Making Composition (W)hole: An Examination of New Materialism and Electracy in First-Year Composition

Authorship: 

Chung, Shauna
Clemson University

Abstract: 

First-Year Composition syllabi typically tout objectives centered around the advancement and enactment of critical thinking, analysis, and/or reflection. Perpetuating the aims of Composition’s social turn in the late 1980s and early 90s, this learning outcome urges students to develop their analytical faculties in service to social justice and freedom—ideas key to revealing and resisting hegemonic discourses operating within society. Such aims certainly persist in the twenty-first-century classroom as students are encouraged to engage with public rhetorics in order to practice the tenets of rhetorical argumentation through critical observation; however, when adhering to traditionally literate methods of exploration, their engagement oftentimes results in objective observation rather than active participation. Using the theories of New Materialism and Electracy, this paper explores the new and various methodologies available to students to engage with public rhetorics and ultimately shows how students can move from “critical observer” to “knowledge creator.”

Introduction

Among the multitude of objectives listed on a First-Year Composition (FYC) syllabus, developing a critical stance—whether in terms of reading, thinking, analysis, or reflection—seems paramount. This pedagogical aim oftentimes implicates what Paulo Friere famously coined “banking education,” a model that sees students as empty receptacles waiting to be filled by an institution’s ideologies. In his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire (2000) aptly explains that “the more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of the world” (p. 73). Thus, in the name of empowerment and student transformation, teachers—especially FYC instructors—reject the banking model in favor of a pedagogy that helps students uncover power structures operating in public and private spaces.

Composition’s social turn in the late 1980s and early 90s championed this cause and inaugurated an increased focus on the “critical,” urging students to develop their critical faculties in service to “principles of freedom and social justice”—ideas key to revealing and resisting the institutions of hegemony operating within society (A. George, 2014, p. 77). Central to the movement was James Berlin, whose influential, social-epistemic rhetoric partnered with this liberatory cause, striving to de-essentialize the individual by making his identity contingent upon discourse communities and the “material conditions of existence” (Berlin, 2009, p. 678). Each aspect (observer, discourse community, material conditions) was, according to Berlin, mediated by language, the “social phenomenon” that was “a product of a particular historical moment” (p. 678). Berlin contended that the classroom’s primary objective was to identify and diverge from historically oppressive ideologies born from social interactions codified by language. Such awareness would, as Ira Shor also advocated in “What is Critical Literacy” (1999), lead to a liberated consciousness and a more equitable society.

While these principles of liberation and social equity remain a necessary framework from which to view and position pedagogy, the digital age—a world of post-truth where selfies dispense identities, cat memes rule cyberspace, and a single tweet could provoke a nuclear war—begs new questions in relation to the social turn: Is identification of oppression in public and private spaces enough? How might we encourage students to utilize their critical capabilities in an electronic apparatus? In this paper, I will explore potential answers to these questions by widening the theoretical lens of composition’s critical pedagogies. I seek to demonstrate that teachers, namely FYC educators, can create assignments and foster classroom environments that enable both critical analysis of and in(ter)vention in the world, moving students from spaces of objective observance to active participation. As we move towards this expanded lens, let us first acknowledge the rationale for such departures.

Critique of the Social Turn

Critics of the social turn see the increased focus toward critical/cultural studies and social constructivism as a necessary but ultimately incomplete effort. For example, Susan Miller, in her essay “Technologies of Self?-Formation” (1997), asserts that the “students Jim [Berlin] portrays as needing consciousness are not directed toward practice in manipulating genres, but to a smart awareness of generic power [ ... ] not toward strength to withstand forces that prevent their critique from wide acknowledgement, but to interpretations of these forces” (p. 499). In other words, the individual becomes a keen observer with theoretical agency but little material empowerment. Sarah J. Arroyo (2013) echoes this concern via Thomas Rickert who explains that students in “empowerment-oriented classrooms” gain insight into their oppressed state but “retain cynical attitudes and behavior; their beliefs and actions do not significantly change [ ... ] [and they] continue behaving the same way despite their newfound knowledge of systematic oppression” (p. 32). Without the proper tools and exigency to execute their critical reading of the world, their awareness seems to flourish in the classroom but struggles to find a home outside of the academy or in their own readings of the world.

