“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.

 

A big part of what Bump is doing in these opening chapters is the same mission/thing that Williamson and Lanham were trying to do, to lay the reasoning as to why “English” folks and “writing” folks (teachers and practitioners) ought to be talking about images, audio, video, and other “non-words-in-a-row” things in the first place. Interestingly, he once again draws a lot of connections to Kenneth Burke.

Bump’s writing is pretty straight-forward, so I’ll let you all jump in and simply note the way that he too is tracing a “history” of an awareness of multimedia/new media/multimodality/digital media in writing studies. The Yancey speech and then essay “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” was especially influential. Also note that this terminology is disputed and slippery; we’ll read about that starting on Wednesday.

19 thoughts on ““Modern History:” Getting started with Halbritter

  1. Molly McCord

    When Halbritter discusses Yancey’s emphasis on “the uncommon perceptions of the nature of the products of writing” (19), I am reminded of the difficulties involved with defining what “good writing” looks like. Yancey mentions standardized tests like the ACT and SAT and the value they place on words on paper. At my college, traditional essay writing is included on all course masters (common course requirements) for our main composition courses. While I have many tech-savvy colleagues who incorporate the use of multimedia (or multimodal?) tools into their day-to-day coursework, in the end the emphasis is still on words on a page. I require my students to write essays just like everyone else. The curriculum calls for it. I still see the value in writing words-in-a-row, especially for my ESL students, but Yancey’s “call to action,” (that Halbritter mentions on p. 19) with its focus on developing new models of writing and designing curriculum to support these new models, seems like a necessary step toward a renewed conversation about the process and product of composition.

    Reply
    1. Adam Czarnecki

      Hey Molly. Since you have students of your own, you’re in a position that I’m not, and so I was hoping you might expand a little on something you said. You said that the curriculum calls for you to require written essays from your students, and I wonder if you say that more in a “my hands are tied” kind of way or a “it’s the right thing to do” kind of way. I have a feeling you’re probably somewhere in between, as I think I would be in your position. But if you could approach and design your class in whatever way you could, without any restraints, how would you handle a student who says “look, I’d much rather respond to this ‘prompt’ by way of a short video, is that okay?”

      Reply
      1. Molly McCord

        That’s a great question, Adam. I sometimes really question whether or not I’m just “taking the easy way out” by leaning on the course master requirements to determine the nature of my writing assignments. Sometimes the status quo simply seems less daunting and time-consuming than creating an innovative assignment that allows for less traditional composition techniques (like the short video idea). That being said, I do also feel obligated to teach my students basic pen-on-paper writing, especially when it comes to my ESL students who need LOTS of practice with the English language. However, in more advanced courses, like freshman comp, I think I would be more apt to experiment with alternative composing practices–that is, if the course requirements are flexible enough. So yes, I think you’re right when you say I’m “somewhere in between.” :)

        Reply
    2. Danielle

      This is an interesting point that you bring up, Molly. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my 10th grade English teacher, who I ran into the other day. I asked her how things were going at my old high school, and she mentioned that everybody was really excited because school-wide averages for the writing portion of the ACT had risen by 8% or something. I told her that was great, but she just shook her head and then went on a tirade about how pointless and boring the writing section of the ACT is, and how she hated how much time she had to spend on teaching her students how to write for that test. She explained how the type of writing required on the ACT is not a good reflection of what is expected in the real world.

      I guess this goes back to Halbritter’s notion that “definitions for what writing is are in rapid flux” (7). As others have brought up, it can be complicated. I believe that there is a certain standard of “words on the page” writing that all students should be able to achieve, but at the same time, it seems like there is too much of an emphasis on “words on the page” writing.

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Furlette

        I agree that there is too much emphasis on “words on the page” writing, and that the writing section of say an ACT or SAT is not tailored to require what will be expected of students in the real world. If the test scores are not a direct reflection of the ability of a student to articulate thought, form an opinion, construct an argument etc. you would hope that an alternative option would be offered to reflect those skills in a student elsewhere. The truth is that reading and writing do not account for enough of what will be expected of students in the real world. I am a writer, and I honestly spend more of my day working with technology to present information in various mediums than I do keystroking my thoughts out line for line. There are so many methods to present information digitally that it doesn’t make much sense to me why the curriculum of the public school system is not shifting this way. In my experience there has been a great deal of resistance from students for reading packets, worksheets, and lecturing; especially when the tools for interactive learning are available (many times right in front of them!) and underutilized, or simply neglected all together. It is the responsibility of educators and administrators to raise an environment where students can safely explore.
        It is interesting for me, also, to think that definitions for what writing “is” are constantly influx, yet the testing to figure out what a student knows about “writing” remain stagnant. It is unfair to teachers that there is all of this political red tape and evaluation of performance based solely on a student’s ability to perform well on a standardized test, the greater issue at hand seems to be ignored and that is to shift our public education to meet the demands of the changing workforce. The public education system will have to change from the top down i.e. governmental, state, and administrative levels for progress to me made.

