Category Archives: Reading Discussions

Wrapping up Halbritter

Ugh, this is a tough week for to me to keep up with for some reason! Belatedly, this is where we’ll talk about the last chapter in Bump Halbritter’s Mics, Cameras, Symbolic Action. This is a chapter that is perhaps a little less applicable than ideal to our goals– once again, another reading really about teaching and not about what it means for “professional writers” to make multimedia!”

When Halbritter says on page 200 (and really, throughout the chapter) “As long as our learning goals are met, our assignments are working. Consequently, the products of our students’ efforts do not need to be scrutinized under the rubric of audience expectations for professional or publishable moviemaking,” I think he’s putting his finger on the difference for me between this class as a “learning experience” versus one that is “professionalizing.” It’s never one or the other, of course, especially at the advanced level: that is, while we’re trying to make projects that are as “real” and as actually useful as possible, our main goal is to learn and practice the process of making these videos. Still, it seems to me that there is some issue of “product” here too. In a more advanced class (though maybe this is true in less advanced classes as well), our “learning goals” aren’t met if we don’t make “decent” products.

Anyway, I appreciate and understand the goal of a chapter like this since we’re not really Halbritter’s ideal audience of folks looking at multimedia/new media from the point of view of teaching it. And what he’s saying here makes sense. I guess that’s been the case overall with Halbritter’s book: it doesn’t exactly fit our purposes and (for me at least) it doesn’t always “work” for a class for students focused not on teaching but on the professional practice of writing, but it’s as close of a book out there as far as I know. Personally, I’ve learned a lot about the “production issues” from what he’s discussing here, so that has definitely been a plus for me.

Any other last and overall thoughts?

Discussing DeVoss, Cushman, and Grabill, “Infrastructure and Composing”

Here’s where we’ll talk about DeVoss, Cushman, Grabill “Infrastructure and Composing: The When of New-Media Writing.”  Like the Hull and Nelson, this is one of those pieces I decided to put at the end of the class but it might have worked at the beginning as well. And also like Hull and Nelson, this is more about teaching of writing that the practice of professional writing, but I think the overlap is there.

In the nutshell, what DeVoss and Cushman and Grabill are talking about here is the story of folks in English departments working with technology, and from my own experiences, I’d describe it as a “sliding scale” based on whatever the “next” technology is. When I started teaching writing way WAY back when, in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I used to require students to use some kind of word processing software for at least one of their essays. This freaked people out. When I first had students doing web pages in the mid 1990s, getting server space to host those projects on the web was not all that easy to do. And here we are now with audio/video projects.  Who knows what will come next.

I think the description of “infrastructure” on page 20 and 21 is particularly useful– it might be useful to take this into the professional writing space to explain to employers and would-be clients what’s really involved in “throwing together a help video” or some such thing– and I also think the discussion on the bottom of page 22 about “when” something is a tool makes a lot of sense. After all, most of us are using our phones as the camera and microphone for our recordings, and that seems to shift the definition of infrastructure.

Discussing Hull and Nelson, “Locating the Semiotic Power of Multimodality.”

Here’s where we’ll talk about Hull and Nelson, “Locating the Semiotic Power of Multimodality.” Sorry I’m a little late in getting the talking going here– I’m just behind on stuff, which is pretty typical for me for this time of the year/semester. Three thoughts to get the discussion going:

  • This is another example of how it is hard to find readings appropriate for this course that don’t cross that line into pedagogy, though the basic points of how multimodality works to make meaning differently is of course relevant.
  • I think Hull and Nelson kind of “tie themselves in knots” in the middle part with their theorizing, frankly. I mean the section that begins on the bottom of page 234 and goes until the top of 238. I’ll have to reread that.
  • Speaking of rereading: you might have tried to follow the link they provide to the Oakland D.U.S.T.Y. project only to discover nothing there– or a work in progress at least. But happily through the web archive (aka “the wayback machine”), I was able to find a link to the original site here, and from there, I found the video they’re analyzing, “Life-N-Rhyme:”

I’d strongly recommend watching the video first and then finishing the conclusion of the article– it’ll probably help it make a little more sense.

Discussing KDMC’s “Multimedia Storytelling” tutorial (and NOT Ridley Scott)

First what we’re not talking about: as a few (three?) of you noted in email messages to me, the video for  “Ridley Scott Demystifies the Art of Storyboarding” doesn’t work anymore– ironically enough, some kind of copyright violation. That’s okay; it’s not like Scott had anything too profound to say about the whole process of storyboarding; it was just kinda cool.

What is a little more worth reviewing/discussing is the KDMC tutorial on “Multimedia Storytelling,” particularly the section specifically on storyboarding (though I think the connections between what this is about and the work you need to be doing on your PSAs are pretty obvious). As has been the case before, these tutorials are both great and quite straight-forward, so I’ll just leave it at that for now to get the conversation kicked off here. What did you all think?

About the KDMC advice on “standups and voice-overs”

There’s not a whole lot to really discuss with the KDMC tutorial “Standups and Voice-Overs.” But I’ll kick it off by suggesting two things:

  • “Common sense” is rarely either, and while a lot of this might just seem obvious (especially to those of you with some kind of performing experience), I think there’s some good bits of wisdom here, especially for those of us who don’t have this kind of performance experience.
  • What sorts of other advice/tips to people who have more experience with these things beyond what we’ve already read with Halbritter and here?

