community, critical, and digital literacies. This article helps me to ground my work in theory–while it helps me to expand on the idea of a praxis of new media. The ways in which meaning is made by both readers and writers is indeed multidisciplinary–and something that I am sure goes beyond the scope of “interpreting” or “creating.” I am interested in this because, if the designs of meaning include both interpreting and creating, there is still a very broad category of meaning-making that is not represented–and this is something like “experience” or “engagement.”  

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Cheryl Ball. “Show, Not Tell: The Value of New Media Scholarship.” Computers and Composition 21.4 (2005)

In “Show, Not Tell,” Ball is deeply concerned with the scholarship of new media and what it should look like. She discusses the changing nature of scholarly publications in relation to technology and promotion and tenure. She offers criteria for what constitutes “online scholarship”, “scholarship about new media”, and “new media scholarship.” She defines new media texts as ones that juxtapose semiotic modes in new and aesthetically pleasing ways and, in doing so, break away from print traditions so that written text is not the primary rhetorical means. By applying this definition to scholarly online publications, readers can be better prepared to recognize and interpret the meaning-making potential of aesthetic modes used in new media scholarly texts. Ball claims that

“New media scholarship has a necessary aesthetic component because of its designed, multimodal elements, and because these multiple modes can be read in conjunction with written text to form the text’s meaning” (404).

This article both thrills and perturbs me. I’m thrilled because Ball has set a definite springboard for my research study. She unflinchingly takes up the aesthetic and discusses its importance in composition with new media. She warns that “For readers unfamiliar with understanding how a video, sound, or photograph can function as a way of creating meaning in a scholarly text, new media scholarship may be dismissed as having an unnecessarily fussy “advertising aesthetic” (Glazier, 2001) making it unworthy as a scholarly text in the eyes of the reader” (411). Ball asks how can readers understand the potential of using artistic strategies in new media scholarship? (and points out that these modes are more often associated with art than composition studies). She claims that “It is the combination of understanding the use of aesthetic elements within intellectual meaning-making strategies that will best help readers interpret scholarly new media texts (411). She concludes with a kind of confession: “Compositionists, myself included, have much to learn about the role aesthetics can play in composing meanings” (414) This is why I’m thrilled with this article–I feel my research study can help to answer this question: What is the role of the aesthetic in meaning-making?

And yet, I am somewhat perturbed by this article.  In Ball’s conclusion, she offers  an analysis of a scholarly new media text, “Digital Multiliteracies.” My problem, I believe, is that Ball’s analysis of the aesthetic is too comfortably situated within the realms of the multimodal. She categorizes her analysis into Text Clips, Still Clips, Audio Clips, each referring to the “argument” or “underlying meaning” which the aesthetic elements help to facilitate. What bothers me is that the reading is limited and the wonderful questions that Lev Manovich poses about possible conceptions of the aesthetic cannot even be asked. Questions like:  “Is it necessary for the concept of the aesthetic to assume representation? Does art necessarily involve a finite object?” (Manovich). This is not Ball’s fault. She is doing everything she can to discuss the aesthetic. It’s just that we as a field are so limited… The closest Ball gets to this more expansive notion of other aesthetic possibilities happens  when she claims: that the Still Clips [of yawning, coffee cups, carpet, fluorescent lights]  show “the reader what it felt like to be there at the symposium. Though these clips, the audience can register a kind of felt experience of the symposium, can even make some meaning through their interaction with the “mollage” [montage/collage] of  candid still clips. Ball doesn’t really say this outright, though.

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