Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition

Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition

Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition

Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition


As new media mature, the changes they bring to writing in college are many and suggest implications not only for the tools of writing, but also for the contexts, personae, and conventions of writing. An especially visible change has been the increase of visual elements-from typographic flexibility to the easy use and manipulation of color and images. Another would be in the scenes of writing-web sites, presentation "slides," email, online conferencing and coursework, even help files, all reflect non-traditional venues that new media have brought to writing. By one logic, we must reconsider traditional views even of what counts as writing; a database, for example, could be a new form of written work.

The authors of Writing New Media bring these ideas and the changes they imply for writing instruction to the audience of rhetoric/composition scholars. Their aim is to expand the college writing teacher's understanding of new media and to help teachers prepare students to write effectively with new media beyond the classroom. Each chapter in the volume includes a lengthy discussion of rhetorical and technological background, and then follows with classroom-tested assignments from the authors' own teaching.


Anne Frances Wysocki

Do you miss that thick richly-printed rug that (apparently) used to be under your feet, the one into which (for at least several of the past centuries, as various theorists describe it) you could lose yourself in contemplation of its well-ordered and contained patterns? It’s the rug that was pulled out from under you (and from under all the rest of us who teach writing in one form or another) within the last 15-20 years, predicted and described and shaped in words like those in the following quotation, from Jay Bolter some ten years ago now, from the introduction to the first edition of Writing Space, where Bolter claimed that “the printed book”

seems destined to move to the margin of our literate culture. The issue is not
whether print technology will completely disappear; books may long continue to
be printed for certain kinds of texts and for luxury consumption. But the idea and
the ideal of the book will change: print will no longer define the organization and
presentation of knowledge, as it has for the past five centuries. This shift from
print to the computer does not mean the end of literacy. What will be lost is not
literacy itself, but the literacy of print, for electronic technology offers us a new
kind of book and new ways to read and write. (2)

Or, much more recently, here is Gunther Kress, writing in the preface to his book Literacy in the New Media Age, claiming that we are at a

moment in the long history of writing when four momentous changes are taking
place simultaneously: social, economic, communicational, and technological
change. The combined effects of these are so profound that it is justifiable to speak
of a revolution in the landscape of communication. […] Social changes are
unmasking the structures and frames which had given a relative stability to forms
of writing over the last two hundred years or so. Economic changes are altering
the uses and purposes of the technology of writing. Communicational change is
altering the relations of the means by which we represent our meanings, bringing
image into the center of communication more insistently than it has been for sev
eral hundred years, and thereby challenging the dominance of writing. Lastly,
technological change is altering the role and significance of the major media of
dissemination. (9)

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