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2015
Andrea A. Lunsford

Giving Thanks

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Nov 26, 2015

One of my family’s traditions at Thanksgiving was to work our way around the table, with each of us saying what we were most grateful for. I remember one year, during the doldrums of being thirteen, when I snarkily remarked that I didn’t have anything at all to be thankful for, and stared down, or tried to stare down, my aggrieved parents. How wrong I was, of course—and in my heart of hearts I knew it: even during the darkest days of my life filled with grief and loss, I have known I had much to be thankful for.

 

So Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for me. I like to send cards or notes to people I’m especially thankful for, I contribute to Thanksgiving dinners for those in need (and deliver whenever I can), and I try to find some quiet time that day to reflect. This year I’ve been looking back to some of my earliest years in the profession—the mid-1970s—and to three people I was grateful for then, and now.

 

One was my teacher and mentor, Edward P. J. Corbett, who taught me about rhetoric (or the received notion of rhetorical history at the time) and about composition (by a huge stroke of luck, I was in grad school when Ed was serving as the editor of CCC, and I read every submission along with him and helped put the issues together). But I am grateful for much more I learned from Ed: his enormous curiosity, generosity of spirit, sheer decency, and wry wit made a lasting impression on me, as did his devotion to students.

 

Two others I am thinking about this year, with thanks, are Mina Shaughnessy and Geneva Smitherman. I was incredibly fortunate to be introduced to their work and to meet both of them during those years. In fact, I read Talkin' and Testifyin' and Errors and Expectations practically back to back, and I was electrified by what they—especially read together—had to teach me. It was their work that led to my study of “basic” writing and writers and to my dissertation. I often think of what more Mina could have contributed to our knowledge had she not left us so early (she died in 1978). Geneva—Dr. G, as I’ve heard students call her for years—is still teaching me lessons every year. My gratitude to both these scholars runs very deep.

 

But this Thanksgiving, as always, I give thanks for my family and friends—and especially the students I’ve had the privilege of knowing over the course of nearly 50 years of teaching. As I have often said, students in all their vivid differences, their rich histories, and their willingness to learn along with me—these have been the gifts of a lifetime. For them I will always be giving thanks.

 

So Happy Thanksgiving to all—and here’s wishing your day is deeply satisfying.

In the tradition of structuralist semiology, the sign, as an arbitrary combination of a signifier and a signified, has no grounding in reality but instead mediates reality—a fundamental axiom that underlies the late Jean Baudrillard's poststructuralist proposition that the modern era, which he refers to as a society of the Sign, has lost touch with reality and is instead situated in a hyperreality constituted by an endless "precession" of simulacra: signs without content. Given the prestige of poststructuralist semiology, I find it useful, from time to time, to explain how the practice of cultural semiotics (the distinction between "semiology"—the term Ferdinand de Saussure used for the science of the sign—and "semiotics"—the term C.S. Peirce used for his reality-grounded studies of signs—is deliberate here) differs from the poststructuralist view, especially in its position on the relationship between the sign and reality.

 

To put it succinctly, from the point of view of cultural semiotics, human behavior is not only a grounding reality for semiotic meaning; it is semiotic in itself.  Every action, every behavior, every phenomenon, is a sign whose meaning becomes apparent when situated within a system of associations and differences.  In this sense, cultural semiotics is profoundly empirical: it takes the concrete stuff of experience as its ground for interpretation.  Unlike structural and poststructural semiology, cultural semiotics does not regard the realities of lived experience as mediated simulacra; instead, it begins with concrete experience and phenomena and abductively interprets their significance.

 

Thus, what people do can often be more reliable semiotically than what they say (though speech acts, too, are acts).  This becomes especially apparent when considering the common gaps between public opinion polls and actual voting records.  As pollsters know, to their cost, people often respond to surveys in the way that they think the surveyor wants them to respond, or in ways that they think make them look best.  But their actions, in the privacy of a voting booth, can be dramatically at odds with their words.  Thus, while there is nothing to exclude conducting surveys as part of a semiotic analysis, surveys are not a necessary part of the interpretation.

 

Over the years I have collected a number of examples of this discrepancy between what people say about their behavior and the more likely meanings of their actions.  Many years ago, to take one example, I noticed that my students were pretty much all wearing athletic shoes (Nikes for preference) with the shoelaces untied.  I asked them why, and they said, “because it is too much trouble to tie shoelaces.” 

 

I knew, of course, what the real motivation was. This was in the era when urban street styles were being widely coopted by suburban youth, and my students were trying to look “cool” according to the fashion codes of the day.  But I joked with them, saying that if the reason they gave was the real reason, they’d be better off wearing loafers.  The fact that they were also wearing their baseball caps backwards at a time when this was also a highly visible component of the urban street code—a practice that actually had a very specific meaning that my students were completely unaware of—supported my interpretation that what was going on was really a part of a long history of white American youth adopting the cultural codes of black Americans in order to express their defiance of adult authority (“attitude” was the preferred descriptor at the time). 

 

My very wealthy students (at that time) even went so far as to distribute specially made baseball caps in the school colors for the graduating senior class to wear at their commencement in order to express this defiance.  At the moment of the announcement that the class had graduated, they all turned their caps backwards in a parody of the mortar board tassel shifting ritual of traditional commencements.  Their class president had a particularly defiant look on his face at the time.   In short, it wasn’t what they said about their behavior that explained it; it was the meaning of their behavior as interpreted within a concrete system of associations and differences.  But the behavior was the grounding sign—a real world, not a hyperreal fantasia of mere simulacra.

Bohannon_Pic-150x150.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon (see end of post for bio). This post was guest edited by Samantha Crovatt, Jason Figueroa, Caitlin Hussey, Jordan Jackson, Ben Keefer, Eddie Kihara, and Xiao Li.

 

Since my earlier post No Fear Gramm(r), I have become increasingly interested in unconventional grammar, especially reflecting on how writers use hashtag (#) grammar as a structure through which they achieve multiple rhetorical goals. My students and I decided this semester to explore four purposes of # grammar that writers can use towards rhetorical goals.  We chose Instagram as a platform for our project, which has turned into a digital cultural exchange with a school in Karachi! [As an aside, I must say how amazing my students are, as they earned their undergraduate research certifications through CITI training and our university's IRB office].

