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.

22 thoughts on “The second part of Halbritter

  1. Adam Czarnecki

    Although we skimmed it, I did find the “grammar” section in Chapter 2 useful (60-61). Clip fragments, volume errors, run-on clips, evidentiary editing, and punctuation all gave names to things I’ve noticed, worked with, and critiqued before but have never really been able to articulate well other than saying things like “this looks clunky” or “this is too choppy.” So framing these common video characteristics as “twenty first century writing grammar” was effective, for me, in thinking about ways in which I can better explain this to people. Going back to something else he talked about earlier in the chapter–metaphors–illustrated why I think these new terms work so well. I also liked how this led into the C.R.A.P. principles displayed in chapter 3, which he says that we may recognize as grammatical principles. I’m already thinking about how I can incorporate these things into my work. (In my job, I’m often helping BBA and MBA students do video work who haven’t used video editing tools before.)

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    1. Jonathan Furlette

      I also found the grammar section in chapter 2 to be particularly helpful, especially in defining a common language that we can revise multimedia projects with. It is interesting to witness/experience the evolution of writing, and see things that were not previously defined as “writing” to be included within the spectrum. To this point, the terms that I have used to critique writing are synonymous with audio/video editing, and I have used them interchangeably. As you mention above, it is helpful to have terms that more accurately define/encompass multimedia creations. I have started thinking of how these terms apply to my own work. Reading this section has helped me to improve upon on-going projects by giving me a set of terms to define some of the errors/mistakes that I was unable to articulate before. It has also made me a better critic/editor of audio and film.

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      1. skrause Post author

        The other thing that I think is nice about this is to think about how this grammar is a bit of a two-way street: that is, while there are obvious technical and delivery differences between writing that appears “words in a row” formats and “writing” that appears in multimedia formats, the rhetorical choices are quite similar. Which is again one of the reasons why we’re talking about this stuff in a writing class like this!

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    2. Jonathan Furlette

      I also found the grammar section in chapter 2 to be particularly helpful, especially in defining a common language that we can revise multimedia projects with. It is interesting to witness/experience the evolution of writing, and see things that were not previously defined as “writing” to be included within the spectrum. To this point, the terms that I have used to critique writing are synonymous with audio/video editing, and I have used them interchangeably. As you mention above, it is helpful to have terms that more accurately define/encompass multimedia creations. I have started thinking of how these terms apply to my own work. Reading this section has helped me to improve upon on-going projects by giving me a set of terms to define some of the errors/mistakes that I was unable to articulate before. It has also made me a better critic/editor of audio and film.

      Reply
    3. Jennifer B.

      The grammar section and the C.R.A.P. principles both are great sections.

      I have almost no background with audio/video so any terminology that can help me to understand simple principles is a welcome addition. I had an experience with punctuation a few weeks ago with an animated .gif created by a contractor we use. It was moving very unevenly between frames. And while it sufficed to tell her “it’s moving unevenly between frames,” it’s helpful for me to know there are actually TERMS for this. It also makes me wonder why she as the professional contractor didn’t seem to be aware of this principle or the problem.

      One of the challenges of working with other non writing professionals is to explain and gain validity for design feedback when the person you are working with is the owner of the piece at hand – people are sensitive over their creations. I have found myself struggling to find a simple way to put this into terms that transfer easily and don’t appear condescending. The C.R.A.P. acronym can be very useful here. In the .gif I mentioned above, my boss wanted to make ALL of the text the same red that is used in our corporate logo. I was outvoted when I said this was an issue (the resulting ad was a LOT of red and ended up looking very drab, oddly and our logo got lost in the ad). Now I might be able to say, “Hey, this violates principle x and y and this is how – let’s try this instead.” Shared, mutually understood language, I think, takes some of the potential discomfort out of critique and edit.

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      1. Danielle

        I know other people have already commented on the usefulness of chapter 2, but I also found this section to be helpful. Like Jennifer, this stuff is all new to me and so I didn’t know any of the terminology before coming into this class (I imagine there’s still a lot I don’t know). But being able to apply some terms that I am already familiar with (punctuation, for example) to another form of writing is helpful. It’s also interesting to see the overlap between some of these terms in “traditional” forms of writing.