Running alongside this pattern of critique, Laura R. Micciche (2014) argues that “the ‘social turn’ has hardened into repressive orthodoxy and failed to keep pace with a changing world” (p. 488). She recognizes that it “seems to have plateaued” in current academic conversation and has “proven important but limited” (p. 488). From her perspective, the once liberatory aims of critical/cultural pedagogies have turned on themselves by ushering in similar structures of ideological hegemony into composition pedagogy, denying both the individual and their material contingencies of agency. Micciche evokes Jody Shipka, who seconds this analysis in her book Toward a Composition Made Whole (2011). Shipka advocates for a radical reformulation of what constitutes writing in an effort to provide students with the missing tools and exigency in a critical reading. Micciche and Shipka, along with Vanessa Kraemer Sohan (who we will revisit later), advocate for rethinking a theoretical stance—one that not only makes room for alternate and seemingly divergent discourses (i.e. the material) but also allows students to create and augment meaning. Coupled with theorists in the realm of electracy, such critique of the social turn has led to a more inclusive composition “pedagogy ,” providing students with tools to be both producers and shapers of meaning. This gives students increased access and multiple modes to engage in writing and become active, agency-filled, critical participants in composition classrooms. To better understand how this occurs, let us first examine New Materialism’s contribution to our widened theoretical lens

New Materialism

Responding to the seemingly tunnel-visioned, all-male theorists of the social turn, New Materialists, according to Micciche (2014), “seek critical frameworks that honor daily life experiences in coexistence with ordinary and complex matter, from the life-supporting activity of worms to the web-like structure of geopolitical conflicts” (p. 490). While theorists in the critical/cultural studies vein also, according to Diana George et al. (2014), honor the quotidian—wanting “to think of culture as a way of life, a set of ordinary, everyday practices linked in creative and consequential fashion to the social order and the formation of class consciousness” (p. 95, my emphasis)—the critical/cultural framework acknowledges players acting primarily on a social, superstructural plane. New materialists, on the other hand, nod not only to these constituents but also to the material, nonhuman in their midst.

Micciche argues for an expanded notion of these material players, explaining that meaning making occurs beyond and regardless of exclusively human intention and manipulation:

New materialism reconfigures agency in relation to individuals, things, and publics by delinking assumed relations between action and causality, generating instead diffuse, unstable configurations of blame and responsibility that make for less clear targets but for more robust accounting of the interstitial qualities of any single problem. (p. 491)

Such reconfiguration resists codification, becoming instead “a curatorial, distributed act” (p. 494). Meaning, thus, can be derived from multiple, seemingly disjointed sources and does not rely on an identification and deconstruction of human-constructed, hegemonic ideologies. With language as the mediator between curated sources, New Materialist theory extends agency to both the individual and the material—the “relational matters, in addition to tools and forms, as writing essentials” (p. 497).

Micciche exemplifies this expanded process of curating meaning through the Acknowledgements section in academic books. By calling upon various individuals in the writer’s life, these acknowledgements “produce gestures of indebtedness that reveal writing’s economy of connectedness” (p. 499). While she identifies the human influences (i.e. the advisors, partners, friends), she also notes that writers oftentimes acknowledge and credit pets and places. Their writing, thus, becomes interconnected with not only social forces but also the “dwelt-in world,” which is “codependent with things, places, people, and all sorts of others. To write is to be part of the world, even when viewed as an ironic turn away to an interior space of quiet and mystery” (p. 501). She ultimately explains that incorporating the human and non-human—“the whole material surround of writing”—produces an expanded notion of writing and gives greater credence to not only the social aspects of writing but also the material (p. 502).

Jody Shipka (2014), in her essay “Beyond Text and Talk: A Multimodal Approach to First-Year Composition,” also advocates for the integration of human and non-human resources in the creation of meaning; however, she extends these claims directly to the composition classroom, describing the implications such an approach would have on the student. She explains that the aim of her composition courses is to have “students reading, thinking, and learning about composition as a course, object, and multimodal communicative practice” (p. 214). Such an approach identifies writing as not just an easily codified social construct but as a “densely populated, complexly layered, and highly distributed [process]” (p. 216). It also requires the student to see writing as an act of creation—not an act of distanced observance—that engages and networks multiple media in the assemblage of meaning. Opening scholarship up to the various materialities that comprise (and are often excluded from) academic writing could engage the student’s critical faculties in a more holistic and multimodal way.