 

Context for Assignment

My digital writing majors are currently nearing the end of a semester in which they have been challenged to re/think and re/vision their uses of grammar in digital spaces.  We crowd-sourced an idea that integrates the Instagram social media platform with learning how the hashtag (#) can be used to attain the following goals for effective hashtag usage.  For a unique spin on the assignment, we initiated an Instagram exchange with the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, Pakistan, which is a school our university has an existing exchange program with.  We framed our Instagram project through the following four rhetorical purposes of # grammar.

 

  1. Searchability: using # to find specific posts and curate posts
  2. Shared Meaning: using # to negotiate meanings for visuals & text
  3. Storytelling: using # to connect multiple visuals & text in a narrative
  4. Subversion: using # to make a satirical or social comment about visuals & text

 

Measurable Learning Objectives for the Assignment

  • Combine visual and textual elements with # grammar to tell a story
  • Synthesize content-meaning through collaborative, dialogic writing
  • Create shared meaning in social media spaces for a specific audience

 

Background Reading for Students and Instructors

Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in dialogic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.


The St. Martin's Handbook
:
Ch. 18, Communicating in Other Media; Ch. 27, Writing to the World
The Everyday Writer: Ch. 24, Communicating in Other Media; Ch. 26, Writing to the World

Writer's Help 2.0 for Lunsford Handbooks: “At a Glance: Guidelines for Creating an Online Text”

Writing in Action: Ch. 4, A Writer’s Choices; Ch. 17, Writing to the World

EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g in Ch.1, A Writer’s Choices

 

Assignment Guidelines

We crowd-sourced the following task list.  We would encourage other instructors and students to do the same to make your project unique to your class.

 

  1. Divide into groups of writers, video/audio recorders, and photographers.  Solicit volunteers for Instagram administrators.
  2. Create and maintain one Instagram "public account," to which all students will contribute.  The Instagram account is managed by class Instagram administrators.
  3. Post images and videos based on an overarching theme (ours is “Haunted Home”), using hashtags for searchability, shared meaning, and storytelling. We post several images each week while our colleagues at Indus Valley School do the same.
  4. Research trending hashtags on Instagram and other social media platforms.
  5. Use popular hashtags that relate to the overarching theme to generate followers and re-posts on Instagram. Sites such as Hashtagify.me and Top-hashtags.com are two examples of great resources for (#) hashtag research.
  6. Provide feedback and peer review on hashtag grammar and narrative structure to your colleagues (ours were at Indus Valley).
  7. Your colleagues/collaborators will then provide feedback and peer review on visual elements for our posts.

 

From our group: "We invite instructors and students to modify our assignment instructions and let us know how your project goes. We would be glad to work with you."

 

Formative Assignment Reflection

We are still working through our Instagram cultural exchange. Over the next several weeks, we will continue to post our "Haunted Home" thematic visuals, complemented by text and #grammar.  We invite you to follow our project on Instagram: KSUculturecanvas

 

Reflections on Democratic Learning from Our Group

As a cultural exchange project, our group had the opportunity to collaborate internationally through a social media platform that allowed for a democratic and organic brainstorming process. This became a complex, multi-layered group assignment that encouraged creativity and engagement through its involvement that avoided becoming overbearing and intimidating. It made for a stunning Instagram narrative through images and text.

 

Want to offer feedback, comments, and suggestions on this post? Join the Macmillan Community to get involved (it’s free, quick, and easy)!

 

Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth through authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: jeanne_bohannon@kennesaw.edu and www.rhetoricmatters.or

The final writing assignment, in my experience, needs to reflect the reality of the many competing concerns that occupy students’ time at the end of the term. Because these concerns hold potential to interfere with the writing process, I want to work with students to adapt their writing processes to facilitate successful completion of the course.

 

Students’ concerns may be played out publicly in national or international news events or catastrophes, or perhaps more privately in the experiences of students’ everyday lives. Indeed, no matter how attentive we are as teachers, the issues our students face may remain invisible to us. What we perceive as boredom, hostility, inattention, or hyperactivity may in fact be expressions of anxiety, hunger, exhaustion, or frustration.  

 

For these reasons, according to the assignment sequence posted here on Bedford Bits in July, I intended the final writing assignment to focus on “resilience for first-year students nearing the end of their first semester in college.” I had tried to design the final assignment with a more personal focus. Nonetheless, in my own classroom, students remained uncertain how, and especially why, to claim ownership of this assignment.

 

The world has transformed many times over in the four months since I offered that assignment sequence in my syllabus and as a Bits post. Now, in November, the students felt restless. Even as we worked diligently on textual analysis, the students asked for a final writing project that would allow them to engage more directly with their own experiences and opinions. Although I suggested ideas for including personal experience and opinion as supplements for supporting evidence, the first two assignments relied mainly on close and careful comprehension of and engagement with particular texts for supporting examples and analysis.

 

So in class, we discussed how and why students needed to include references in their final assignment: to reach out to the audience with academic supporting evidence. I assigned the readings linked to this assignment, two brief articles on resilience research and public policy by Bari Walsh, published in the Harvard Graduate School of Education Newsletter, for exactly this purpose. In summarizing the research, Walsh suggests that: “Resilience can be built; it’s not an innate trait or a resource that can be used up.”

 

1200.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=ab65648c71d83894b79eec454310941dTo open the conversation, I composed an example of how to connect the resilience research to recent current events. While I began with the illustration of the weeping Eiffel Tower, the students recommended that I add the video of a father and his young son discussing the aftermath of the attacks. Through the revision and our discussion of the multimedia texts, we found an opportunity to push beyond how to cite sources, and to began to approach why resilience matters. Here is the revised example:

 

Recent scientific research on resilience holds relevance to the current situation for school children in Paris. A two-page brochure published for the French Education Ministry offers a significant example with an illustration of a “tearful Eiffel Tower” (Tran). Another example is the video "They Might Have Guns But We Have Flowers," in which a father comforts his young son at an impromptu memorial site in Paris (Le Petit Journal). These images seek to help children manage threats to their “physical and social wellbeing,” a key factor in building resilience (Walsh “Scientific”).

At the end of this long semester, I look forward to reading the students’ final writing assignments, and to learning the many perspectives that students bring to fostering resilience.

