New Work of Composing

Eds. Debra Journet, Cheryl Ball, and Ryan Trauman.  Utah State University Press/ Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2012.

ISBN: 978-0-87421-888-6

The experience of reading The New Work of Composing is more aptly described as exploring. Just as born-digital, multimodal projects require the writer to rethink the composing process, the reader is also asked to rethink how texts are consumed. The editors and many of the authors play with the possibility of non-linearity both in the compilation of the collection as a whole and within the individual productions. For some readers, this lack of linearity in terms of traditional claim-support based argumentation may be frustrating and make the collection seem inaccessible. However, the open organization of The New Work of Composing encourages multiple readings and new connections to take place among the projects. The option to structure the collection according to a traditional table of contents is present, but the scattered table of contents encourages a productive juxtaposition. When seemingly unrelated articles are explored in this scattered formation, the pieces are able to "talk back" to one another in ways that a traditionally bound book is unable to, and the reader is able to take a more active role in the construction of the text and its meaning.

The articles collected in The New Work of Composing utilize a variety of digital technologies such as websites, blogs, Prezis, movies, Myspace pages, or combinations in order to present multimodal scholarship. While some of the productions are structured linearly, there are other articles which resist a single reading and encourage the reader to create his own path through the exhibit. Several articles stood out for excellent and innovative design, especially "Standards in the Making: Composing with Meta-data in Mind" by Wilson, Hisayasu, Sayers, and Bono, which features multiple scrolling boxes representing layers of the argument that the reader can explore and synthesize according to his own preference. The article takes the graphic design and uses it to rethink ; the text is not simply transcribed in a digital medium, but the medium truly impacts the composition and subsequent reading of the piece.

Even articles created in more "ready-made" templates like WordPress blogs and Prezis showcase the possibility of multimodal digital compositions to add new dimensions to traditional academic texts with a little technical expertise and a willingness to learn on the part of the scholar. Only one composition (Murray's "Symbolizing Space: Non-Discursive Composing of the Invisible") was difficult to explore due to grainy images and small text, which prevents the reader from fully experiencing the piece. This technical issue underscores the difficulties in producing multimodal compositions and the specific considerations of readability and accessibility that multimodal compositions present to scholars.

The range in design and media throughout the entire collection underscores the challenges and opportunities when producing born-digital compositions, and the text demonstrates the feasibility of undertaking multimodal digital productions regardless of a scholar's previous experience with technology. Ultimately The New Work of Composing sets the standard for born-digital scholarly work and encourages other researchers to rethink the composition process and traditional academic genres and begin work with multimodal projects.