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

By Anne Frances Wysocki; Johndan Johnson-Eilola et al. | Go to book overview

FINALLY…

My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The boxtheorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgam, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal; a medium in which students can both archive their desires as well as publish passionate writing on their social reality vis-à-vis the larger culture: the explorations, reflections, discoveries, and analyses regarding those desires. The result gives them a serviceable non-fiction prose, enchanted somewhat, I hope, with a sense of wonder about the world and an interest in making meaning about it. I don’t want student voices to be changed, re-shaped, or made over; rather I focus on helping students with a better sense of awareness and language, voice and content, and an appreciation of information. Those are all good goals for life as well as good skills to take into another class.

It’s the box-artist’s goal: text rubbing against text, making an arrangement of materials to see what could be done with them. The open-ended forms and available materials permit an intimacy and intensity that more mediated genres make difficult; students see writing elementally, as a material encounter rather than commodified production.

And when provided with a rich range of materials, the result can be what Cornell strived to construct: a vehicle of reverie, an object that would enrich the imagination of the viewer. The model for college writing, then, becomes the contemporary DVD—a compendium of “finished” text, commentary, selected features, interviews, alternative versions, sections initially deleted (but now appended) from the main text, amusing bits, and other assorted items of interest, clickable as desired, rather than the traditional scholarly essay. Some of the most important rhetorical strategies are practiced, such as searching, selection, juxtaposition, and arrangement/layout, as well as the always-important ability to phrase important personal insights in as clear and memorable a way possible (what I call the heartfelt pensée).

The definitively unfinished nature (made more so if readers are urged to continue the work) captures the flux of contemporaneity, that direct experience of life, allowing us to participate in its unfolding. With the essay displaced, our new classroom genre might best be called a diary journal repository laboratory, picture gallery, museum, sanctuary, observatory, key… inviting us to see things in a light in which we do not know them, but which turns out to be almost that one in which we have always hoped one day to see them bathed.

-146-

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