 

[Image source: Astrapi Attentats de Paris : les bons mots pour expliquer aux enfants - Astrapi ]

Collin College’s Third Annual Trends in Teaching Composition Conference brought teachers of writing from neighboring campuses together in late October, and I had the honor of spending a day with them. My visit actually began the day before, when I attended a graduate seminar in composition theory at Texas Christian and, following the class, a reading group discussion/potluck dinner. I’ve always enjoyed and benefitted from such occasions (and held many at my home over the years), but since I’ve “retired,” I especially savor these times, full of camaraderie, good will, fellowship, and talk about teaching and about students: Teachers enjoying and sharing and learning from one another. These sessions took me back to some of my earliest experiences in teaching graduate courses to new teachers, when I had an opportunity to build an intellectual and personal community that nurtured and shared ideas. Looking back over the years, I can see that these communities inspired a great deal of good research and scholarship as well as lasting friendships. I also see that such communities seem particularly characteristic of the field of rhetoric and writing studies. So now when I get to join one of these groups, even for a day, it feels very much like going home. At the reading group, I soaked up the atmosphere (as well as the great food!), and listened to the ebb and flow of conversation (we were talking about an essay I had co-written about students in the Stanford Study of Writing) swirling around me about research in pursuit of better teaching and learning. Indeed, it felt like home.

 

Joining the conference at Collin College the next day continued a celebration of the best goals of our field. The conference’s theme was on argument, and I got to share my thoughts on the subject (and you know I have LOTS of them!) and then join in a large-group discussion of how best to teach argument today—and, indeed, why we need to teach it. For me, helping students engage successfully in the world of argument—that is to say, in the world we currently inhabit—offers them a way to become active and productive participants in that world, to learn to listen to and respect other viewpoints, to see that their voices are always in response to the voices of others, and to enter the global and endless conversation of humankind. I view argument not as a form or even a genre, but rather as a way of being in the world. We argue to learn what we think and believe, to understand our relationship to other people as well as to ideas, to make the best decisions we can about inevitably complex and difficult issues, and to build and sustain networks of exploration and understanding. We teach argument so that students can and will pursue these same goals.

 

And what a feast of exchanges the conference provided. In a panel on Teaching Comics, scholars talked about how to argue for the inclusion of comics in our curricula and presented brilliant activities and assignments used in their own classes. In another panel, students and faculty from Texas State explored “Strategies for Teaching Argument and Persuasion in Relation to Latin@ Literary and Cultural Spheres,” reminding us that modes and ways of arguing differ from culture to culture and that we still have a lot to learn by paying very close attention to the writing and reading strategies of all our students, including those who attend Hispanic serving colleges and universities.

 

So it’s true: I love writing teachers and being with such teachers. With teachers learning from and sharing their wisdom and successes, their missteps and failures, with each other. Yes, I know that higher education is under attack from all sides, that working conditions for teachers of writing are in many places disgraceful, and that the work we do can be bone-wearying. But I also know that we have been meeting these challenges for longer than I can remember, and doing so with grace and good will and persistence.

When I was first trained to teach first-year, introductory composition at the University of Michigan in the late 70s, one of the encouraged class activities asked the instructor to work at the board and lead the class in a discussion contrasting Spoken Language with Written Language. It was always a productive conversation with the class, since students could come up with important differences in sentence and discourse structure, vocabulary and usage. They could raise issues of register, formality, permanence, intimacy and immediacy, considering how language could fit a particular situation, a notion at the heart of rhetorical analysis. We would urge students to be conscious of the differences between speaking and writing, and to move toward the more formal control characteristic of academic writing and Standard English.

 

In the years since, the emerging hybrid genres of electronic communication blur what once seemed fairly comfortable distinctions cast in the useful polarity of speaking vs. writing. Is email more like speaking or writing? What about messaging or Twitter? They have a certain permanence, but what about Snapchat? What about recorded conversations or online meetings or podcasts? What about video?

 

Differences among hybrid media genres are of pressing concern. Hillary Clinton cannot shake the accusations of mismanaging her email communications, but she can be forced to surrender all the email that was not effectively deleted. Email is a written record and therefore discoverable. Would instant messaging, or Skyping, or Snapchatting have the same qualities? Face-to-conversations still provide some measure of confidentiality, but what about phone conversations? Could she have managed her communication, keeping private or confidential or top secret communications all contained within appropriate media? What are the differences among media, the affordabilities and the risks, and how do we choose what to use? From the current vantage point, it is ironic that Nixon got into trouble by choosing to tape oral conversations, while Clinton gets into trouble by trying to hide written conversations.

 

Over the years, I have urged students in business communication classes to choose carefully when to write and when to speak, what to put in an email and what to convey F2F. But we now see an explosion of video coverage and reportage of supposedly spoken messages. Police are caught by lapel cameras and recorders; domestic abusers and homophobes are captured on phone cameras. Everyone is viewed by security cameras, so you can’t even rob a bank anymore without your face being shown on the news. As I write, we have a wave of resignations at the University of Missouri for things people said that were captured and repeated:  a command to bring in some “muscle” to remove video reporters from a campus demonstration site and an email to class about standing up to hatred resulted in the resignations of two professors. The president and chancellor both resigned, more for what they did not say (and do) about campus climate than for what they did say. So even being silent or too quiet can bring down top administrators.

 

We can’t put two columns on the board anymore, contrasting speech and writing. But we can raise awareness of what happens in a media-saturated environment, where it seems that very few communication events are not recorded in some form, and where intended audiences are often not identical with broad, unintended audiences and consequences. As we continue to move toward teaching diverse, hybrid, multimodal genres, we can engage students with thinking about when to communicate, using what technologies, always anticipating how messages will often escape our control. That is still what rhetoric is about.

 

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Some of the best moments I experience as a composition instructor come when my students discover that texts, as rhetorical events, can offer significant insights into the values, beliefs, and/or desires of their target audiences. When these moments of recognition occur, I’m reminded just how empowering a discovery this can be for many of my students who, although often quite adept at reading texts for information, have rarely been asked to approach texts rhetorically. Fostering a more sophisticated audience-based rhetorical awareness, then, is among my chief aims as a first-year writing instructor. This kind of awareness is precisely what I believe students are able to transfer from one rhetorical context to another.

 

Like many instructors, though, I often find myself bound up in the day-to-day processes of supporting students’ production of a review of scholarship or an annotated bibliography or any number of other process-level tasks. During these periods, my focus as an instructor sometimes drifts from the higher-level concern for students’ developing rhetorical awareness to the lower-level, though obviously still important, activity of text production.

