Three Frameworks


I first became interested in video arguments when my department revised the FYC curriculum to include new media projects. Up until this time my teaching had focused primarily on alphabetic composing, even though I had been a visual artist and a musician for most of my life. I chose video arguments as the new media project in my FYC courses for two reasons: (1) I wanted my students to experiment with composing processes that utilize visual and aural elements, and (2) I wanted to see how publishing their video arguments on YouTube would impact my students’ understanding of rhetorical principles. As I began developing a pedagogical approach, I quickly realized my students and I needed a way of seeing and understanding video arguments—a framework—that would guide us in analysis and production. Through reading scholarship and analyzing YouTube videos, I identified three frameworks that became the foundation of a pedagogy aimed at building bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing.




Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin (1999) defined remediation as “the representation of one medium in another [medium]” (p. 45). They argued that newer media can remediate older media (e.g. the Web borrows features from print newspaper), and that older media can also remediate newer media (e.g. television draws upon characteristics of the Web). This fluid conceptualization of remediation has led a number of composition scholars to consider its potential value in teaching writing in general and new media in particular. Kathleen Blake Yancey (2004), for example, suggested a pedagogical approach that asks 21st century composition students to remediate texts from one media to another, all the while “consider[ing] what they move forward, what they leave out, what they add” (p. 314). Alexander et al. (2012) reported the experiences of students in a graduate course remediating their 2-3 page teaching with technology philosophy statements into slideshow presentations, websites, digital-visual collages, and digital movies. They found that “[r]emediation is not just the act of pushing a media piece to a new media form—it requires waves of cutting, editing, merging, combining, recombining, rethinking, rescripting, and much, much more” (p. 32). Christine Tulley and Kristine Blair (2009) described the experiences of English majors in a senior-level web writing course remediating the genre of the book review into a collaborative webtext for an online journal. While the students didn’t begin this project with a written book review, they still engaged in remediation by considering ways to translate print conventions into web conventions. Within the context of FYC, Chanon Adsanatham (2012) asked his students to research and write “an argumentative essay on a public issue for a scholarly audience” and remediate it into “a three to four minute multimodal video for a specific audience of their choosing” (p. 156).


For my pedagogy, the framework of remediation is essential in building bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing. Because 75% of my students have never composed a video for a school assignment using video editing software, I have my students compose their research-based arguments in the familiar medium of writing first and then remediate their arguments into the unfamiliar medium of video. As a noun, remediation helps guide my students in analyzing video arguments to see how they are similar to written arguments. For example, as a class we examine the ways that claims and evidence can play out in video. As a verb, the act of remediation asks my students to consider how they might represent aspects of their academic arguments in their video arguments.


Multimodal Composition


Multimodal composition has become a familiar concept in composition studies during the past decade. Pamela Takayoshi and Cynthia Selfe (2007) defined it as “texts that exceed the alphabetic and may include still and moving images, animations, color, words, music, and sound” (p. 1). Each of these modalities is a semiotic channel that communicates meaning separately and in concert with each other. As a framework, multimodality is valuable for understanding the production of new media texts and resonates with Lev Manovich’s (2001) description of the composing process of such texts:


In the course of production, some elements are created specifically for the project; others are selected from databases of stock material. Once all the elements are ready, they are composited together into a single object; that is, they are fitted together and adjusted in such a way that their separate identities become invisible. (p. 136)


Manovich’s “elements” consist of different “modalities”—the raw materials of new media texts.


Video arguments are multimodal in nature. As Bump Halbritter (2013) noted, “Video production involves . . . still and moving images, text, animations, visual transitions and effects, and a soundtrack that may feature audio that is tied to the visual track, sound effects that are “overdubbed,” and/or “voice-over” narration” (p. 75). While Halbritter prefers to use the terms “layers” and “audio-visual texts” over “semiotic channels” and “multimodal composition,” he is essentially saying the same thing as Takayoshi and Selfe. Halbritter sees value in recognizing the layers of audio-visual texts because sometimes “we need to break those texts into precisely determined component pieces so that they may be layered in new ways to meet new rhetorical aims” (p. 76).


Like remediation, the framework of multimodal composition assists in building bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing. My students come into FYC with a good understanding of alphabetic text as a semiotic channel that communicates meaning. However, they tend to be blinded by the “all-there-at-onceness” of video (Halbritter, 2013, p. 97). As a class, we spend time analyzing video arguments as multimodal compositions, which helps my students to develop an understanding of the wider palette of communication tools available to them as video composers. They learn about the rhetorical uses of still and moving images, written and spoken text, music, fonts, colors, transitions, and visual effects.


Rhetorical Appeals


Since rhetoric provides a valuable framework for the analysis and production of effective communication, an approach to teaching video arguments is strengthened by the inclusion of key rhetorical principles such as Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos. As Takayoshi and Selfe (2007) argued, “Conventional rhetorical principles such as audience awareness, exigence, organization, correctness, arrangement, and rhetorical appeals are necessary considerations for authors of successful audio and visual compositions” (p. 5). They maintained that rhetorical principles used by writing instructors to teach alphabetic compositions "apply, just as appropriately, to multimodal compositions" (p. 5). Daniel Keller (2007), focusing on the rhetorical appeals, contended that “the study and creation of multimodal texts should focus not only on how each modality is different or what affordances each brings to the task of making meaning, but also on . . . the ways in which both medium and modality can be employed to make a rhetorical appeal” (50). While Keller acknowledged the value of analyzing multimodal compositions to see how the various modalities communicate meaning, he also argued that it's equally important to consider how the modalities appeal to logos, pathos, and ethos. To support his argument, Keller presented a rhetorical analysis of a video documentary and an audio essay, demonstrating how the modalities used in these pieces make rhetorical appeals.


Since the rhetorical appeals are an important part of my alphabetic composing pedagogy, this framework is another valuable lens for building bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing. Like the other frameworks, we spend time as a class analyzing video arguments to see how they make appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos in light of the author’s purpose and target audience. We often zoom in on particular modalities like an image or an instrumental track to examine if they are being employed to primarily make an appeal to logos or pathos, or if they are working across all three rhetorical appeals.