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A key question in using audio in the composition classroom centers on possibilities: What is the difference in voice on paper, which consists of 26 possible symbols of infinite arrangement, and real voice captured digitally, which consists of infinite arrangements of ones and zeroes? Real voice is perhaps the ultimate primary source, every single utterance packing a block quote of additional information for listeners to unpack along with the meaning of the words themselves. On the other hand, as Rickert and Salvo (2006) argued, “[T]ext travels alone into the world without the context in which it was created, or with only as much context as can be included in the text itself (metacommentary, linkings, bibliographies, narratives, images)” (n.p.). In other words, voice in audio has a different set of affordances than written voice, with the idea of affordances perhaps best characterized through the New London Group (2000) lens as the meaning-making abilities of a semiotic mode.

Numerous scholars have published work on the affordances of audio, as well as the semiotic and cultural constraints that surround audio. Cindy Selfe's (2009) "The Meaning of Air" provided a detailed discussion of affordances in examining a variety of student samples, particularly the ways that audio has the ability to convey an author's emotions and ethos while also contributing a sense of history and culture. Tara Shankar (2006) examined the physical attributes of voice and the reasons why the affordances of audio have been largely ignored in academic settings, particularly in the writing classroom. Heidi McKee (2006) examined not only the affordances of audio, but the important affordances of what happens between sounds—the various rhetorical effects of silence. Other scholars have focused on the rhetorical uses of music (Halbritter, 2006; Stedman, 2011; VanKooten, 2011) and the powerful audio-visual connection (Halbritter, 2013).

Scholars have also discussed why to use audio in the composition classroom. In terms of the broader goals of developing digital literacy and multimodal composing skills, the very act of having students make thoughtful audio compositions is necessary and important (Yancey, 2004; Selfe, 2009). Other arguments have been made for how using audio makes students more critical about specific writing concerns such as word choice and style because composers need to focus not just on a word's actual meaning but how it is said (McKee, 2006). Comstock and Hocks (2006) illustrated some of the primary reasons for using audio in the composition classroom when they stated the following:

We've noticed that when our students create and manipulate sound files, whether in the form of a voice-over narration or soundtrack, that they develop a stronger, more embodied sense of audience and of our popular cultural soundscapes. When they record a voice over, for example, students develop a closer attentiveness to how their words and sentence structures resonate with their own voices and their chosen audiences, and as a result, produce better texts with more awareness of the emotional impact of tone and style. They are also more apt to see composing as an iterative process that requires listening, getting feedback, revising, and starting over again.

The preceding quote lays out what many instructors have students do in terms of composing with audio (i.e., manipulating sounds and doing voice-overs), but what does the future hold?

Audio 1: Introduction and Affordances