Academic journal article College English

Consumption, Production, and Rhetorical Knowledge in Visual and Multimodal Textbooks

Academic journal article College English

Consumption, Production, and Rhetorical Knowledge in Visual and Multimodal Textbooks

Article excerpt

Multimodal assignments have, in many ways, become staples in writing I ^ I classrooms. Whether students are analyzing rhetorical tropes in popular advertisements, posting to a shared course blog, designing a group presentation, or remixing an argument previously made in print, multimodal elements often appear as requirements-not only innovative possibilities-for student work. In tandem with this instructional trend, scholarship about visual and multimodal composition abounds. In some respects, we might describe this fascination with all things multimodal as a multimodal turn. As with any ideological turn, composition studies' multimodal turn functions more as a series of interlocking parts, and it is constructed and promoted by means of a number of complex systems. New digital presses, publications dedicated to the intersection of technology and writing, emerging specializations in digital and new media studies, disciplinary attention to digital literacies and teaching with technology- for example the recently updated WPA Outcomes Statement-and increased demand for multimodal textbooks and instructional resources might all be seen as interlocking parts in a complex multimodal turn. Such a series of complex, interlocking systems poses an exciting challenge for composition instructors as they seek to bring their teaching practices in line with this new multimodal turn and to teach in ways that are theoretically grounded and rhetorically rich. New instructors, or instructors who are new to multimodal composing, might find this challenge to be especially daunting as they seek to simultaneously encounter multimodality in theories or scholarship and to integrate multimodal composi tion into their instructional practices. As a writing instructor myself, I turned to textbooks in search of best practices for integrating multimodal assignments into my own writing courses. In those textbooks, I encountered a variety of multimodal assignments, many of which emphasized the intersections between visual and textual elements.

Keeping in mind this positioning of visual rhetoric within a broader landscape of multimodal composition, I have conducted analyses of four rhetoric and composition textbooks-categorizing and quantifying these textbooks' assignment prompts. These textbooks serve as a case study to examine the progression of composition's discussion about multimodality over a period of about the last ten years. By focusing on mainstream textbooks' attention to multimodality, my analyses offer a snapshot of the multimodal turn in composition studies. These analyses were conducted in order to address research questions grounded in my own experiences teaching visual and multimodal composition, as well as institutional trends in our field toward the perils and promise ofvisual and multimodal pedagogies. Textbooks capture various common strategies of instruction; in doing so, they serve as one codified way to measure potential trends in classroom instruction. My analyses also address broader concerns about the ways in which textbooks structure classroom instruction and position teachers and students in particular ways. With this focus on textbooks, I ask: To what extent and in what ways do visual rhetoric and composition textbooks integrate the kinds of visual elements, modes, or artifacts that researchers have advocated for in scholarship? To what extent and in what ways do visual rhetoric and composition textbooks encourage both consumption and production of particular kinds of artifacts- visual, textual, and multimodal? In order to address these research questions, I analyze textbooks as important landmarks or benchmarks in the trajectory of multimodality in composition instruction.

The findings of my taxonomy confirm long-standing claims that instruction in composition has tended to privilege the production of text and the consumption of visual and multimodal artifacts. In this way, my findings demonstrate a disparity between theories and practices associated with multimodal composing, especially at the juncture in composition's relationship with multimodality that these textbooks capture. …

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