In addition to widening the lens of critical/cultural studies, Shipka also calls on another exigency in the composition classroom: dispelling the notion that writing is an internal, linear, highly specialized act that exists in a vacuum. This perspective of writing not only produces students’ fear of writing, chaining them to academic formulas and restricting the cultivation of their own voices, but also does not reflect the multidimensional, multimodal world that we operate in today. In her book Toward a Composition Made Whole (2011), Shipka affirms scholarship advocating for multimodal, non-linear composition that extends writing to spaces not typically deemed sites for analysis: paint poems, comic books, films, “photo essays, collages, slide and tape multimedia,” to name a few (p. 22). She supports such efforts not because they replace rigid academic models or integrate excluded materials for the sake of novelty but because their inclusion “reminds us that a composition is, at once, a thing with parts—with visual-verbal or multimodal aspects—the expression of relationships and, perhaps most importantly, the result of complex, going processes that are shaped by, and provide shape for, living” (p. 34). Explaining this dynamic and complicated relationship to FYC students, allowing them to locate and write with the material realities of their lives, helps them see that texts require assemblage and that they—the students—are capable of such creation.

Further exemplifying this expanded notion of composition and responding directly to Shipka, Vanessa Kraemer Sohan (2015) recontextualizes these arguments through her observations and analysis of the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers. Teasing out the interconnectedness and inability to codify or standardize the relationship between material and human realities, she shows how such a stance ultimately empowers the creator (or, in the classroom, the writer) and leaves space for the previously excluded—especially the material—to play an integral and contingent role in the creation of meaning.

A small community in rural Alabama, Gee’s Bend was home to a network of quiltmakers whose creative methods did not “follow a prescribed pattern” but instead “puzzl[ed] over how to rework flour and fertilizer sacks, old work clothes, and factory remnants into quilts that serve both a practical purpose [ ... ] and a larger purpose” (Sohan, 2015, p. 295). Their juxtaposition of various and dissimilar material resources resulted in what Sohan calls “combinations that should not work but somehow do” (p. 297). Furthermore, these quilts were produced within and without the bounds of tradition as a means to reflect quiltmakers’ lives in their materials, to reinvent the genre of quilt-making by recognizing the ethos of their new and ever-changing methods, and to better represent the “semiodiversity within the space of one quilt” as well as others in the community (p. 303). Celebrated in art and other critical circles, these quilts radically showed (and continue to display) how, as bell hooks explains, “quilting traditions changed as the material circumstances of quiltmakers changed” (as cited in Sohan, 2015, p. 309), allowing these creations to follow no definable, set method of construction but, instead, to continue to rely on the interaction between the creator and her extant material realities.

Such observation and analysis of the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers prompts Sohan to assert that “we should listen to the semiodiversity of texts, rather than codifying or judging the formal elements of texts with enumerative categories based on a static understanding of particular traditions or standards” (p. 312). Additionally, she explains, offering a place to material culture in critical conversations can help students “blur and blend language, form, genre, and meaning in ways that push against the boundaries of academic discourse and, in the process, change how they consider the role of objects and writing in their lives” (p. 313). Here, we see Sohan, by way of the Alabaman quiltmakers, displaying how the integration and use of human and non-human resources can provide an expanded lens for critical analysis and can, as a result, aid students in their own understanding and creation of texts.

What we examine in the work of these New Materialist theorists is not necessarily exclusion or extinguishing of social constructivist pedagogies or empowerment-oriented classrooms but an expansion of ideas inaugurated by the social turn. Rather than relying solely on human agency to reverse oppressive ideologies, these theorists disrupt hegemony by remaining open to various forms of meaning, enacting—i.e. literally employing material resources to excavate new avenues of meaning—their theories to produce change.

Electracy

When we extend such acts of creation to accommodate online spaces—or the sites where meaning-making and dissemination are most rampant in digital culture—we must continue to explore our available modes of mediation. This brings us to the theory of electracy. The term “electracy” is a neologism devised by Gregory Ulmer, comprised of two words: “electricity,” to acknowledge our technology-infused world, and “trace,” as a nod to Derrida’s theorization of excluded meaning in the process of différance. In his book Internet Invention, Ulmer (2002) explains that electracy is an apparatus, or a “social machine,” and follows the apparatuses of orality and literacy (p. 4).

Ulmer, Gregory. (2008). Apparatus table [Graphic]

As seen in the table above, the previous two apparatuses operated in language-based modes: narrative and argument. In electracy, however, we see “figure,” which could be understood as the ineffable—that which cannot be understood through language, and that which, under the previous two apparatuses, was excluded.