 

My response has been to try to ensure that my students are engaged in rhetorical analysis and reflection activities at critical moments throughout my course:

 

Beginnings: The Public Audience

I usually begin my first-year writing course with a review of some of the basic principles of rhetoric. One of the initial activities I assign asks students to identify a specific target audience and to construct a product advertisement aimed at moving their selected audience to “buy” a product. An important stage in the process of completing this project is the analysis of audience. To be successful in the project, students must identify the values, beliefs, and/or desires of their target audience and make appropriate decisions about the elements of their advertisement in light of their analyses. My students have produced hand-drawn ads, posters, and even short filmic texts in response to this assignment, and I have them present their ads to the class as a whole. Students explore the content and design features of their advertisements in light of their understanding of their targeted audiences as part of these presentations.

 

In the Middle: The Academic Audience

The ad construction project sets the stage for the audience-based rhetorical analysis activities and projects that continue throughout the “heart” of my course, which is comprised of a series of units that explore the literate practices of various academic domains—the social sciences, the humanities, etc. In my natural sciences unit, for instance, I have students produce a formal rhetorical analysis of a professional academic journal article. My goals for this project are for students to (1) demonstrate their abilities to notice salient rhetorical/conventional features of natural science writing and (2) offer rationales for those features that are grounded in their understanding of the values, beliefs, and/or desires of the authors’ target audience. In another assignment, I ask students to translate a scholarly article for a popular audience. Students, again, must analyze an audience carefully and make appropriate decisions about how their text should be crafted to best serve the needs of that audience.

 

Endings: Self-Reflection

One of the final writing assignments my students complete is a rhetorical analysis of their own writing. My students choose a text (representing a specific disciplinary genre) they’ve produced as part of my class during the semester, and they analyze that text in light of the values, beliefs, and/or desires of the text’s target audience.

 

Strategically placing these kinds of activities and projects throughout my course helps to ensure that my students are able to move from analyzing audiences to creating texts that respond appropriately to the needs of those audiences in various contexts.

 

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Jack Solomon

Every Witch Way But Loose

Posted by Jack Solomon Expert Nov 12, 2015

serveimage?url=http:%2F%2Fwww.finalreel.co.uk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2015%2F09%2FThe-Last-Witch-Hunter-Poster-674x1024.jpg&sp=d71182fac4b562bdf7df2b70701ce443Once again, I begin with a billboard.

 

As usual, I encountered this promotion for Vin Diesel's latest on my drive to work, and once again I found a treasure trove of cultural information.  It all lies in the title of the movie—The Last Witch Hunter— and the catchy come-on that movies always seem to use to get you into the theaters: "Live Forever.  Hunt Forever."  That's just about all we need.

 

Let's begin with the title. My first impression was one of surprise that in the era of Wicked and Wicca a movie would still be targeting witches as the objects of a manhunt (I use the word "manhunt" quite deliberately here), for with her traditional feminine identification, the witch would have seemed to be a figure that Hollywood no longer slated for demonization and destruction (I leave out of this analysis the connotation of "witch hunts" in the wake of the McCarthy era).  So, to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, I decided that maybe it was using the word "witch" in a genderless manner, including warlocks (the traditional male witch) within its range of reference, and went online to research its plot.

 

It turns out that my first impression was correct, however.  This is a movie about an age-old war against a very female witch (who, not so incidentally, is portrayed by actress Julie Engelbrecht, who, again not so incidentally, just happens to represent central casting's paradigmatic image of blonde feminine pulchritude), who has been plotting to destroy humanity for about eight hundred years.  Never mind the fact that she has a male demon (the not so very subtly named "Belial") in her employ: what matters is that what we have here is a beautiful blonde woman cast in the hero's gun sights.  And here is where cultural signifier number one lies.

 

Can you spell "male panic"?  I can't help but associate a storyline of this type with Basic Instinct, whose beautiful blonde villain just happens to have a witch as her mentor.  Nor can I help associating it with the recent Yik Yak threat at Fresno State University to "take a headshot at a hot blonde" in revenge (apparently) for favors not received, not to mention Elliott Rodgers's killing spree outside a UC Santa Barbara sorority last year, motivated by a similar resentment.  In other words, it appears that Hollywood hasn't gotten the message yet: that demonizing attractive women isn't, let's say, doing anything to tamp down the flames of a violent misogyny that is not only a worldwide scourge but an especial problem on America's university campuses today.

 

So, a big "F" for gender sensitivity for The Last Witch Hunter, and the fact that the movie is doing quite well at the box office is a sign that such insensitivity still pays.  Do we see a vicious circle here?

 

Now to cultural signifier number two, which (witch?) appears in the catchy come-on: "live forever."  A plot check reveals that, indeed, the movie is all tied up with various kinds of dark immortality, and this, too, is meaningful when situated in a system of associations and differences.

 

To begin with, making immortality central to a storyline is nothing new in the movies (consider It's A Wonderful Life, complete with guardian angel).  The 1990s was a particularly fertile era for benign immortals—from Michael, to What Dreams May Come, to TV's Touched By an Angel—but at the same time, another immortal, the vampire, was also rising to prominence then (remember Buffy?), and by the early 2000s vampires had pretty much driven the angels onto the lesser stage of Victoria's Secret, only to be (partially) displaced themselves by an even nastier variety of immortal: the walking dead (aka zombies).

 

The difference between the angelic immortal and the demonic one is the kind of difference that points to cultural significance.  Angels tend to be in the ascendant when a society is feeling good about things; demons serve as metaphors for all kinds of social anxieties (it was no accident, for example, that the Cold War-tormented 1950s saw so many monster movies).  So the fact that the immortal demon is getting most of the popular cultural play right now is meaningful.  This turn to the dark side is especially evident in the way that George R.R. Martin has effectively turned J.R.R. Tolkien upside down, transforming the ultimately green and good Middle Earth into the grey and grim Westeros.  A generation that once wrote "Frodo Lives!" on subway station walls has been succeeded by one whose imagination is casting dark shadows upon a bloody ground—a not very surprising reaction to a world overshadowed by the aftermath of the Great Recession and the 9/11 terror attacks.