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  2. Lisa Pignotti

    His discussion of the opening scene in Pulp Fiction was really interesting. I had to look it up on youtube to hear the transition he was talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKGnUd6D6Pg. I remembered the opening song, but I did not recall the transition to Jungle Boogie. This was interesting because it highlighted the rhetorical influence a director can have on scene by simply choosing the appropriate “non-diegetic sounds” to correspond with the moment. By doing this he/she can trigger a certain response from the audience.

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    1. Tracey Sonntag

      Hey Lisa! I had to pull out the DVD and watch Pulp Fiction again, this time paying attention to the aural and visual cues. Who owns whom? What role is Vincent in at this moment in the film? It’s such a powerful movie even without all of these extra layers, and isn’t that a great term: layers?

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        1. Jennifer B.

          Layers IS a great term. I agree with Lisa, it makes me think of composing in other mediums -Photoshop and Illustrator are coming to mind. I wonder to what extent different types of layers can have impact with the audience, for example, color vs. audio in an advertisement and does that hinge on which of their senses the recipient is most tuned to. This could lead to some interesting experiments…

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    2. Seth

      Lisa, I also like considering the director’s rhetorical influence on the scene through song selection. It’s hard to imagine what replacing those two opening songs would do to the voice of the film. But I especially liked how Halbritter pointed out how Jungle Boogie shifts from being the director’s choice of music to being the characters’ choice of music, and how that major shift is done essentially through some simple audio editing.

      By the way, here’s some fourth dimension for you all- It’s been TWENTY years since I sneaked into the movie theater to watch Pulp Fiction. I think there were still ashtrays on the seats back then.

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      1. skrause Post author

        I remember seeing Pulp Fiction in the theater while I was in my PhD program and me and all of my fellow students were blown away by it. Thanks for making me feel old, Seth. 😉

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        1. Jennifer B.

          Am I the ONLY person who has never seen Pulp Fiction? (and I’m not really sure I want to?). :(

          I did see Silence of the Lambs 4 times in the theater in Mt. Pleasant before it left town when I was an undergrad…

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    3. Jonathan Furlette

      I also like the section about the opening of Pulp Fiction, which is one of my favorite movies, so I knew exactly what he was talking about right away. In film/video there is such a complex array of diverse media that are all working together to create a unique experience for the viewer. The audio in film plays such a major role in our overall experience of a film; this section made me think of some other memorable (and unmemorable) movies that have a great combination of working media that all dance harmoniously together. The audio undoubtedly intensifies our experience, and if done successfully, drives home the emotion that the director is trying to portray from scene to scene. These non-diegetic sounds are a good tool to experiment in attempts to have a greater impact/evoke a better understanding from the audience.

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  3. Tracey Sonntag

    Is writing “all there at once” or is it sequential? Because our brain processes if not single words, then at least chunks of words, that’s a point for writing being defined. However, the sentence has already been established and the reader can’t change it part way through (unless it’s editable) — point, entitled. On the other hand, the reader can perhaps infer meaning that is personal to him- or herself; another point for defined. And can’t we do the same thing with art?

    I understand Halbritter eventually allows that writing is both, as did Burke, but I really enjoyed my own little internal argument on this point. :)

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    1. skrause Post author

      I think this is one of the interesting differences between words on the page and something in a multimedia format like audio, images, video, etc. It seems to me that in a very literal sense, words in a row are inherently sequential– we read English left to right, top to bottom, other languages in other directions, but you don’t take in sentences like the one you’re reading right now simultaneously. We certainly don’t “read” multimedia the same way in that when we’re doing some thing like reading/watching a movie, we take in all the elements of that media at the same time. Though when I think about it for a second, what Bump is suggesting is isolating particular elements of the “multiple tracks” kind of is a way of breaking up that pattern.