Electracy embraces this excluded mode by way of chora, or what Ulmer (2002) calls “a space of mediation” (p. 100). In her book Participatory Composition, Sarah J. Arroyo (2013) describes chora, a term adapted from Plato’s Timaeus, as “an indeterminable space between being and becoming that, being neither intelligible nor sensible, evades conceptualization and must be ‘grasped’ by some sort of sensuous or, as Plato describes, ‘bastard’ reasoning” (p. 61). While some could argue that new materialists also “evade conceptualization,” as evidenced by the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers, their means of “grasping” become grounded (albeit temporarily) in material contingencies. Chora, on the other hand, evokes both the material and the immaterial (e.g. emotion, aleatory associations), creating a permanent hole in the creation of meaning and, thus, leading to “perpetual movement” (p. 65). In other words, in order for the composition of meaning to remain whole, one must create a theoretical hole that continuously challenges established norms, ushers in new standards, and repeats the cycle of what Gille Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1986) call territorialization, deterritorialization, and reterritorialization —or, put simply and (admittedly) reductively, construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction through remix.

Though electracy may be clothed in sophisticated theoretical concepts, its manifestations online appear to be less than “serious,” academic practices. Instead, with digital tools that allow for the manipulation of visual artifacts, electracy oftentimes materializes by way of memes, as evidenced in the creation of the “Tiny Trump” meme displayed below. What we see in these remixes, however, is something new; something that repeats through participation and sharing and, as a result, performs critique begun by social-epistemic rhetoric; something that takes the material and immaterial, blends and bends them until new meaning emerges. Thus, there is incredible creative and academic potential in electrate invention.

Heiman, John. (2017). Trump Saluting [Photograph]

Chung, Shauna. (2018). Trump Photoshop. [Photograph]

IAmJacksFutureBeard/Reddit. (2017). Tiny Trump Meme [Photograph].

In Practice

If we take this method and transpose it into the key of first-year composition, we might discover that these material and electrate practices transfer quite fluidly and engage students on a deeper level. For example, in my FYC classroom at California State University at Long Beach, I developed an assignment (provided in its entirety in Appendix A) which asked students to analyze viral hashtag campaigns and observe the social effects of these movements. Students examined a range of topics addressing the ramifications of the #IceBucketChallenge, #BlackLivesMatter, and #StarringJohnCho, #OscarsSoWhite, to name a few. They conveyed their analyses through video essays, producing original footage using material resources, remixing existing content online, creating scripts that they would narrate themselves, and setting everything to strategically timed music. Interestingly, though students were observers of these movements, locating the relationships between the participants, their social contexts, and the material conditions involved, they also became active participants through the production of their videos—an active voice in the issue they were critiquing. By virtue of their video being on a public platform like YouTube, other viewers—academic and non-academic alike—were able to access their works and see their individual assertions as part of a larger conversation through strategically applied tags (i.e. keywords that link videos to other works with similar keywords) attached to their videos.

Beyond this entry into a growing online database, however, was the student transformations. At the end of each semester, I asked students for feedback on my assignments, and a majority said that the video essay was their favorite, not because it was easier or “less academic” but because they felt challenged and liberated. Most acknowledged the difficulty of assembling a video and recognized that its many moving parts required planning, revision, and a significant amount of time. Yet, the sense of fulfillment (and even fun!) they had seeing their work take shape and being projected into cyberspace made these efforts worth their time and their writing all the more meaningful.

Conclusion

As evidenced by this example, the tenets of new materialism and electracy working in concert provide an even more (w)holistic view of FYC’s critical thinking Student Learning Outcome. Taking the new materialists’ aim to acknowledge and integrate nonhuman sources in the production and analysis of texts and linking it to the perpetually innovative and ineffable nature of electracy, composition scholars can continue to further the liberatory aims of critical pedagogy and, thus, encourage their students to develop a critical awareness that encompasses more of and intervenes actively in their world.

Notes

1. Originally published in 1968

2. The use of this parenthetical seeks to emphasize the dual nature of active student engagement: students intervene in social problems through civic engagement and become inventors of potential solutions using digital tools.

3. I use this term loosely since electracy and postprocess theories of composition operating in a similar vein resist the urge to solidify into an ordered pedagogy; instead, such theories are “more interested in questions and theories of writing not trapped by disciplinary expectations of the pedagogical” (Dobrin et al., 2011, p. 14).

4. Via James Wertsch, Shipka describes these material realities as “mediational means,” which are tools that mediate activity. She explains that “mediated action may be carried out by groups or individuals that may be external [ ... ] and/or internal” (p. 60). Incorporating mediational means from diverse and dissimilar sources “creates ‘a kind of imbalance in the systemic organization of mediated action,’ one that sets off changes in the agent and the mediated action more generally (43)” (p. 67).