 

But there is still more to the analysis, for there is also the full bore fascination with immortality as such to consider, the endless parade of movie characters who do not die, or, when they do, manage to come back to life—yeah, I know that Tolkien did this too with Gandalf, probably getting the idea from Conan Doyle, who once brought Sherlock Holmes, after a fall into an abyss, back to life, too—but it is getting excessive.  This is a different kind of immortality from that of, say, What Dreams May Come, where the afterlife takes place in an afterworld which is wholly different from the one you lived in before you died.  Somebody else is in charge in that afterworld, and the rules are different.  In the current image of immortality, by contrast, you come back to life within this world, the ordinary one, and that may be a dangerous fantasy.  Because I can't help but think again here of those campus killers who post up a grotesque kind of posthumous "survival" on the Internet before going out on what are often conceived as suicide missions.  One has to wonder whether these killers really believe that they are going to die, or whether, deep down, they believe that they will somehow survive (or return) to enjoy their sudden "fame."

 

I don't know.  But I do rather wish that popular culture wouldn't keep encouraging such fantasies.  I don't see it doing any good.

 

 

Tags: cultural semiotics, The Last Witch Hunter, fantasy, campus shootings, misogyny, popular culture, current events

All eyes have been on Missouri this week. In fact, Missouri has been on my mind a lot, certainly since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August of last year. But for the last few weeks, tensions at the state’s flagship University of Missouri have intensified as African American students reported on and protested a series of racist incidents, leading to Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike and eventually a walk-out of some 30 Missouri football players, a move supported by their coach. One result: on November 9, the University’s President and Chancellor both resigned, as the students demanded. Like most of you, I’ve been following these events with growing concern, and I’ve thought a lot about the combination of speaking, writing, and acting/performing that characterized the student protest—a rhetorical situation played out on the national stage.

 

Flash back for a moment to 1968, to the Black Power movement, to the Mexican Olympics, and to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s raised fists on that Olympic medal platform, raised fists that represented the frustrations of African Americans as well as Black pride. Those readers who were alive at the time will remember the uproar that followed, the media coverage of this event. Those readers may also recall that in the aftermath of that event, Edward P. J. Corbett published “The Rhetoric of the Open Hand and the Rhetoric of the Closed Fist” (CCC 20 [December 1969]). He opened this essay with a reference to Zeno, who used the metaphor of the hand in discussing various relationships between knowledge and power. Corbett notes that by the Renaissance, Zeno’s “closed fist” had become associated with the spare, tight, rational discourse of logic, while the “open hand” was linked to the “relaxed, expansive” discourse of rhetoric. In the turbulent 1960s, Corbett suggested, we should perhaps see the open hand as representing the reasoned, sustained discussion of issues and the closed fist as representing discursive activity that “seeks to carry its point by non-rational, non-sequential, often nonverbal, frequently provocative means” associated with the Black Power movement. Corbett went on to acknowledge that such “provocative” activity is sometimes called for, so he does not reject such rhetorical action out of hand. But it’s clear that he hopes for a return to what he calls the “open hand” of rationality.

 

Well, that essay was published nearly fifty years ago, and today it seems in some important ways shortsighted, especially in terms of the material lives of African Americans and their ongoing demands for equality. But I think Corbett’s essay and the metaphor of its title are worth recalling today, not only because 46 years on we are still plagued by the effects of racial divide, but also because the open hand and closed fist no longer seem a supportable binary, with rationality on one side and non-rational emotionality on the other.

 

We now know, for instance, that human beings do not make most decisions based on reason and rationality, that emotion plays a crucial role in human action (and that it is distributed throughout the body, brain included). We know that the hegemony of the written word is challenged by the rise of aurality/orality, of the embodied, performed word. And we know that ethical and effective persuasion today calls for recognition of this knowledge and for imaginative combinations of discursive acts.

 

We have seen such combinations at work on the Mizzou campus: the letters of protest; the signs, T-shirts, and placards; the spoken, chanted, shouted words of student protesters; the embodied argument of Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike; the collective action of football players and coach. Were we to return to the metaphoric binary, we might see President Wolfe as the closed fist, shut down, holding tight, not responding, and the students as engaging more in the “expansive” rhetoric of the open hand. But I really don’t think the binary holds: what we saw on the Missouri campus was a situation that required a combination of moves and strategies as well as an understanding of kairos, a seizing of the opportune moment.

 

Professor Corbett was right that the grounds of argument and argumentation have shifted. The shift is obvious in the lessons from Missouri as well as in arenas stretching from public debate to academic discourse. At the end of his essay, Corbett quotes from Robert Scott and Wayne Brockriede’s The Rhetoric of Black Power: “Black Power, no matter what shapes it assumes in the next few years, will remain vital as one starting point for the study of the American ethos which is now developing. . . .”

 

The powerful Black Lives Matter movement—now worldwide—and the events at the University of Missouri remind us that teachers of writing and rhetoric have an obligation to study “the American ethos” and the way that ethos is manifesting itself today, on campuses across the country and on the world’s digital stage. We have an obligation to engage our students in the study of this ethos  and these ongoing shifts in argumentation as well as to help them consider how, when, and where they will engage in such ethical argumentation—speaking, writing, acting, performing—in their own lives.

Haimes-Korn_Pic.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn (see end of post for bio).

 

Americans in particular should study their popular arts the better to understand themselves. The media inform their environment, make suggestions about ways to view themselves, provide role models from infancy through old age, give information and news as it happens, provide education, influence their opinions, and open up opportunities for creative expression. Culture emanates from society, voices its hopes and aspirations, quells it fears and insecurities, and draws on the mythic consciousness of an entire civilization or race. It is an integral part of life and a permanent record of what we believe and are. While future historians will find the accumulated popular culture invaluable, the mirror is there for us to look into immediately.

--from Handbook of American Popular Culture, M. Thomas Inge, ed. (1989)

 

For this project students create their own knowledge through a collaborative learning project in which they research an ideology that influences thought and behavior in our culture through rhetoric and multimodal artifacts. The project draws on classical notions of the "commonplaces" and upon a more modern term, "ideology," which Sharon Crowley defines:

 

            Ideologies are bodies of beliefs, doctrines, familiar ways of thinking that are characteristic of a group or a culture. They can be economic, ethical, political, philosophical, or religious (76).

 

Group members work together to choose an ideology that is somehow reflected in images, words, things, and behaviors – the rhetoric – of our culture. Students examine culture in light of the "language, myths, rituals, life-styles, establishments which are all symbolic forms for the expression of the attitudes and values of society" (Inge xxv). One of the interesting concepts related to ideologies is that they are often assumed true even if they are not actually true in people’s lives. The project asks students to go beyond general assumptions and explore multiple layers of their ideology through rhetoric – including visual rhetoric – and create their own truths and observations.

