Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts tagged ‘multimedia’

Cheryl Ball. “Assessing Scholarly Multimedia: A Rhetorical Genre Studies Approach,” Technical Communication Quarterly 21: 61-77, 2012

I appreciate the frank, personable, helpful tone of this article. It sounds very much like Ball’s voice, sitting down and having a chat with the reader about multimodal composition, sharing some interesting work by others, telling stories about her own classroom experience assigning and assessing webtexts, creating rubrics with students, what works, what doesn’t. Her experience comes across at every turn – her ethos is everywhere.  And that makes the article highly readable and engaging.

She draws from her familiarity and expertise with assessing webtexts (scholarly multimedia compositions) in her capacity as editor for the journal Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. The purpose of the article is to explore

“how to ask students to compose scholarly multimedia and how to assess their work (63).”

She explores these issues through the lens of her own experience teaching numerous iterations of a course in Multimodal Composition. Students in the course complete a webtext project (scaffolded through a series of assignments [64]), which could be submitted to a digital journal, like Kairos, C&C Online, X= Changes, or The JUMP (Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects). After serious discussion, she describes how her class arrived at appropriate evaluation measures for their projects, which they refer to as Kuhn + 2. These involve:

  • Conceptual Core
  • Research Component
  • Form and Content
  • Creative Realization


  • Audience
  • Timeliness

*See review of Kuhn and pages 65-68 for more details

Ball warns (and rightly so) that this heuristic should not be adopted blindly by teachers of multimodal composition. She explains that this rubric serves her purpose for one particular situation, for one audience, at one point in time (63). Furthermore she emphasizes that rubrics need “to be created fresh” (68), meaning that Kuhn + 2 is not one size fits all. Importantly, Ball emphasizes the importance of making our own, to meet the task at hand, with student input.

In this article Ball also offers some sage advice to webtext authors regarding design concepts, especially how form/content work together: “(a) Your design should enact your argument, and (b) To come up with that design, think of a visual metaphor for your argument (68). *See Susan Delagrange’s 2009 Wunderkammer piece for its exemplarily form and content.

She later notes: “…students should be articulating their design choices (form/content relationship) as rhetorical, aesthetic, technological, and other choices that make sense for the conceptual core of a piece given the medium they have chosen to best present their concept” (70). Although Ball doesn’t explicitly state what an “aesthetic choice” is or could be, I am happy to see it mentioned here. I see is it as part of my own project to explore what we mean when we speak of the aesthetic aspects of multimodal composition.

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Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Impossibly Distinct: On Form/Content and Word/Image in Two Pieces of Computer-Based Interactive Multimedia.” Computers and Composition 18 (2001): 209-234.

In this article, Wysocki makes the argument that we need to rethink or expand the conceptual categories that we are currently using to better understand (and teach) the visual aspects of texts. Wysocki questions why we still hold onto so many common assumptions regarding (the teaching and understanding of ) visual elements. She argues that when dealing with the visual, form is not always separate from content, word is not always separate from image and information is not separate always from design, and when we do so, we seriously diminish our returns. She compares two interactive CD-Roms on modernist art to demonstrate this argument.

Wysocki claims that “the differences between the visual presentations of these CDs are differences of assertion and thought.” (224). She makes an argument for The Foundation Maeght CD because it encourages a kind of thinking about the role visual representation plays in meaning making, whereas the other CD (Barnes), took things at face-value/took much for granted in how meaning is constructed with visual elements. In other words, it simply gave the user the information in a kind of straightforward way and couldn’t escape from a prefab user experience. Wysocki describes in a close-reading of the two texts why the Maeght CD-Rom does a better job of “pulling her in.” Some of what Wysocki is doing is talking about aesthetic engagement.  She prefers the Maeght CD because: …”it is up to me to determine the relations between the parts; I have to think about why the CD has been arranged as it has; if I want to feel I have any sort of hold on the presentation, I have to make my own paths through it; they are not handed to me. Although the CD is not asking me to question my relationship to art—or to artists or to art foundations—it is encouraging me to question how the arrangement of the CD contributes to my understanding of it…a first step in encouraging me to be aware of my interpretative part in moving through such a piece” (230).

I find the following quotes useful:

“It is because the Maeght CD encourages me to consider how its structure contributes to my experience and understanding of the CD that I find it more appealing.” (231).

“We should be asking, along with other people in our classes, how the visual aspects of these texts work to compose us and how we go about composing pages and screens that encourage us to be responsible and critical readers.” (231).

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