This collaboratively written multimodal composition offers a relatively bounded landscape within which we employ the ecology metaphor as an analytical lens. The authors of this piece gathered around a dining room table and compared recollections, insights, and best practices we have adopted since each of us attended either the Computers in Writing-Intensive Classrooms Summer Institute (CIWIC; prior to 2006) or the Digital Media and Composition Summer Institute (DMAC; 2006 to present). Following a recording of this 2-hour conversation, each of us was tasked with producing a text conveying our individual insights either from our first-hand experiences at CIWIC/DMAC or take-aways from our common conversation.
Anyone who has been to CIWIC/DMAC knows that much of the conversation considers students as the focus for the implementation of technopedagogies in the classroom. Instead, our pieces focus on CIWIC/DMAC’s influence on our own scholarly production and teaching praxes, as well as how those influences have impacted our local institution, as a way to both foreground and feature our experiences at CIWIC/DMAC and, by extension, to highlight the relationships between and among each other via our longitudinal connection with the summer institute. Our texts collectively evidence rheto-technodiversity, a term we use to signify the idea of ecological interplay between and among different forms (multimodal compositional species, if you will) and perspectives represented via the six pieces presented here.
Our individual pieces share three interdependent themes that reflect how each of our experiences lives within our institutional context and might be considered a wecology of a collective text, characterized by openness, messiness, and hospitality.
Openness and an insider–outsider dynamic are notions that all of our texts address in some way. Most notably, Ames sets the stage and opens the conversation, if you will, with her video composition, which contemplates the discourse and politics of openness in education, democracy, text production, and relationships. The piece at once celebrates and questions the cracks, holes, apertures, and movement that must be present in order to not be closed, fixed, solid, stable. Jonn’s and Corrine’s pieces step knowingly into that gap, contemplating the personal and institutional anxiety over destabilization and the resistance or aggression one might experience facing a potentially disruptive composing practice.
Trauman’s audio remix acknowledges but recuperates the anxiety of destabilization through an exploration of messiness as fecundity, or a fertile soil, in which experimentation and divergence can lead to growth via the happy accidents that bring environmental pressure and cross-pollination together to drive evolution.
Teaching or composing practices do not exist in a bell jar. Environment impacts the growth potential of any ecology. As such, a third component of our wecology considers the role that hospitality plays in negotiating the stress that is required for creation. Suzanne calls for more “generous, hospitable environment[s]” as a way for each of us to serve as what Corrine describes as “a gateway rather than a gate keeper.” In her concluding essay Pegeen argues for a “radical hospitality” as a way of “upending traditional top-down” relationships between students, teachers, colleagues, the initiated and un-initiated.
It is because of the interrelated, intertwined nature of these themes and the fact they emerge in varying degrees in all of the pieces presented here that we think these are the drivers, the key factors, through which CIWIC and DMAC have influenced the re-, me- we, and e-cologies of Columbia College Chicago.
Table of Contents
To build this site, Suzanne Blum
Malley forked Jentery Sayers' GitHub
repository for the
HTML5 site he created for "Hacking the
Classroom: Eight Perspectives" in
Computers and Composition Online,
Spring 2014 . The source
for this web text are
available at GitHub
. Both sites build from the
and Treble Theme.
Image below by Ames Hawkins.
This video essay, in four parts, presents Ames Hawkins’ scholarly and creative interpretation of open/openness, an oft-repeated term during the initial conversation among the co-authors. Imagined, conceived, and written by Ames Hawkins, the piece was edited by her 16-year-old son, Charles Hawkins, opening here also, a space for the practice and possibility of collaboration.
Hawkins also includes a letter to the viewer/reader, one intended to be [clicked] opened following the reading/viewing of this video essay.
Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley
Building from a frequency analysis of the keywords used in the Columbia College Chicago CIWIC/DMAC alumni recorded conversations, Blum Malley uses video footage produced as part of her "finger-exercises" (low-stakes assignments with digital tools) created during DMAC 2009 to explore the discomfort and resistance that are part of using new composing tools and the ways in which the CIWIC/DMAC learning environment productively ameliorates those responses.
Image below by Corrine Calice
This short whiteboard animation reflects on being an early adopter of computer-infused pedagogies who has played the role of an invasive species, spurring the slow evolution and diversification of an institutional ecology after attending CIWIC in 2000. Using the concept of micro-aggression—a term typically reserved to explain small, interpersonal gestures of rejection—the author explores complex power dynamics through examples of institutional anxiety such as obstructionism and benign neglect. These dynamics eventually grow toward faculty empowerment and collaboration across the institution. Persistent individual faculty innovation has the capacity to contribute to institutional culture change over time.