 

In Class - Invention and Brainstorming: Understanding Ideologies

 

Defining:First I present definitions and examples of ideologies in our culture. For example, we might discuss the ideology of convenience and have students connect to all the artifacts that somehow manifest that ideology – ATMs, online education, fast food, online shopping, phones, computers, credit cards, etc. This helps students understand the differences between ideologies and artifacts and teaches them how to engage their analytic lenses.

 

2015-10-30_1519.pngLooking Back:Then, I present some advertisements and magazine samples from other eras as it is easier to find examples and to analyze past cultural moments without the close proximity of our current culture. For example, I often show this Camel ad (right) from Popular Screen Magazine (1954) in which an Olympic figure skater endorses smoking. The copy says, “she leaps, she glides, she spins, she smokes Camels.” Students immediately see the ways this ad conflicts with their own current ideologies that would never align athleticism and smoking. Upon close inspection of the copy, they also comment on the “30 day mildness taste test” that guarantees your money back if not satisfied. It is easy to recognize that consumers would be addicted by that time, a startling idea for students who grew up with the smoking kills ideology as part of their belief system. Students can also conduct online searches to find many more advertisements like this one that teach them how to recognize and analyze ideological artifacts.

 

Listing Modern Ideologies: Next I have students turn their gaze towards modern magazines and online artifacts. I ask them to list the dominant ideologies they recognize through their exploration. They come to class with their lists to present to their classmates to choose one that interests them as a group for the project. Check out some examples of their lists of ideologies.

 

The Assignment

As a team, I require students to submit the following assignments that make up the parts of this project:

                                                                       

1: Data Collection: Students explore definitions and origins of their subject by

 

  • Questionnaire: Create, administer and analyze a questionnaire in which students conduct primary research to gather ideas of how other people define and understand their ideology.

 

  • Multimodal Artifacts (visual and language):

 

2: Creation of a Meme: After they have analyzed the existing cultural artifacts, they complete an analysis of current memes related to their ideology and then create an original meme that speaks to and promotes the ideology and findings. In order to be effective, it must draw on an obvious (but not necessarily true or stated) major premise that reflects their ideology.  It must be supported with visual and textual communication (Stay tuned for a future post on memes).

 

3: Team Presentation: As a group, students present their findings to the class. This 30 minute presentation should not be a mere listing of their findings. Instead, it should somehow represent their findings in a more creative manner as interesting, informative, and perhaps even entertaining for both a live and internet audience. The presentation should include an analysis of the questionnaire and a discussion and display of the particular multimodalvisual and textualartifacts that speak to the ideologies.

 

4: Group Minutes and Online Discussions: I instruct students to keep professional, accurate minutes of their group meetings and decisions. Each team creates a space on Google Drive to organize and manage their team. This creates easy group access to the thinking processes, operations, and tasks of the group and allows them to use the space to participate in a collaborative revision of their presentation and documents.

 

Student Work

I share a great student presentation by a group that chose to investigate consumerism. They created their presentation in Prezi and designed it in the form of a front page of a newspaper. The presentation takes readers through an interesting journey that allows for interactivity through a variety of multimodal artifacts. 

 

A student in the consumerism group, Kendra, offers her thoughts on the project below.

 

     Initially:

When I think about consumerism, I think about spending lots of money on products that you can live without, images of overpriced products, credit card debt, brand name items and environmental depletion come to mind. My initial belief towards consumerism is that most people are probably aware that it’s not the best thing in the world, but still participate in the overconsumption of material goods anyway.

 

     After completing the project:

Based on the results of the survey, a majority of participants felt that consumerism is wasteful and poses problems to the environment. However, most also felt that consumerism provided necessary benefits to the economy. I thought it was extremely interesting that in multiple questions, there were several responses that stated that large companies who cater to consumers do not actually have the consumer’s best interests in mind, nor the interests of the environment.

 

     She concludes by recognizing the idea that although we share common ideas, we all have our individual      ways of interpreting them:

The project taught me a lot, not only about working with other people but about consumerism and ideologies in general. Through the use of our survey, I learned that you can’t trust the media to paint you an accurate picture of how people feel about certain ideologies. No one can really be put into a box; everybody has their own thoughts and experiences that affect how they feel about certain ideologies.

 

References

Crowley, Sharon and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students, 5th edition.

             Longman, 2011.

 

Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at khaimesk@kennesaw.edu or visit her website Acts of Composition.

 

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment or be a guest blogger? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post.

Saxon_airport+selfie+2014[1].jpgGuest blogger Jessica Saxon is a faculty member at Craven Community College in New Bern, North Carolina, and she teaches composition and literature courses. A former WAC coordinator at Craven, her primary interests are WAC/WID programs and creating partnerships with other community colleges and universities. She is also pursuing a PhD in narrative theory and nineteenth-century British literature at Old Dominion University.

 

This post is the second in a series. View the first post: First Time WID Jitters and My Comfort Zone

 

We started the natural science unit recently in my ENG 112 class. Strangely, I am much more excited about this unit than I was about the first unit in my home discipline (humanities and literature studies). We have been talking about annotated bibliographies, scholarly and non-scholarly research, APA formatting, and possible research questions for students’ natural sciences annotated bibliographies. And, having learned from my modeling mistake in the humanities unit, we will be constructing a sample annotated bibliography in APA style together in class while the students are also working on their independent projects.

 

I teach APA style in both the natural sciences unit and the social sciences unit. However, An Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing has section on CSE (Council of Science Editors) for instructors who would prefer to use CSE for the natural sciences unit. I have decided to teach APA in the natural sciences as well as in the social sciences because (1) faculty at my home institution in the natural sciences use APA instead of CSE or another documentation style, and (2) the majority of students at my home institution have more experience with MLA than APA and therefore need additional instruction in and practice with APA style. You should, of course, use the documentation styles most appropriate for your students and your home institutions.

 

The Assignment and Schedule

Students are asked to create an annotated bibliography in APA style on a topic related to the natural sciences. They are responsible for selecting a research topic and creating focused research questions. They cannot, for example, research global warming; instead, they must narrow the topic to something along the lines of researching the melting of Greenland glaciers or sea level rise in the eastern American states or shifting weather patterns in Southeast Asia.