5. In an electrate framework, one could understand the material as what Gregory Ulmer calls “extended analogy” (Arroyo, 2013, p. 66). Because chora exists ineffably, one gains insight into its nature via analogy, whether an evoked memory or a literal, material object. Thus, chora is never fully understood in a material sense but can be exemplified materially.

6. See “What is a Minor Literature?”

References

Arroyo, Sarah J. (2013). Participatory composition: Video culture, writing, and electracy. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Berlin, James. (2009). Rhetoric and ideology in the writing class. In Susan Miller (Ed.), The Norton book of composition studies (pp. 667-684). New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company.

Chung, Shauna. (2018). Trump Photoshop [Photograph].

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. (1986). Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Dobrin, Sidney I., Rice, J. A., and Vastola, Michael. (2011). Introduction: A new postprocess manifesto: A plea for writing. In Sidney I. Dobrin, J. A. Rice, and Michael Vastola (Eds.), Beyond Postprocess (pp. 1-18). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Freire, Paulo. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

George, Ann. (2014). Critical pedagogies: Dreaming of democracy. In Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper Taggart, Kurt Schick, and H. Brooke Hessler (Eds.), A guide to composition pedagogies (pp. 77-93). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

George, Diana, Lockridge, Tim, and Trimbur, John. (2014). Cultural studies and composition. In Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper Taggart, Kurt Schick, and H. Brooke Hessler (Eds.), A guide to composition pedagogies (pp. 94-110). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Heiman, John. (2017). Trump Saluting [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.breitbart.com/radio/2017/01/25/frank-gaffney-trump-restores-reagans-peace-through-strength-its-better-to-be-a-friend-of-the-u-s-than-an-enemy/

IAmJacksFutureBeard/Reddit. (2017). Tiny Trump Meme [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-globally/donald-trump-tiny-trump-memes-twitter-internet-reddit-users-tiny-trump-images-4531207/

Micciche, Laura R. (2014). Writing material. College English, 76(6), 488-505. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.clemson.edu/stable/24238199

Miller, Susan. (1997). Technologies of self?-formation, JAC 17(3), 497-500. JSTOR. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.clemson.edu/stable/20866157

Shipka, Jody. (2014). Beyond text and talk: A multimodal approach to first-year composition. In Deborah Coxwell-Teague and Ronald F. Lunsford (Eds.), First-year composition: From theory to practice (pp. 211-235). Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Shipka, Jody. (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Shor, Ira. (1999). What is critical literacy? Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism and Practice 1(4), 1-31. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.lesley.edu/jppp/vol1/iss4/2/?utm_source=digitalcommons.lesley.edu%2Fjppp%2Fvol1%2Fiss4%2F2&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages

Sohan, Vanessa Kraemer. (2015). But a quilt is more’: Recontextualizing the discourse(s) of the Gee’s Bend quilts. College English 77(4), 294-316. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.clemson.edu/docview/1661113073?pq-origsite=gscholar

Ulmer, Gregory. (2002). Internet invention: From literacy to electracy. New York, NY: Longman Publishers.

Ulmer, Gregory. (2008). Apparatus table [Graphic]. Retrieved from http://ulmer.networkedbook.org/the-learning-screen-introduction-electracy/

Appendix A

Entering a Viral Conversation

Essay Two: Opinion Piece

The CONTEXT + PURPOSE

In Essay 1, we focused on analyzing and reflecting upon the rhetorical choices of others, objectively observing how two different contexts frame and explicate the same subject matter. Essay 2 will build upon such an understanding of rhetoric in action but will expand in its analytical scope to include a first-person perspective. Doing so will put Unit 1’s “toolkit” into practice, providing an opportunity for us to become first-hand practitioners of ethos, pathos, and logos. The primary purpose of this assignment is to assert a well-argued opinion to a specific audience by entering an existing, viral conversation (“viral conversation” will be further defined in “The TASK”).

In addition to practically applying our developing understanding of rhetoric, we will also challenge the notion of “writing” in this second essay. Thus far in Unit 2, we’ve acknowledged that writing cannot be limited to analog, word processed documents. Our digital age remixes “writing” via various modes. Essay 2 will couple this nuanced view of writing with Unit 1’s toolkit in order to enhance our “means of persuasion.”

The TASK

In our lessons on sociocritical/metacognitive habits of mind, we acknowledged that language and meaning are socially constructed. Now, in Unit 2, we’ll see HOW people today construct meaning through participation.

