Aesthetics. Rhetoric. Social good.

Posts tagged ‘new media’

Kuhn, V., Johnson, D. J., & Lopez, D. (2010). Speaking with Students: Profiles in Digital Pedagogy. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 14(2).

This webtext features a dozen video-profiles of students in University of Southern California’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy (IML) honors program. All students in the program complete scholarly multimedia thesis projects in their respective major. These snapshots feature students reflecting on their thesis projects in digital media, which demonstrate a range of student work in new media including SecondLife, Flash, and the open source program Sophie. In making this project, Kuhn accounts for the aesthetic sensibilities of each student’s video profile in order to protect the integrity of the work: “In short, the look and feel, or the tone of the project should translate from thesis project to thesis profile.”

Videos show students discussing their projects and the heuristic by which their thesis projects were evaluated:

assessment multimodalThis webtext argues for the importance of creating a lexicon to assess digital work. Not just the domain of the “bean counters,” rigorous new media assessments can help students, academics and administrators understand the “nuances and sophistication” of new media compositions.

Unfortunately, I found this Flash-based webtext somewhat maddening. I accidentally closed it numerous times.
Note: The heuristic above was introduced to digital writing studies as an assessment method in Kuhn’s 2008 Kairos webtext, ‘‘The Components of Scholarly Multimedia at http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/12.3/topoi/gallery/index.html
1 Comment
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.
1 Comment

Jody Shipka. Negotiating Rhetorical, Material, Methodological, and Technological Difference: Evaluating Multimodal Designs. College Composition and Communication 2005

What do teachers of multimodal composition want? To establish frameworks for responding to student work that take into account the complexities of new media. Or so says Jody Shipka. This is one of many articles I’ve recently read dealing with the creation of heuristics for evaluating multimodal scholarship. Shipka observes:  “That we need to begin articulating and sharing with others our strategies for responding to the “differently shaped products” (Takayoshi 136) students are increasingly invited to produce is evidenced in the dearth of scholarship devoted to the assessment of multimodal and new media texts. (346).

“If we are committed to providing students with opportunities to forge new connections, to work in new ways, to produce new kinds of texts, and to become increasingly cognizant of the ways texts provide shape for and take shape from the contexts in which they are produced, circulated, valued, and responded to, I think it is crucial that we take care not to limit the texts, tools, and composing strategies students might employ and alter in compelling ways.” (348)

In the article, she also describes her own heuristic, which involves asking students to assume responsibility for describing and evaluating the goals and purposes of their work.

Leave a comment

Munster, Anna. Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics. Interfaces, Studies in Visual Culture. 1st ed. Dartmouth, N.H.: Dartmouth College Press: Published by University Press of New England, 2006.

Munster’s project involves the argument that: “information aesthetics is capable of offering us both a critical commentary that folds back upon the broader flows of a more reductive information culture and a new kind of aesthetics that unfolds into new sensory spaces for lived experience” (Munster 2006: 38).  It is this “new aesthetics” that I am particularly interested in, which she discusses in the last chapters of the book. This is important because it is going to help us move beyond the visual and toward a theory of embodied aesthetic engagement with new media. Munster discusses many accounts of new media art. Munster writes “These kinds of new media artworks neither promise a direct relation to the sensorium rendered by informatic visualization nor bypass the body altogether. Rather they suggest that any future for embodiment in the landscape of information must leave space for the aesthetic processes of composition. This is not a space marked by a controlling, organizing subject or cogito who looks back at its body from the outside or a technology that adopts a similar position of knowingly representing the body. This space is instead inflected by the shadow and absence of the self, as the bodily silhouettes of participants are projected onto the  topology of biological visualization. This shadowy figure is the mark of the death of the subject as knowable, manageable or reducible to a recognizable pattern of information.” (145).

Munster offers her thoughts in several places, regarding what a new aesthetics can do:

“These experiences of crossing thresholds between here and there, continuous and differentiated, corporeal and incorporeal, are common facets of engaging with virtual and telepresent technologies and environments. Thought about the body and actual sensory participation and engagement must be re-engaged in our analysis of digital culture in order to assist with this kind of threshold experience” (9).

“But if we recast the digital as an aesthetic force capable of producing new kinds of sensations and affective responses, we might instead see it as belonging to the activity of imagining” (94).

“Information aesthetics now needs to invent an affectivity for its culture from the sensations and perceptions that its technologies produce.” (116).

Leave a comment

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.”  