 

Their annotated bibliographies must have (1) at least three academic, scholarly science journal resources and (2) at least three lay, non-academic, non-scholarly magazine (including magazine-like website) resources. Each source’s annotation must include summary, analysis, and comparison, and each annotation must address the source’s appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos as well as the source’s intended audience (including the context and purpose of the source). Each annotation needs to be no less than 160 words.

 

Students have the month of October to complete the project:

 

10.1

Writer’s Journal #10: Arguments and Research Planning

Introduction to Natural Sciences Writing and Annotated Bibliographies

Introduction to APA Conventions and Paper Formatting

 

10.6

Writer’s Journal #11: APA Style

Introduction to APA Style In-Text Citations and References

 

10.8

Process Assignment #7: Annotated Bibliography Questions and Sources 1

“Multiple Ebola Virus Transmission Events and Rapid Decline of Central African Wildlife” (available through ProQuest Central)

Annotated Bibliography Questions and Sources Workshop 1

Sample Annotated Bibliography Workshop 1 for “Multiple Ebola Virus”

 

10.13

No Class – Semester Break

 

10.15

Process Assignment #8: Annotated Bibliography Questions and Sources 2

“Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola’s Back Door to America” (available through ProQuest Central)

Annotated Bibliography Questions and Sources Workshop 2

Sample Annotated Bibliography Workshop 2 for “Multiple Ebola Virus” and “Smuggled Bushmeat”

 

10.20

Process Assignment #9: Annotated Bibliography Draft 1

Annotated Bibliography Draft Workshop 1

 

10.22

Process Assignment #10: Annotated Bibliography Draft 2

Annotated Bibliography Draft Workshop 2

 

10.27

In-Class Work on Annotated Bibliography and Annotated Bibliography Self-Reflection 

Annotated Bibliography (Due by the End of Class)

Process Assignment #11: Annotated Bibliography Self-Reflection (Due by the End of Class)

 

 

Reflections

As I said in my previous blog post, I have been nervous about teaching this WID course for the first time. What do I know about science? Or about scientific journals? Or researching in the sciences? Or about APA style? Well, it turns out I know quite a lot already thanks to my own general education courses and to my general interest in science news. But more importantly than that, I know quite a lot about rhetoric, and that, in turn, gives me an entrance into natural sciences writing and researching.

 

I told a group of students in my college’s Scholars in Engineer and Sciences (SEAS) program that rhetoric was their magic bullet. Sure, that’s an exaggeration, but it is not entirely untrue. With a firm understanding of rhetorical strategies and situations, a student can begin to pierce complex texts for classes and projects. It gives them a vocabulary for understanding disciplinary writing styles, research expectations, and even citation formatting. For example, in my ENG 112 class today, we went over APA style expectations and paper formatting: avoiding first-person, headers, title pages, abstracts, and so on. During our discussion of why first-person works well in humanities projects but typically not in natural sciences and social sciences projects, we linked issues of voice back to formatting: MLA wants your name in the header, but APA couldn’t care less about your name in the header, much like it doesn’t want first-person references to yourself in the body.

 

The natural sciences project will be centering on rhetorical strategies and contexts. And the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this project might be a better first project than the literary analysis paper. This annotated bibliography gets students to work with scholarly and non-scholarly sources and makes them select (and narrow) their own topics. Plus it directly reinforces the discussions about rhetoric that we have during the first two weeks of the semester. I may have to revisit the structure of the course the next time around.

 

How do you approach natural sciences writing and researching in your WID classes? Do you uses CSE, APA, or some other documentation style in your natural sciences unit? At what point in the semester do you tackle the natural sciences? What’s the rationale for its placement in your schedule? What sorts of natural sciences projects do your students do?

 

Want to offer feedback, comments, and suggestions on this post? Or share it with others and start a conversation? Join the Macmillan Community to get involved (it’s free, quick, and easy)!

The 10th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference concluded on October 31, 2015, and what a celebration! Hosted by Maureen Goggin and Shirley Rose (and their fabulous team) at Arizona State University, this was one of the very best of all the conferences so far: brilliant!

 

I have been at most of these conferences, including the first one, held at Oregon State University in 1997 and hosted by Lisa Ede and Cheryl Glenn. Lisa and Cheryl had been given some funding from their dean that year, and they proposed to use it to hold a conference on feminism and rhetoric, thinking it would be a one-time affair. But when we gathered in Corvallis, so enthusiastic were all the participants that toward the end of the conference colleagues from the University of Minnesota rose to say that the show simply HAD to go on—and offered to host it in 1999. Thus was born the Biennial Conference, with this year being the tenth consecutive one, now supported and sponsored by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, a remarkable group with a juried journal, Peitho. Every one of the meetings has been special in its own way: who can forget Joy Harjo and her band in Minnesota, the Deaf poets at Ohio State, or Lynda Barry bringing down the house at Stanford!

Nov 5 2015 Twenty Years for Feminisms and Rhetorics_Photo 1.JPGCheryl Glenn and Lisa Ede

Nov 5 2015 Twenty Years for Feminisms and Rhetorics_Photo 2.JPGCheryl Glenn, Laura Jagles, and Me

 

But I cannot remember enjoying a conference—any conference—any more than I did this one, nor can I remember learning more. “Women’s Ways of Making” began with “writing workshops” in which established scholars met with graduate students or new professors to discuss the making of dissertations and articles and offer advice and counsel. The ninety minutes I spent with a Syracuse grad student LaToya Sawyer were enlightening and inspiring: her project is amazing, and I feel privileged to be along for the ride. This was only one of several sessions devoted to mentoring, a key theme of the conference during which the very first Lisa Ede Mentoring Award went to Cheryl Glenn.

Nov 5 2015 Twenty Years for Feminisms and Rhetorics_Photo 3.JPGWith LaToya Sawyer

From a session focusing on the work of Ann Berthoff and Wendy Bishop to one that featured two talks on feminist methodologies, to panels on reproductive rights, ethics, and feminist design making, this conference carried all of us along in its joyful wake. The opening ceremony’s keynote address by fiber artist Ann Morton held us spellbound, as she recounted her work with “brave knitters” and other women makers who transformed an empty block in Phoenix into a blossoming of blankets for homeless citizens. During lunch, we were invited to browse the “Plenary Making Session,” where artists were weaving, spinning, knitting, making jewelry, and more. And the screening of Cathy Stevulak and Catherine Masud’s documentary “Threads: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman” was packed with conference-goers thrilled to meet “Aunty” Surayia and learn of the transformative effect of her embroidering projects (though we fell silent and stunned when we learned that Surayia’s designs had been appropriated by others and she was denied copyright, showing once again how corporate interests continue to trump indigenous works of art).