In this “essay,” you will be examining a viral hashtag and arguing whether it is producing positive or negative social change. You will make this argument by rhetorically analyzing the campaign (i.e. the hashtag) itself--its aims (logos), evidence (ethos), and delivery (pathos)--and arguing for or against its effects on society (e.g. a specific group of people, a mentality, a behavior). The campaign must be VIRAL. In other words, it must have a history and cannot be a recent phenomenon with little to no participants. Additionally, it needs to involve some type of visible change in society. In other words, you cannot examine a hashtag that lacks influence.

You will perform this analysis and argument in the form of a video essay. Your job is not to produce a Hollywood-quality film. Do not mistake this assignment or this unit in multimodality as a filmmaking workshop. Rather, consider this as an exercise in integrating more modes (e.g. sounds, images, text) to create new avenues of meaning. You will not be graded on your video editing prowess. Instead, I will be looking to see how you strategically use your “available means” to enhance and drive your argument.

The PROCESS

As you produce your multimodal assignment, please follow these steps:

  1. First, locate a hashtag. As stipulated above, the hashtag must be or have gone viral and resulted in some type of societal change. Here are some websites to get you started: 10 Twitter Hashtags, Asian Americans, Power of the Hashtag, Viral Marketing. Feel free to find your own!
  2. Next, rhetorically analyze the movement. What are its aims (logos)? Who are the key players involved, and what type of evidence do they supply to back their movement (ethos/logos)? Who is the target audience, and how do participants backing the hashtag deliver their message (ethos/pathos)?
  3. Then, develop a stance based on your analysis in #2. In your opinion, did the logos, ethos, and pathos employed in the hashtag movement result in positive or negative social change? Why?
  4. Find 3 sources to back up your stance in order to bolster your argument. At least one of these sources must be a text-based article.
  5. Now, brainstorm ways to perform your argument in video format. Consider timing, juxtaposition, sequencing, audio levels, layering of sound, music, visual effects, transitions, and strategic use of text. How can you use these techniques to explain #2-4?
  6. Finally, perform your argument (i.e. “write” your video essay). NOTE: the essay must be multimodal. You cannot write a traditional, 5-paragraph essay for this assignment. Your multimodal essay will be accompanied by a written rationale that explicates your decisions before and during production.

The GUIDELINES

Format and Length

The content produced for this multimodal assignment must be the equivalent of 800-1000 words in a traditional essay. Videos should be in the 3-5 minute range.

Your written rationale should be a minimum of 300 words. It must clearly explain your stance (i.e. your main argument) and how you performed your argument using multiple modes (e.g. images, sounds, juxtapositions, etc.).

Your drafting process will involve three components: 1) Essay 2 Check, 2) Storyboard, 3) Peer review.

  • For your Essay 2 Check, you will provide your hashtag, 3-sentence summaries of at least two sources, and a working thesis in a shared google document.
  • For your Storyboard, you will expand on your Essay 2 Check but will also include the following in at least 300 words:
  1. Organization of main paints (i.e. a written outline of your argument)
  2. Tentative visual/aural metaphors (i.e. descriptions/links to the photos, videos, and music that you plan to use in your video essay).
  3. Links to your sources (or, if you have time, a Works Cited page).
  • Your peer review session will involve an in-class “Braintrust” a la Pixar where you will pitch ideas to two classmates. They will offer you at least three strengths and three weaknesses of your current writing/video editing plan.
Expectations (also the grading rubric) A successful video essay will
  • Be thesis-driven, clearly taking a stance on the effects of your selected hashtag movement.
  • Contextualize the hashtag, explaining its history and summarizing its aims.
  • Rhetorically analyze the movement by showing how hashtag participants use ethos, pathos, and logos to get their message across.
  • Identify the target audience of the hashtag.
  • Be cohesive and focused in its delivery and organization.
  • Be supported with at least 3 credible sources, one of them being a text-based source.
  • Produce the equivalent of 800-1000 words worth of content in the video.
  • Demonstrate effective use of the medium’s available means (e.g. juxtaposition, sound effects, transitions).
  • Be accompanied by a written rationale that clearly explicates your argument and rhetorical choices.
  • Adhere to MLA format (+ conventions of Standard English) and deadlines.
  • Includes a Works Cited page (“credits” in MLA format)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Provenance: 

This text was accepted for publication after an anonymous peer review process.

Publication date: 

2019-05

Issue: 

Caroling Rhetoric Conference 2019

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