      However, the “all at once” characteristics of text have been talked about and theorized for a long time. People like Gertrude Stein and our friend Kenneth Burke wrote things in the “cubist” tradition of being able to take in images “all at once” and as objects in and of themselves. And a lot of poststructualist/deconstructive theories of language are predicated on a sense of writing and language not being necessarily sequential.

      So it’s not a bad argument to have with yourself… 😉

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  4. Molly McCord

    The thing I dread the most in my job is grading my students’ writing. I am constantly reevaluating my grading rationale, creating new rubrics, trying to balance encouragement and honesty in my assessment of ESL student writing…I ask myself how I’m supposed to grade a “finished” product when I share Donald Murray’s process-oriented approach to teaching writing. At the beginning of Chapter 2, when Halbritter talks about the writer and says that “meeting, exceeding, challenging, or shattering their expectations may have consequences that far outstrip breaking a rule; it may break something far more important: their trust–their support–their acceptance” (24), I was again struck by the burden of assigning a “grade” to a piece of writing, something that is never truly finished, always a work in progress. I almost have to remove myself from my physical body when I assign an “unsatisfactory” percentage to a student’s essay, perhaps for underdevelopment, linguistic deficiencies, or some other reason that is so difficult to articulate to the student. I fear negatively impacting their self-confidence (and indeed, their trust in me as their teacher) as growing writers. I wonder if Halbritter discusses how to evaluate/assign grades to the audio-visual kind of writing he espouses?

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    1. Tracey Sonntag

      That’s a really interesting point, Molly, and I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Putting in the effort can take an underperforming student quite a ways–but it’s still only just so far. As some point, the tarnished “you tried!” star just doesn’t cut it anymore. And it’s not like you’re grading the student’s ability to regurgitate facts; “did you effectively communicate your point?” is such a subjective question. Sigh.

      I’m really interested in this topic, and I’d love to pick your brain about it some time, yeah?

      Some raw language, forewarned and all that…
      http://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/meme-round-up-issue-no-59-gold-star-4-u.htm

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      1. Molly McCord

        Tracey, those gold stars on that site are priceless! I think there is one for every single student I’ve had in the past five years:) You said it exactly right when you noted the subjectivity involved in grading writing. It’s because of this that I sometimes wish I taught math or science…it’s so black and white! Of course, I was always more interested in language than those other subjects, so here I am. And it is exciting when a student really makes progress and becomes a more confident writer throughout the semester. It’s just a shame that the pesky matter of grading can sometimes overshadow the breakthrough moments.

        Yes, let’s definitely continue this conversation!

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  5. Molly McCord

    On a different note, after reading Halbritter’s discussion of C.R.A.P. in Chapter 3, I’ve really started paying attention to the music in different shows on TV (well, one in particular). Last weekend I was watching American Horror Story (the “asylum” season, if anyone has seen it–now I’m probably divulging too much information!) and I just really noticed the music that is attached to certain characters. The woman who plays the angel of death has this kind of haunting (quite appropriate I suppose) music accompanying her appearance; it truly hits a nerve when I hear it. This is just one example, but I don’t think I really consciously noticed the link between a particular piece of music and the appearance of different characters before reading this chapter. I’ve begun to see, as Halbritter says, how composers can “exploit the many attributive properties of music…to provide vehicles for focusing the metaphorical meanings of their topics” (116).

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    1. Adam Czarnecki

      I love stuff like this… in really good productions each character tends to have an accompanying musical “theme.” American Horror Story does this well. In fact, I think the difference between a “great” TV show and a mediocre one can often be the music. I think the more time, money and energy that the producers are willing to invest in music, the more they “get” what makes a good visual/auditory story, and so the rest of the production is likely to be better overall.

      I think I became aware of the importance of music when I started to get invested in Lost, when it was on. And if you ever got into the re-launch of Battlestar Galactica a few years ago, the music was so well done that you could even use it to predict plot twists and such. As one example, when two very different characters with their own distinct themes got intertwined by the end of the series, their themes would often merge into something familiar but different. The best part was, as you say, this often wasn’t even a conscious realization.

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