Leave a comment

Manovich, Lev. (2002). The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Manovich seeks to investigate the effects of digital media (what he calls  “the computer revolution”) on visual culture at large. Manovich draws from art history, literary criticism, photography, design, and most importantly film studies to ask the question: what is actually new about new media? To answer this question, Manovich engages a set of sub-questions:  1) How does the shift to computer-media based media redefine the nature of static and moving images? 2) What is the effect of computerization on the visual language used by our culture? 3) What new aesthetic possibilities are available to us? In The Language of New Media, Manovich drives home the telling fact that “today’s digital designers and artists use only a small set of action grammars and metaphors out of a much larger set of all possibilities” (Manovich 71).

Developing the possibilities of a new language for new media, Manovich develops the idea of a newly fashioned cinematic language, which builds on the aesthetic strategies of previous cinematic languages. These previous aesthetic strategies exhibited: “a particular configuration of space, time, and surface articulated in the work; a particular sequence of the user’s activities over time in interacting with the work; a formal, material, and phenomenological use experience” (66). Working toward building a new cinematic language, Manovich suggests: “If there is a new rhetoric or aesthetic here, it may have less to do with the ordering of time by a writer or orator, and more with spatial wandering” (78).

Manovich  observes that communication or telecommunication as social, cultural activity can drastically change the “paradigm of the aesthetic object.” He asks the following questions of the aesthetic:

”Is it necessary for the concept of the aesthetic to assume representation? Does art necessarily involve a finite object? Can telecommunication between users by itself be the subject of an aesthetic? Similarly, can the user’s search for information be understood aesthetically? In short, if a user accessing information and a user telecommunicating with other(s) are as common in computer culture as a user interacting with a representation, can we expand out aesthetic theories to include these two new situations?” (164).

While Manovich never answers these questions outright, he does develop several elements of the “new cinematic language” which can help point toward answers–elements which can cope with our data-rich, data-demanding lives. These elements include hypertext reading, montage, simultaneity, and the aesthetics of density. According to Manovich,  the aesthetics of density is  about representation of “contemporary information displays such as web portals, which may contain a few dozen hyper-linked elements or the interfaces of popular software packages, which similarly present the user with dozens of commands at once  Manovich ends by with more questions: “Can contemporary information designers learn from information displays of the past–particularly films, paintings, and other visual forms that follow the aesthetics of density? “ (327).

Leave a comment

Kress, Gunther. Literacy in the New Media Age. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Kress writes in the preface that we have come to a moment in the long history of writing when four momentous changes are taking place simultaneously: social, economic, communicational, and technological. The combined effects of these are so profound that it is justifiable to speak of a revolution in the landscape of communication” (Kress, 2003, 9). He foretells that “the combined effects on writing of the dominance of the mode of image and of the medium of the screen will produce deep changed in the forms and functions of cultural and bodily engagement with the world, and on the forms and shapes of knowledge (1).  He goes so far as to state that: “It is possible to see writing becoming subordinated to the logic of the visual in many or all of its uses. Kress claims that new spaces and new strategies will be needed. “There is a consequence for notions of meaning: if the meaning of a message is realised, ‘spread across,’ several modes, we need to know on what basis this spreading is happens, what principles are at work. Equally, in reading, we need to gather meaning from all the modes which are co-present in a text, and new principles of reading will be at work. Making meaning in writing and making meaning in reading both have to be newly though about” (35). He further explains: “The means of dealing with meaning are different; we need to understand how meanings are made as signs in distinct ways in specific modes, as the result of the interest of the maker of the sign, and we have to find ways of understanding and describing the integration of such meanings across modes, into coherent wholes, into texts” (37).

Kress delves deeply into the changing nature of word and image–in order to show that human engagement with the world is changing.  I believe this is where a useful theory of aesthetic experience can fit. Aesthetic experience does not favor the visual over anything else. Does not favor print over anything else. It is more or less an unhierarchical model of experience. Toward the end of this book Kress explains what is needed is a requisite theory of meaning: “The major task is to imagine the characteristics of a theory which can account for the processes of making meaning in the environments of multimodal representation in multi-mediated communication, of cultural plurality and of social and economic instability.” This theory will look different from ones of the past. It will not assume language as its foundation. Instead, the centrality of language  “will be replaced with an understanding that modes of representation are used in relation to a multiplicity of factors, such as the sign-maker’s sense of what are the apt modes of representing, given a certain audience and therefore specific relations between sign-maker and audience. Out of this awareness of the always rhetorical task of communication arises the arrangement of modes which are in play in a message/text.” (169).

Also, he comments on the shift to design: “The notion of competence will give way to that of interested design: …Design, by contrast, starts from the interest and the intent of the Designer to act in a specific way in a specific environment, to act with a set of available resources  and to act with an understanding of what the task at hand is, in relation to a specific audience. Design is prospective,future-oriented,: in this environment, with these (multiple) resources, and out of my interests now to act newly I will shape a message. In design, resources are transformed in any number of ways–whether in new combinations of modes or in the constant transformative action by signmakers in producing newly made signs” (169).

Leave a comment