 

More engaging and engaged panels, plenary addresses, and mentoring sessions flowed throughout Friday, culminating in a presentation by the renowned Scottsdale Chorus that featured Women’s Ways of Making Music. Not to be missed! And then there were even more panels and events on Saturday, a true feast for everyone there.

 

I know I speak for everyone at this remarkable meeting in extending congratulations and deepest thanks to the Arizona State team (and especially to the indefatigable Maureen and Shirley, who are without a doubt women makers on the move). So check out the links above – and stay tuned for information on the 2017 Conference so you can mark your calendar and plan to attend. 

Gaddam.gifGuest blogger Amanda Gaddam is an adjunct instructor in the First-Year Writing Program and the School for New Learning at DePaul University. She holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Literary Studies and a M.A. in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse with a concentration in Teaching Writing and Language from DePaul, and her research interests include first-year composition, adult and non-traditional students, and writing center pedagogies.

 

In my first-ever, first-year composition class, I posed the question “What blogs do you read?” to my class, which I felt confident would yield numerous responses and a fruitful discussion.  Instead, my question was met with silence and blinking.  It turns out that my students then—and most of my first-year composition students now—did and do read blogs, but they didn’t and don’t know that they’re reading them.  Fashion blogs, health and fitness blogs, music blogs, tech blogs, and even microblogs like Tumblr—all of these make appearances during students’ daily rounds on the internet, but they aren’t necessarily aware of the fascinating and specific rhetorical choices in arrangement and tone, nor can they identify (right away) the particular conventions that govern these texts.  

As Miller and Shepherd note in their 2011 article, “Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog,” blogs make for interesting genre analysis discussions; because they rely so heavily on hypertextual, visual, and audio elements, they also provide for a unique multimodal assignment.  The following project and accompanying activities are designed as a low-stakes way to get students asking the right questions about the material they see everyday and recreating appropriate rhetorical choices in multimodal environments for themselves.  Low-stakes projects are particularly important for multimodal composing because most students, despite the technological proficiency that they might have, tend to be apprehensive about writing in unfamiliar genres and need the safety of a low-pressure composing environment to experiment with non-textual elements like video or audio.

 

 

ASSIGNMENT

 

Step One

I introduce the definition, concept, and purpose of genre analysis in a short lecture.

 

Step Two

Students complete an in-class, small-group genre analysis activity using the complaint letter as an example genre. Students consider four sample complaint letters using questions adapted from Bawarshi and Reiff’s Genre: An Introduction to History, Theory, Research, and Pedagogy (all handouts available here).  As a follow-up discussion, students use what they have learned about the contextual factors and features of the genre to theorize their own approach to writing a complaint letter.

 

Step Three

I divide students into groups of four or five and assign each group a sub-genre of blogs.  Here are some examples of blogs I’ve assigned in the past:

Gaddam_assigned blog sub-genres.jpg

Students then use the questions from the in-class genre analysis activity to research the given example blogs and find one additional blog example from the Internet that fits within their assigned sub-genre.  One of their homework assignments is to bring their notes on these blogs to class in preparation for group work.

 

Step Four

Students share their findings from this inquiry with their group in order to come to a consensus about the common features, content, audiences, and contexts of their assigned sub-genre.  They use this information to plan a concept for a blog of their own.

 

Step Five

In cooperation with their groups, students create their blog and each compose individual blog posts that purposefully incorporate multimedia elements, like images, video, audio, and links to other content.  All rhetorical choices about content, arrangement, and style belong to the students.

 

Because first-year writing students at DePaul use Digication for their final ePortfolios, I require that the groups use Digication for this blog project and that they purposefully incorporate multimedia elements like images, video, audio, and links to other web content.  The opportunity to learn the various features of Digication without fear of compromising their grade and the chance to practice the skills of multimodal composing on this platform make for thoughtful and well integrated multimodal final assignments. However, this project could easily be completed using free platforms such as Wordpress or Wix.

 

Step Six

Students showcase their group blogs and individual blog posts and justify their rhetorical choices to the class in informal presentations.  Neither the blogs nor the presentations are graded at this time; the presentations serve as an opportunity for peer feedback and review before revising the project, and, if they choose, submitting it for a grade in their final ePortfolio.

 

I ask students to write a short analysis reflecting on the rhetorical choices they made for both the blog as a whole and their individual posts, and if they choose to submit the project for a grade, they present these analyses in their final ePortfolio.  I also find that they like to discuss this project in their end-of-term reflection letters, and they note that the collaboration, experimentation, and creativity of the assignment make it their favorite project of the quarter.

 

REFLECTION

Fortunately, I have found that students’ engagement with this assignment does not necessarily correspond to their technological acumen; rather, they use both the low-stakes occasion for experimentation and the collaboration with their peers as opportunities to learn something new about the more technical aspects of multimodal composing.  The fact that this assignment is low-pressure doesn’t mean that they don’t try.  In fact, without the stress of a grade, students are more likely to try new rhetorical strategies—and sometimes fail to use these strategies effectively—but their trials and errors show that they’re genuinely working through the best ways to approximate the genre.

 

STUDENT WORK

Check out some examples of what some of my students have created for their blogs in the past:

 

Gaddam_Blog1.png

The students assigned to tech blogs used the information they collected about the most common features and content to create this title, concept, and header image for their blog.  Their analyses indicate that they put a great deal of thought and conversation into selecting the colors, typeface, and imagery they deemed rhetorically appropriate.

 

Gaddam_Blog2.png.jpg

The students assigned to create a political blog noted that one of the most important features of blogs is the interactivity between readers and bloggers.  They approximated this element in their own blog by providing comments on each other's individual blog posts.

 

 

Gaddam_Blog3.png.jpg

This student recreated a common rhetorical choice in blog arrangement: the use of a lede accompanied by a hyperlink from the blog's homepage, which redirects readers to the full-length blog post.  In his analysis and in the informal presentation, the student and his group theorized that this choice forced readers to click further into the blog, exposing them to more content, and, in the case of for-profit blogs, more advertisements.

 

Click here for more examples, handouts, and descriptions of the assignment and associated activities. 

 

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment or be a guest blogger? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post.