Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts tagged ‘technology’

A commitment to community building and civic action offers faculty and students in our field opportunities to address immediate real-world needs in our own neighborhoods.

Join us for a half-day workshop on Thursday, May 24, 2018, from 9-12 at Computers and Writing 2018 at George Mason University. With John J Silvestro, Bill Wolff, and Aimée Knight.

This workshop features several models to involve academic courses in digital projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations. Learning to leverage digital media platforms to advocate for and with communities provides students a meaningful way to engage in designing communication for social change.

We discuss an array of research and creative projects that 1) serve the needs of community partners and 2) can be accomplished by students in one semester. We provide examples from completed projects in areas ranging from professional writing to digital production, including advocacy campaigns, social media audits, website design, digital storytelling, data visualization, video production, and social media content creation.

During three hands-on work sessions, we will provide guidance and support as workshop participants move through the process of designing and developing their own project or assignment that can be worked into a new or an already existing or a new course. Each participant will leave the workshop with a blueprint for a project which responds to community-identified needs and creates real-world deliverables that benefit students and communities. For more details, contact me @aesthetically.




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Since my arrival at Saint Joe’s I’ve been knee-deep in classroom design. Thanks to the unified forces of the Communication Studies Department, IT, Media Services, facilities, and administration at Saint Joseph’s University, I am happy to report that we transformed Merion 174 into an innovative collaborative technology classroom.

Merion 174

This classroom is an ideal space for teaching and learning in our department. Our curriculum, centered on digital production, emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning. All students in our Communication Studies department combine theory and practice as they “learn by doing.” Projects focus on the creation of media-convergent texts that combine multiple modalities including sound, image, and user interaction.

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The room features wall-mounted HDTVs, breakaway tables and chairs, sound domes, XBox video game consoles, Tidebreak’s collaborative learning software, and a technology cart with notebook and tablet computers for student use.

Cones of Silence

The custom-made Brown Innovations Sound Domes installed in the classroom have directional speakers which localize sound. They focus the sound for small groups directly under the speaker dome, which keeps the overall classroom noise to a manageable level.


Remote Control

The classroom features Tidebreak’s collaborative software ClassSpot. Students are able to share screens and files with each other. They can remotely take control of any screen in the room, which speaks to the student-centered pedagogy we value in our department.

_MG_5493 copyFlexible focus areas

With moveable white boards, couches, and comfortable chairs, the room can easily be re-arranged to suit a variety of needs, including small group work, usability testing, and gaming. We invite everyone to visit Merion 174 to see the new space.


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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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Wegenstein, Bernadette. Getting Under the Skin: The Body and Media Theory. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006.

In this book Weggensgtein address our “technogenesis” (our coeveolution, as  a living species-being, with technics). She makes the argument that due to deep-seated changes we have undergone with regards to technology we now possess an “organ instead of a body.”  What this means is that  we can understand the body as mediation. I like this approach because it points to the body as the medium–nothing more and nothing less and might help my discussion of embodiment, if that is something I choose to develop. Another truly strange book on ‘aesthetics’ and new media from MIT Press.

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Jones, Caroline A., and Bill Arning. Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art. 1st MIT Press ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press: The MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2006.

Sensorium aims to examine “the current mediated status of the percipient center of human consciousness, while also historicizing the present condition and delineating trace elements from our collecting past” (Jones 4). The term sensorium refers to the sum of an organism’s perception, the “seat of sensation” where it experiences and interprets the environments within which it lives. The short essays in this volume focus on variations in the sensorium across social contexts. Most importantly the kind of sensorium we are talking about here entails the relations between the body and electronic technologies. The editor, Caroline A. Jones argues that while our sensorium has always been mediated, over the past few decade, “the condition has greatly intensified” (Jones 5).  She claims that this is “a moment for artists and other cultural workers to interpret, think, and reckon with the sense of our mediation sensorium (5).  The argument of the book is that “embodied experience through the senses (and their necessary and uncessary mediations) is how we think” (5). The authors suggest that the world is explained and experienced differently depending on the specific “ratios of sense” that members of a culture share in the sensoria they learn to inhabit—perhaps the contextual and socially learned nature of sensation. Importantly, new media artists work to make the sensorium visible. Practicing new media artists “are not interested in having us disappear within a given apparatus. They work to surface the effects of technology, making the viewer question mediation even within the pleasure of media” (Jones 3). [This can indeed be used to support Wysocki’s definition of new media for the 21st century].

At one point in the forward the editor, Caroline A Jones claims that: The only way to produce a techno-culture of debate at the speed of technological innovation itself is to take up these technologies in the service of aesthetics. Aesthetic contemplation buys us time and space. Aesthetic practices locate how bodies are interacting with technologies at the present moment, and provide a site for questioning those locations “(Jones 2). Jones says this only to abandon the aesthetic. What is the aesthetic here? What questions can it pose? Once again I’m left wondering what work the notion of the aesthetic does here? Why can’t any treatment of the aesthetic be sustained? Why do authors proclaim its importance only to drop it the first chance they get? Why can’t they define or operationalize their notion of the aesthetic? Why can’t they acknowledge there are varied notions of the aesthetic and be more specific of how they are using it? What kind of communicative labor does mentioning the aesthetic achieve? Jones might very well know what she is talking about, but she cannot leave statements like this laying around unturned on the page. This is simply not good scholarship.  But then again, I see this happening almost everywhere. Why do people to refer to the aesthetic but not define it? Or acknowledge which definition they are using and why? I know how difficult this is to do. But it must be done.

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