Image below by Jonn Salovaara
In planning a project to explore and honor his experience at DMAC 2009, Salovaara started with a series of photos, pondering sidewalk cracks in terms of “what might grow, given a little space?” This question derived from Cindy Selfe’s (2009) warning about the restriction of our effectiveness as teachers if we “limit the bandwidth of composing modalities in our classrooms and assignments” (p. 618).
After the discussion with his colleagues, and in interacting with words suggested by the images, this all switched. His work became a more introspective re-discovery of what had actually occurred for his own multimodal composing and teaching since DMAC.
The resulting narrative of attempts and setbacks intentionally flows in and out of text slides and image/text slides. Ultimately, the piece argues that, to be effective, instructors themselves need to keep composing multimodally, and that writing programs might take some steps to encourage them in this.
Gail Hawisher and Cindy Selfe (2014) provide a perspective on the growing possibilities for digital multimodal publishing, reviewing the history of scholarly digital publishing and arguing for the likelihood of its increasing role in the future. They also pointed out that
with the changing set of challenges that face digital publishing, educating composition scholars to compose only alphabetic texts (or to analyze them, assess them, or circulate them) is a disservice. We will all need to read and compose and exchange new kinds of texts, and our changing scholarship will demand new mediated genres. (p. 111)
Douglas Eyman and Cheryl Ball (2014) pointed out the benefits to the composer of publishing digital work, focusing on the deeper sense of design and rhetoric that develop as a result of such publishing:
For born-digital webtexts that engage multiple modes and media as a function of their genre, additional rhetorical concerns arise with regard to decisions about delivery, access(ability), and sustainability. (p. 114)
WPAs intent on multimodal instruction might do well to highlight these trends and benefits to all of their instructors. I also think they might consider the more expressive, less academic multimodal work that some instructors engage in. They might promote this kind of work, by suggesting venues for non-academic publishing that as closely as possible approximate the conditions that Eyman and Ball (2014) described for the academic. These include “(pedagogically informed) mentorship of authors in pre-submission collaborations and [a] collaborative peer review process”(p. 115). Again, WPAs might also create in-house sites for publishing and sharing multimodal digital work that also approximate these conditions.
In discussions related to this issue in computers and writing— for instance in an article like “Teaching Digital Rhetoric” (Digitrhet.org, 2006)—the unspoken assumption is that instructors are already engaged, at the very least, in encountering new interfaces or media. This may be a fair assumption if the course is called "Digital Rhetoric," but it may be a bit hasty if the program is a more general writing and rhetoric course.
Toward the end of our discussion, I began to consider, in the case of a more general course, how current instructors may range from the digitally adept, to the would-be Luddite and everything in between. And, even with the digitally more adept, there is presumably a range of truly multimodal experience, since some digital work may be almost exclusively text while other digital work may be in non-text modes, but one at a time, rather than in combination.
This wide spectrum of familiarity with the multimodal is suggested in the section on Faculty Development in a webtext by Rankins-Robertson, Bourelle, Bourelle, and Fisher (2014), where the authors note that
Several of the teachers brought into the course were new to multimodal composing and had not previously assessed multimodal assignments. Additionally, several of the teachers were limited in their abilities to develop instructional texts outside of print-based documents.Their solution in helping faculty was one-on-one sessions in teaching faculty to use unfamiliar modes and available course technologies. The other strategy that I propose—of helping faculty publish their own multimodal work—though, is not mentioned here as another ingredient in faculty development.
It may be that in addition to helping faculty cope with the immediate demands of a multimodal curriculum, in the long run, programs needs to consider this other ingredient. Rather than guessing the multimodal experience of faculty and developing help based on those guesses, the promotion of their work in digital multimodal composition and publishing may require one-on-one consultation and a battery of publishing possibilities to meet the instructors where they are and help them forward with their own multimodal composing and publishing, and, thereby, their teaching.
Image below by Ryan Trauman
In conceiving of this individual piece of our larger overall text, I knew that I wanted to focus on the messiness, the confusion, the trepidation, and the chaos that were all, at various times, present during each of the DMAC institutes in which I taught or facilitated. For six consecutive summers I had the privilege of encountering a new cohort of scholars and graduate students, and that repeated experience rendered several insights about the sorts of environments and attitudes that foster skilled praxis with digital writing tools. Of course, repeated practice, rhetorical awareness, and patience are what most people learn as the fundamentals of working within a learning environment like CIWIC/DMAC. However, a more subtle, but no less central or necessary element, is the messiness holding the chaos together.