The second part of Halbritter

Sorry again for the late start on this– funny how deadlines on various things all seem to creep up at the same time! Anyway, a few thoughts to get you going here:

  • For our purposes, chapter 2 is pretty “skimmable” because it is primarily his argument as to why teaching audio and video in composition and rhetoric classes is a “writerly” activity. Keep in mind that one of the main audiences that Halbritter has in mind are folks who are skeptical of all this media in a writing class. I think he makes some good points here, but we’re not skeptical– or at least I’m not.  Anyway, read it/skim it, but since our focus here isn’t on pedagogy, I’ll not say too much more.
  • I think the “dimensional” aspect of rhetoric and the discussion of Burke’s notion of “entitling” is interesting, though I’m not sure I get how this is connected to writing with audio and video really. I do see the point of the multi-track video/audio though, and there is a “dimensionality” to sound/video that is not literally present in words-in-a-row writing. And I think his example about Moore’s use of sound effects in Fahrenheit 911 is pretty effective, too.
  • I like the connection to Robin Williams’ “C.R.A.P.” for visual layout, something that is so simple and so useful in thinking about good visuals and much more. By the way, I think this is the video that Halbritter is writing about, the campaign movie “American Stories, American Solutions.” That said, I am not sure if Halbritter is doing more here than a good “critical reading” of these videos.

Discussing Lauer’s “Contending with Terms”

Here’s where we’ll discuss Claire Lauer’s “Contending with Terms: ‘Multimodal’ and ‘Multimedia’ in Academic and Public Spheres.” I think it’s pretty straight-forward, but a couple of thoughts for now:

  • “Multimodal” is definitely a term that has caught on in the realm of pedagogy of the field as of late– at least that’s what it looks like to me with some of the titles of articles I’ve seen in the last couple of years. In any event, one of the key differences I think is it would appear to me that “multimodal” would include writing done not necessarily with computers (for example, collages and the like), while multimedia seems to imply digital technology much in the way described by Manovich.
  • I like the distinction Lauer makes between “mulitmodal design, multimedia production” in the sense that it aligns with the pedagogical sensibility of the field (“writing is a process”) and the realities of products in the marketplace. It’s also useful in thinking about the rhetorical importance of “design” preceding and being simultaneous with production.
  • This terminology– especially the slippery word “media”– actually has a lot more implications than you might think at first blush. The writing faculty are proposing a permanent version of this class which we’re going to call “Writing Digital Media.”  We talked about that title a long time.  “Multimodal” is a good term, but like Lauer suggests, it has the connotations of pedagogy and we were concerned that employers looking at student transcripts might not get that. There was some resistance to the word “multimedia” because we were worried that it was kind of dated in an odd way, sort of the way that a courses like “Writing for the World Wide Web” or “Computers and Writing” sound a little dated.  We definitely wanted “Writing” in there because it is a writing course, albeit one that potentially broadens the definition of writing. “Media” is an especially slippery term because there are whole departments that kind of feel like it’s theirs (We have the Department of Communication Media and Theater Arts) and there are other courses that use the term too– social media, Creative Writing is going to have a course called “New Media,” etc. Perhaps more than you wanted to know, but all I’m getting at is there really is a lot in a name in all kinds of surprising ways.

Discussing Lev Manovich’s “What Is New Media?”

I’m a little behind this week– I don’t know, maybe the Monday holiday has thrown me off, maybe the cold has slowed me down– so I’ll start the discussion threads for the other readings a little later today. Usually, I won’t, but like I said, a little behind….

Anyway, Manovich: Lev Manovich is kind of a big deal in the world of “new media” studies in large part as a result of his book The Language of New Media.  He’s both a computer science and a “creative media” kind of academic, too. I mention this for two reasons. First, he is not coming at this from the same disciplinary perspective of the other things we’re reading around definitions this week– that is, he’s not a composition and rhetoric or “English” department kind of person at all.  Keep that in mind as we keep up with Halbritter and move on to the essay from Lauer. Second, what we’re reading is kind of short version of his definition of “new media.”

I like the overall categories:  that is, new media has “numerical representation” (in the form of computer programs, etc.); it has “modularity” (this is something Halbritter talks about in chapter 2 of his book, btw); it has an element of “automation” to it; it has “variability” in that it is not forever fixed (like print, for example); and “transcoding,” which is to say that new media has a “logic” and perhaps even “appeal” to computers. All of these observations are obviously debatable but quite interesting.

“Modern History:” Getting started with Halbritter

This is where we’ll talk about the preface and and opening chapter of Bump Halbritter’s Mics, Cameras, Symbolic Action. I’ll say two things at the outset here: first, I know Bump and it’s entirely possible that he’ll be “stopping by” the site/these conversations as the semester goes along. We’ll see. Second, while this book too is more focused on the “teaching” side of things rather than the “professional” writing side of things, I think you’ll see the applicability to what we’re doing here. This is especially true later in the book when Bump gets into the nitty-gritty of working with the equipment, etc.

Continue reading

“Ancient History:” discussing Williamson and Lanham

Here’s where we’ll kick off our readings for our first online portion of the term, the essay “The Case for Filmmaking as English Composition” by Richard Williamson from way back in 1971 and the comparatively modern (but still “ancient” relative to the other things we’re reading and doing this term) essay by Richard Lanham first published in the early 1990s, “Digital Rhetoric and Digital Arts.”  These are both available via eReserves.

I have a tendency to say too much to start these discussions, so I’m going to try to work on that a bit this term and not be quite as chatty.  But a couple of thoughts to at least prime the pump after the break:

Continue reading