"Boy? You Decide Girl? You Decide":
Multimodal Web Composition and a Mythography of Identity
In this article we examine Alex's exploration of and expression of his transgendered identity in the interactive online composition he created in spring 2003 when he was an undergraduate student in a web composition course taught by Brian and Heidi. From both writer and reader perspectives, we focus on the ways in which Alex's use of multimedia enabled (or hindered) potentially transgressive expressions of and understandings of gendered and sexual identities.
While there has certainly been a great deal of work examining the ways in which hypertext and web texts may (or may not) decenter and potentially "liberate" readers and writers (e.g., Bolter, 1991; Johnson-Eilola, 1997; Landow, 1992; Moulthrop, 1994; Synder, 1998) and while there has been some work examining the ways in which LGBT individuals use the web to form discourse communities and support networks (e.g., DeWitt, 1997; Eichhorn, 2001; Warshauer, 1995; Woodland, 2000) there has been little work examining how the multimodal aspects of web composition enable or hinder expressions of and understandings of transgendered identities.
In our analyses/self-analysis of Alex's project "Robin Hood: A Personal Mythography" (which we include in its entirety in this article), we examine how Alex juxtaposes and overlays multimedia elements to construct (and deconstruct) gendered representations and readers' understandings of those representations. Moving through his site involves a “journey” as he describes it, from childhood to adulthood but also one that crosses time periods, genres, and genders, moving from 15th-century poems, to lyrics from Dar Williams, to Alex’s reflections on the transformations he has gone through from being Bethany and becoming Alex, to metaphoric images to be read on multiple levels. Through Alex’s use of multimedia, his composition evokes and challenges simultaneous senses of identity placement and displacement, identity location and dislocation. In addition to drawing from our own reflections, we draw from the work of queer theorists and from scholars who examine the myth and literature of Robin Hood from queered and transgressive perspectives.
In his project, Alex evokes the metaphor of the Robin Hood's Great Oak in the Greenwood as a place to not only lose oneself but to find oneself as well. In the interface of our article we have also tried to evoke that sense of the Greenwood.
All of the links in our Greenwood may be found and read in any order; however, you may want to begin with the one of two fixed points of reference we have provided--the image of the knight, an image Alex chose and one he uses on his personal web site. Clicking on the knight will open in a new browser window Alex's project "Robin Hood: A Personal Mythography." The other fixed image, the image of the squire, leads to our acknowledgments, a note on our collaboration, and references. Links to textual analyses and to excerpts of textual and audio transcripts of collaborative discussions are scattered throughout the page.
Two of the links in the Greenwood open more detailed analyses of specific screenshots of Alex's project. These screenshots open in a new browser window (that for optimal reading may be maximized); the original sound plays when the window opens, and there are links to further analyses off of those pages.
And, finally, the sound files in "Robin Hood" and in this article were recorded in spring 2001 (Alex's voice when he was Bethany), spring 2003 (Alex's voice after several months of testosterone injections), and winter 2003-2004 (Alex's, Brian's, and Heidi's voices as they brainstormed, composed, and revised this article).
This online article was composed in Flash MX and is set to match the size of the browser window and may be viewed at any resolution. (Flash Player 6 or higher is required to view this article. It is available free from Macromedia.)
Brian R. Houle Alex P. Kimball Heidi A. McKee
We may be reached at
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Rochester, email@example.com
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian R. Houle
Alex P. Kimball
Heidi A. McKee