        Reply
        1. Danielle

          You bring up an interesting point about how definitions of writing are constantly in flux but the way writing is assessed in standardized testing remains the same. This seems like it’d be a great frustration to teachers, especially those teaching K-12 who have to stick to a very strict curriculum. I wonder why these tests do such a poor job at testing students’ true abilities. Is the bureaucracy behind the creation of these tests that oblivious? Or does it just take a lot of time for things to change? I know it wasn’t until relatively recently that the ACT even tested writing. I think my high school class was among the first to take the ACT with the writing portion.

          Reply
  2. Seth

    Halbritter makes a good argument for the definitional expansion and rethinking of writing. I found the discussion of Lessig’s “elite vs democratic” theory especially interesting. It seems to hint at a broader cultural or socio-linguistic approach. And, the “Text is today’s Latin” idea seems very relevant, especially with the younger members of the ‘gen Y.’

    While it would certainly seem that the normative view and/or pedagogy of writing needs a ‘new media’ update, I’m not sure I understand the necessity for a ‘grand unified’ definition of writing. Is there a reason why textual writing shouldn’t have a definition that is somewhat or altogether different from multi-media writing? It doesn’t seem that the separation of the two would put them at odds with each other, nor am I sure that Halbritter is suggesting that it would.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Pignotti

      Even beyond rethinking writing, I think Halbritter is asking us to rethink what is literacy. Is being literate in reading/writing enough to participate fully in society? We obviously value reading/writing, but other forms of literacy are necessary to think critically and ask questions about the image/media-saturated society we live in.

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Furlette

        This is a good point Lisa! I especially like how you say “forms of literacy,” and I do agree that literacy does take on different forms. Maybe the defintion of “literacy” needs to be changed in order to make progress in the public education system. It is interesting that many students I have worked with in the not so distant past have stuggled to pass an exam that is supposed to prove they are “book literate,” yet if you put a computer in front of them they are able to excel in ways that you may have never thought possible, and in their own way actually prove their “literacy”. There is a sort of palpable friction that exists between educators who are “book literate” but not exactly “computer litrate” and students who are “computer literate” but not exactly “book literate”. Giving students new options to present findings/information is critical, and may help effectively bridge the gap between the old style of teaching/learning and the “new one”.

        Reply
    2. skrause Post author

      I think a lot of what Bump is doing here speaks to the larger conversation about “why should anyone be teaching video/audio production in a writing class in the first place?” So I’m not sure that it’s so much a grand and unifying definition so much as a definition (and a defensive one, for good reasons) of writing that includes the work he’s talking about. Does that make sense? You’ve got to remember that Bump is writing these first couple of chapters in part to persuade writing teachers who are “on the fence” about this stuff.

      Reply
      1. Adam Czarnecki

        I agree, Seth. I mistakenly made a comment on the other post asking if “composition” and “writing” are interchangeable terms, but I meant to post it here. Halbritter devotes a section to this question (17), wherein he essentially says he’s more comfortable with the term composition when it comes to multimedia.

        I wonder if, rather than the evolution of a term (writing), we’re seeing the divergence of a curriculum? In other words, could composition be branching off into something else entirely?

        Reply
  3. Adam Czarnecki

    This is the first time I’ve seen use of an emoticon in published form (page 9). Has anyone else encountered this before? I don’t object to it (in fact I like it), and I use it myself quite frequently when I need to be sure what I’m writing isn’t coming across as harsh, antagonistic or uncaring… but most of that correspondence happens electronically and very quickly, where the emoticon is used as a kind of shorthand for “I’m being lighthearted and jovial here.” In a long-form published work like this, I wonder about it’s purpose. Is it a substitute for a better composed paragraph that conveys it’s tongue-in-cheekiness with more exposition, or am I spending too much time wondering about nothing?

    To cite it properly: ” :-) ” (Halbritter 9).
    … 😉

    Reply
    1. Danielle

      I noticed it too! It made me smile. It was certainly out of its normal context (a text message, e-mail, Facebook message, etc), but I liked it.

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    2. Jennifer B.

      This is pinging for me with the “text is today’s Latin” comment. I personally do not think the emoticon is ok. Could emoticons be classified as a “form of literacy?” They ARE a means of communicating a message, but I just can’t get on board with any and everything being ok. How far is it wise to stretch the definition? I am perplexed by the emoticon’s placement in this text. If Bump does visit us this term, I think that should be on the list of questions we ask him – why is it there?

      Reply
  4. Jonathan Furlette

    I also noticed the emoji! So strange to see one in a published work like this. It will be interesting to see, as the definition for what writing “is” constanly changes and evolves, if emojis, emoticons, and other adaptations of presentations of thought and language are adopted into more published materials.

    Reply
  5. Danielle

    Can someone clue me in on the difference between an emoticon and an emjoi? I’ve seen them both used seemingly interchangeably but I don’t know if there’s a difference or not.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer B.

      I’ve never seen the “emjoi” before, can somebody fill me in on the meaning? Is it different in some way from an emoticon?

      Reply
    2. Adam Czarnecki

      I think emoji is the Japanese word for them. I’m not sure how it caught on here. I’ve always called them emoticons, myself.

      Reply

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