The Fall 2014 issue of Computers and Composition Online represents a diverse range of tools and genres, from Twitter to comic books, and an equally diverse range of theoretical and metaphorical frames, from bridging to mapping, all meant to articulate the digitally literate practices that are changing what it means to communicate and compose inside and outside the classroom.
We begin our Theory into Practice section with Mary Stewart’s (University of California, Davis) “The Social Practice of Digital Literacy in the Internet Age: Information, Multimodal Composition, and Collaboration,” which provides an accessible, structured overview of the history of literacy instruction, but transitions into the ways in which the use of various tools and technologies of literacy in the digital age has changed literacy characteristics. Given that shift, Stewart provides helpful strategies for designing and assessing multimodal literacy in classroom contexts. For Stewart, “literacy is not something that can be taught as a fixed and standardized skill, nor can it be accomplished in a single course. Instead, digital literacy needs to be practiced and cultivated over years and in varied situations, in an across-the-curriculum style.”
Indeed, Stewart’s call for a sustained cultivation is equally realized in Marijel Melo’s (University of Arizona) “Exploring Digital Infrastructures: Systems Organizing Theory As A Heuristic For Multimodal Composition.” Melo’s framework is based on Robert Glushko’s concept of the organizational system as an intentionally arranged collection of resources. With that operational definition in place, Melo develops a heuristic of organizational analysis, applied to the ever-popular YouTube, to document the whats, whys, and hows of an organizational system that many social media spaces inhabit. By providing students an opportunity to develop “viral” videos in YouTube and equipping them with reflection opportunities, Melo contends that students can develop a stronger understanding of the technologically and socially-mediated nature of the design space and its impact on their multimodal composing capabilities.
Pearce Durst’s (University of Montevallo) “Chora at the Crossroads” assembles rhetorical history and metaphorical/physical mapping strategies to articulate a “choral” rhetoric that helps teachers and students better understand the spatial dimensions of digital rhetoric, specifically Ulmer’s concept of electracy. Dust contends that “by thinking in terms of invention…we can help to define electracy through…innovative forms of electronic writing/design.” Remixing the classical rhetorical concept of the "Khôra," Durst delineates the physical, rhetorical, and pedagogical crossroads that drive digital writing. Within the text, Durst employs the Google mapping application to argue for a more dynamic understanding of place as physical, cultural, and transcendent of time and space in its reliance on memory to give meaning to landscapes both past and present.
In “Readymade Rhetoric: Love The One You’re With,” Paul Muhlhauser & Robert Kachur (McDaniel College) extend Kristin Arola’s call to make both the design and rhetoricity of templates and other readymade social media genres and widgets more visible to our students. Given that it is unlikely that all students will develop the sophisticated code literacies called for by some in the field, this type of experimentation and play is vital. Thus, they call for a love the one you’re with pedagogy “focused more on how to find and use the opportunities afforded by readymade widgets and bring them together to create rhetorically savvy texts. For us, it’s important to play with what’s offered and imagine how readymades can work together to communicate.”
Finally, I’m very proud to feature our very own Tina Arduini’s (Bowling Green State University) “Alternate Endings: Synthesizing Video Game Literacy and Fan-Fiction to Develop 21st-Century Literacies.” Arduini makes a powerful argument, based on scholarly research and case study analysis, for the combined attention these two multimodal genres in promoting problem-solving and critical thinking in multimodal contexts, with specific attention to the game Borderlands and the fan-fiction it has generated. As Arduini contends, literacy must not only “be linked to scholastic endeavors” and that making alternative literacies such as gaming and fan-fiction more mainstream “in the composition classroom will allow instructors to more systematically guide students to discover their own fluencies.”
In the spirit of experimenting with form and genre, Benjamin Dally’s (California State University, Sacramento) “The Digital Bridge: How Interactions on Twitter Can Connect Students to the World Beyond Academia” is an innovative contribution to our Virtual Classroom section of the journal. Grounding his study of Twitter’s potential pedagogical uses within an activity theory framework, Dally relies on surveys and interviews with undergraduates to argue that “by bringing Twitter into the classroom, educators may have a constructive and relatively simple tool to bridge university and societal (with an emphasis on professional) activity systems.” As a result, Dally’s study has important implications for the role of social media in academic discourse.I’m delighted to include Jim Haendiges (Dixie State University) “Composing Comic Books: Reflections on the Making of the Comic Book ‘The Amazing Educational Struggle Between Language and Literacy’” in our Professional Development section. Here, Jim shows in both theory and practice why the comic genre is a significant form of multimodal composing and a large part of students’ literate lives. His process of creating his own comic is a compelling example of the importance of instructor experimentation with the multimodal genres we expect our students to produce.
Our Reviews section is rich in its number of analytical assessments of some of the latest books in both computers and writing studies and digital rhetoric. In addition to our very own April Conway’s review of Jeff Rice’s Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network, we’re delighted to feature the successful results of a project originating in Christine Tulley’s scholarly publication course at the University of Findlay, where, in collaboration with our Reviews Editor Megan Adams and with me, students in Findlay’s Master’s Program in Rhetoric and Writing developed their first webtexts for publication. We hope you are as impressed with the results as we are in both content and design and thank Troylin Banks, Pam Cochran, Rachel Dortin, Abigail Linhardt, David Maynard, Mary Jo Napholtz, Diane Susdorf, Jacob Tooley, and Chase Troxell for their contributions.
Overall, the webtexts published in our Fall issue suggest the ways in which Computers and Composition Online continues to serve as a supportive mentoring space for newcomers and established members of the field to experiment with multimodal composing and sustain our collective commitment to digital literacy acquisition. With that goal in mind, I hope you will check back the coming months for our special issue on CIWIC and DMAC as professional development spaces, guest edited by Cheryl Ball, Dánielle Nicole DeVoss, Scott DeWitt, and Cynthia Selfe.