a drawing of Japanese waves with article title


This webtext examines the perceived semiotic affordances of audio and provides a different way for approaching audio assignments and student production in writing classrooms. Using 13 different audio pieces that focus on discussing two student examples, I argue that a broader view of composing with audio in the composition classroom—in particular, the construction of “voiceless” audio essays—is necessary to equip students with the skills necessary to become skilled 21st century composers. I also provide guidance for conducting and assessing voiceless audio compositions, including a discussion of how applying visual rhetoric to soundwaves benefits students and instructors alike.
(Complete transcript of the 13 audio pieces.)


Composition and rhetoric scholars have paid attention to the written word’s connection to the spoken word for a long time, with particular attention paid to such connections as the idea of voice in writing (see Stewart, 1972; Winchester, 1972; Elbow 1989, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c). In addition, scholars such as Ong (1982) have addressed issues of orality and technology with regard to literacy, but the relatively recent mixture of the increased attention to multimodality as conceptualized by the New London Group (2000), the increased availability of quality free (or quite inexpensive) audio composing and editing technologies, and the increased access to affordable bandwidth that enables infinite delivery platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube has made using digital audio in the composition classroom a much more realistic option for instructors and students than ever before.

Similarly, the past decade has seen an increase of scholarship that addresses using audio in the composition classroom, including entire issues of academic journals devoted to audio such as the 2006 Computers and Composition issue on Sound in/as Composition Studies and the 2011 Currents in Electronic Literacy’s issue on Writing with Sound. Such works provide a strong discussion of ideas and share concrete examples that help to propel the scholarship and pedagogy surrounding audio work in the composition classroom even further.