Multimodal Composing: Beyond the Text.

Citation metadata

Date: Sept-Oct 2019
Publisher: Twenty Six LLC
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,126 words
Lexile Measure: 1300L

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

In his frequently cited article on multiliteracy centers, John Trimbur asserts that writing centers will increasingly "see literacy as a multimodal activity in which oral, written, and visual communication intertwine and interact" (29). This transformed understanding of literacy reflects, among other things, changing communication practices in a digital age. Trimbur argues that "these changes in how we read and write, do business, and participate in civic life have some pretty serious implications for our work in writing centers" (29).

Since the publication of Trimbur's article in 2000, intensely multimodal platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram have inserted themselves into our daily routines, inviting us to engage in almost constant multimodal conversation with the world. Options for creating digital presentations have proliferated far beyond PowerPoint, and students now routinely use Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, and other applications for generating slide decks that seamlessly integrate sounds, videos, animations, photographs, charts, and other media components. When we compose a "text message," we now have over 1,000 standard emojis to choose from. And Apple released the first version of iMovie only a year before Trimbur's article was published; now students shoot and edit complex videos using their cellphones.

How should writing centers support composers whose daily lives are filled with so many different forms of multimodal communication? Clearly a wide range of responses is possible. Russell Carpenter and Sohui Lee, in their introduction to a special issue of Computers and Composition devoted to multiliteracy centers, note that "multiliteracy center pedagogy was more varied and complex than we previously imagined" (v). Jackie Grutsch McKinney argues also that each writing center will need to devise an approach that reflects its unique institutional context, including possibilities and constraints associated with space, staffing, funding, and mission.

Some centers might find that established writing center practices are sufficient to confront these new challenges. Our spaces and pedagogies are designed to help us engage composers in conversations about rhetorical considerations such as audience, purpose, and genre. These fundamentals can be applied to new forms of composing, such as digital videos and web pages. However, some scholars have cautioned writing centers against changing too radically in order to address multimodal composition. For instance, Michael Pemberton writes that "Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether it is really the writing center's responsibility to be all things to all people [...] If we diversify too widely and spread ourselves too thinly in an attempt to encompass too many different literacies, we may not be able to address any set of literate practices particularly well" (21).

We also find other scholar-practitioners who are exploring the ways centers might productively transform all aspects of their work in light of the challenges and opportunities associated with multimodal composing, including the way writing center spaces are configured, the technologies and resources centers make available, the kinds of compositions centers support, and, most importantly, the kinds of conversations writing center tutors have with composers.

In this article, we explore the diversity of options for approaching...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A600790198