Like the other pieces of this webtext, my audio text focuses on themes of openness, messiness, and hospitality. Not only does the text examine these themes as organizing content, but it also directly enacts them as well. As contradictory as it might seem, there is a strong correlation between openness and intimacy. While it is possible that our published text might find a receptive public audience among computers and writing scholars, the opening conversation took place in a much more intimate environment. The heavy wood dining room table we gathered around fostered a sense of intimacy and openness about our teaching and writing practices. There was an overt sense of hospitality as we gathered in our colleagues' home, but there were also two other types of hospitality at work. One is the sort of hospitality present for any conversation to work, especially as that conversation gathers more people. To be one conversant among six takes respect and patience, an openness to others' ideas, and the hospitality to make room for them, to listen to them, and to respond. But there was another hospitality present, too. Not only was the conversation lively and rich, but each of us knew that we were contributing our voices to an audio recording of the evening. We all agreed that each of us was free to use that recording as source material for our individual texts. The more I reflect on that, the more I've come to realize just how much trust and hospitality that required from each of us.
Image below by Ryan Trauman
In Fall 2005, the Writing in Digital Environments (or WIDE) Research Center Collective published an article in Kairos titled “Why teach digital writing?” Just by their participation in CIWIC or DMAC, my colleagues (and co-authors here) have already responded to this question with conviction, and what’s more, have gone on to answer “How do we teach digital writing?” and even “What is digital writing?” As the only contributor to this piece not to have participated in CIWIC or DMAC, at times I envy their conviction, not to mention their exciting, thoughtful, substantial responses to the questions.On the other hand, it may be useful in my role as the Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric where we all teach that I am still asking the questions. In fact, I like that WIDE titled their article as an interrogative. It’s tempting to think that almost a decade later, our field has answered the question the WIDE collective offered; the article itself was a kind of answer, but the title—in bibliographies and indexes—will forever remain a question, and I argue that’s as it should be. As a program, the questions we ask—not just why teach digital writing, but also how, and even more fundamentally, what is digital writing—should remain at the center of our work. And I suggest that we might use the metaphor of hospitality as a guide for our work in this era of questions.
The foreigner is first of all foreign to the legal language in which the duty of hospitality is formulated. . . . He has to ask for hospitality in a language which by definition is not his own, the one imposed on him by the master of the house, the host, the king, the lord, the authorities, the nation, the State, the father, etc. [We can hear in this list the idea that the language is imposed on him by the teacher, too.] This personage imposes on him translation into their own language, and that’s the first act of violence. . . If he was already speaking our language, with all that that implies, if we already shared everything that is shared with a language, would the foreigner still be a foreigner and could we speak of asylum or hospitality in regard to him? (pp. 15–17)And that is the paradox of hospitality, that we must exert violence in order to generously extend hospitality. So Derrida (2000) elaborated an absolute or unconditional hospitality, arguing that:
Absolute hospitality requires that I open up my home and that I give not only to the foreigner. . . but to the absolute, unknown, anonymous other, and that I give place to them, that I let them come, that I let them arrive, and take place in the place I offer them, without asking of them either reciprocity (entering into a pact) or even their names. (p. 25)Unconditional hospitality radically decenters the host, and hospitality is no longer about the social conventions of welcoming, but about new arrivals confronting the host with otherness. It is hospitality on the terms established by the guest. Borders are crossed with impunity.
When weighing decisions about what to do about digital underlife, we must take on a more receptive [more hospitable?] attitude to the plausibility of its productive dimensions. That is, rather than reducing digital underlife into the dyad of contained and disruptive, we might add productive as a positive third term—particularly where we understand such underlife to enable meaningful discursive practices beyond the schoolroom. (p. 209)In other words, the very nature of the writing and reading that our students are already doing, in our classroom if not always of our classroom, demands an absolute hospitality on our part.
Do the questions really help us talk about what it is that we do know? And we do know a lot–we have a vocabulary, a methodology, habits of mind–that enable us, as scholars in our fields, to study and teach writing. More than anything, right now, I see the metaphor of radical hospitality as a challenge to us to articulate what it is we do know, and what it is we don’t yet know.
Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley
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Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley