composing(media)=composing(embodiment): bodies, technologies, writing, the teaching of writing
by Kristin L. Arola and Anne Frances Wysocki


Reviewed by Diane Susdorf, University of Findlay


Utah State University Press Logan, Utah 2012

289 pages



composing(media)=composing(embodiment): bodies, technologies, writing, the teaching of writing addresses a significant gap in composition and media studies: the effects of media on our bodies and our embodied responses to media through our composition. This book represents a groundbreaking intersection of a variety of rhetorical fields: feminist, media, composition, queer, and disability studies, to name a few. The collection of essays represents a convergence of a variety of genres under the umbrella of media and embodiment. This convergence serves as a gateway to less popular or mainstream areas of study within rhetoric and composition (and indeed, communication) for students and teachers.

Arola and Wysocki consider composition through the dual lenses of media and embodiment in this collection. The authors want to illustrate the importance of considering media and embodiment to the practice and pedagogy of composition. According to Arola and Wysocki, “’Embodiment’, in this understanding, calls us to attend to what we just simply do, day to day, moving about, communication with others, using objects that we simply use in order to make things happen…until those objects break or don’t do what we want and so tease us into a different attitude: we try to take the objects apart-to analyze-their parts and processes so that we might fix them” (emphasis mine) (3). This is the definition of “embodiment” that Arola and Wysocki use as the framework for the collection of essays in composing(media)=composing(embodiment).

Arola and Wysocki address two “assumptions” surrounding media and embodiment, which are addressed in Part 1 and Part 2 of composing(media)=composing(embodiment). The first assumption, addressed in Part 1 of the text, which is labeled “media=embodiment”, asserts that media (inferred here to mean technologies such as books, magazines, TV shows, and webpages- media that uses alphabetic text) shape our understanding of our bodies, and, by extension, the way we act and perceive the world around us. Arola and Wysocki assert that we, as scholars and teachers of composition, need to examine the ways that media shape our perceptions of our bodies and how we, as composers and consumers of media shape both media and our bodies. According to Arola and Wysocki, “those of us who teach writing need, then, to consider media that use the alphabet and to ask how such media engage with our senses and contribute to our embodiment” (4). Arola and Wysocki find it important to consider embodiment when composing and teaching composing in order to enable students to critically examine the media that shape perceptions of the human body, and to empower students to compose in ways that identify and define their own bodies and identities.  

The second assumption (as addressed in Part 2 of the book, “mediating bodies ^ mediated bodies”) concerns a person’s engagement with media through the lens of embodiment. Arola and Wysocki claim that composers must “be actively engaged with mediation, with attending productively to one’s own felt experiences and with learning how to compose media out of those experiences, media for circulating and eliciting engagements with others” (19). The authors are concerned, then, “with how, as writing teachers, we help both students and ourselves experience mediation both productively and reflectively” (Arola and Wysocki 19).

Both Part 1 (“media=embodiment”) and Part 2 (“mediating bodies ^ mediated bodies”) provide heuristics after their respective collections of essays in an attempt to provide composition teachers and students with resources to compose and examine media and embodiment. Based on some of the questions and issues raised by the essays, these heuristics encourage students to turn their attention to embodiment with various kinds of composing. The heuristics include using media platforms such as web blogs as well as visual and alphabetic media both to compose and to critically analyze embodiment in media. 

While composing(media)=composing(embodiment) attempts to fill a gap in our research and understanding of embodiment in relation to the media we consume and produce, this text does not provide an adequate pedagogical or heuristic context and framework. The class activities and heuristics provided at the close of each of the two parts of the text could provide entry points for students to address media and embodiment. However, the essays curated in each part of the book receive no contextualization within the framework of the book. Why are these essays chosen for this book? Without some context in relation to the book, the book section, or even the adjacent essays, the individual essays of the book don’t familiarize students and teachers with potentially enlightening intersections between a variety of fields of rhetorical study, such as new media, disability, and feminist theories of embodied composition.