**In my previous post, I shared a music video called ‘Jed’s Other Poem’, which got some really great responses in the comments. I decided to repost a part of my response from there as its own post to get more eyes on it, and because it relates to a conversation some of us were having in class last week. I also recommend checking out the comment discussion on that post though, so you can see others’ excellent contributions. This particular response followed Mike’s comment about whether computer code should be considered text, since its intention is not to be read, but to be run.**

That’s a really great point about the function of code. It makes me think of reading sheet music; the desired effect and meaning is the music itself, an audio performance, but at the same time a person who knows how to read it can get a general sense of the piece by just looking at the written notes. Someone who is familiar with the particular coding language may be able to get a sense of the program just from reading the code, though the intended/desired effect is likely the actual running program. This brings me back to the aesthetic aspect. Certainly sheet music and musical notes are used decoratively, for aesthetic and rhetorical purposes, often by those who can’t actually read them at all (and they may be appreciated by readers/audiences who can’t truly “read” them either). Here’s an example:

meta note dress
The notes on this dress are not meant to be read or played, but appreciated aesthetically, and for their rhetorical associations (culture, the arts, elegance perhaps?). I don’t read music myself, so I can’t say whether the notes on the dress are gibberish or not; it’s entirely possible they were taken from an actual piece of music, deliberately or randomly chosen. Still, their primary intended purpose here is NOT to be read as a text or a language, but to be viewed as an image. the same may be said for the code in Jed’s Other Poem; since you don’t see the complete code, and the program has already run so you know what it does, the code’s purpose seems more image-based and aesthetic.
This brings me back to another point some of us discussed (when the class split in two), the blurred line between what is text/word and what is image. I am a particular fan of visual art that incorporates text, a great example being Tracey Emin’s neon signs and quilts. Here’s some more pictures!

emin sign

emin quilt

How do you evaluate things like this as written text? As a visual image? As a physical artifact? This is why so many of us seemed to agree with Prior’s response to Kress in indicating that his distinctions between modes were inaccurate and almost arbitrary, suggesting instead that multimodality “is better pursued through more complex and less certain classifications”. I certainly agree with that assessment; the delineations between modes and their individual affordances are at the most blurry and at the least non-existent.

I feel the need to come to some conclusion here about how we SHOULD think about modes, multimodality, and affordances, but I definitely don’t have that conclusion. Just more food for thought, I guess.


Jed’s Other Poem; A Study in Multiple Modes


I’m not sure what I want to say about this yet, but I know I want to share it. It’s giving me a lot to think about regarding modes of composition. To create this video, a simple computer program was written to move the cursor and type the lyrics with appropriate timing for the song. The program was written and run on a vintage Apple II computer (one of many deliberate rhetorical choices). Near the end of the video, the computer actually displays all of the code for the program that has just run. This is the part that is fascinating me the most, the exposed medium. Here’s a rundown of some of the modes being used in this one short video:

audio: instruments, vocals, lyrics

visual: video recording of Apple II computer, computer program

artifact: 1979 Apple II computer, compatible program

textual: selected song lyrics (in running program), program code

How do we think about computer code as composition? Is it textual or a mode of its own? I’ll need to look into that more; someone must have written about it somewhere, right?

Revival: a proposal for the future of this blog

For this class, I am choosing to revive the blog I started for ENG817. I’ve renamed the blog “Exploring Composition: thoughts on writing and the teaching of writing.” While I intend for this to continue to be an academic-based blog in which I will reflect on material covered in class, it will also include thoughts (reflections, ideas, inspirations, questions, etc) about composition in general, based on my personal experiences and on other class work. My goal for this blog will be to collect ideas, resources, and questions about writing in one place, so I may revisit it often as I continue exploring various issues in composition in both my academic and personal lives. I also hope to use the blog to make connections, and to track the evolution of my perception of writing and teaching writing, possibly even the evolution of my own writing itself.

At the moment, I expect my primary audience to be this class and myself, which I am perfectly happy with. It absolutely supports my goals to use this blog as tool for self-reflection and for gathering the thoughts and opinions of my classmates. However, I hope that in the future this blog may have interest to others as well. This may just be any anonymous browser who happens to have an interest in composition and wants to see someone else’s thoughts on the subject, it may be a teacher who is looking for ideas on how to innovate their approach to writing and who is looking for a fresh perspective. Particularly though, I think this blog could be useful to me in the future as an addition to a writing portfolio, teaching philosophy, or digital CV. Explaining your ideas and approaches to a broad topic like composition can be complex, and having this document to point to for future co-workers, collaborators, or potential employers could make that explanation simultaneously simpler and more nuanced.

When I first developed this blog in ENG 817, my classmates began similar blogs. Looking back at them, there are many similarities between their blogs and my own. They are academic in nature, considering issues relating to the teaching of composition in a reasoned and academically-minded way. They also have a slightly informal touch to the mostly formal content; serious academic issues are interspersed with relevant personal anecdotes and occasionally a light, joking tone. These are in many ways qualities I intend to maintain in my own blog, an academic approach in an informal voice, but there are also place I plan to diverge. These blogs are very course-centered; each post is a response to a prompt, reading, or issue raised in class. I want to broaden the scope of my blog to explore ideas about writing (both the teaching AND the doing of writing) wherever I encounter them. This will, of course, include responding to issues raised in Digital Writing, but it will also include things I might want to address from another class I’m taking, Creative Writing Pedagogy & Theory. I edit a literary magazine, Mock Orange Magazine, which I expect to discuss in my blog. I’m a big fan of video games, and will likely talk about the development of digital narratives there. I like making and crafting objects, and would like to explore more deeply ideas about composition as making.  There are a thousand ways that ideas relating to composition pop up in my life, and while I plan to have an essentially academic approach, I hope to address all of those many and varied issues in this blog.

I plan to hold myself to an absolute minimum of one post per week, though I strongly suspect I will exceed that. To extrapolate on that goal, I’d like to shoot for at least one post of significant length per week, with “significant length” being at least three written paragraphs. Other posts can be shorter, perhaps even just links or video clips with minimal commentary, but I want to be sure I’m keeping some log of my progress by periodically doing some more in-depth reflection. I aim to complete those written reflection posts on Fridays or Saturdays, as that will allow me some time to reflect on issues raised in my courses on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Tools for Writing

So I may have (sadly) missed the first digital writing class, but I’m doing my best to dive into things, starting with this video response to some of the prompt questions. Specifically, I chose to think about “who gets to be a writer?” and “what does it mean to write?”

The final point I come to here is about the need for tools to facilitate writing; I’d like to clarify that by “tools” I don’t just mean the physical materials of writing (pen, paper, computer, typewriter, camera, copy machine, whatever). I also think literacy is a tool, education is a tool, opportunity is a tool. There are all kinds of things–tangible and intangible–that can encourage and facilitate writing if you have them, and can be major roadblocks if you don’t. It’s something I want to think more about as we look at different ways of creating writing in this class. What tools are needed? Who has access to those tools? Who doesn’t? How can we increase access, for ourselves or for others (like students)?

Word Clouds!

So I just discovered Wordle, which lets you paste in text or link to a website or blog and it quickly creates a word cloud based on the text used. It’s really neat! I wonder if this might make a cool and useful visual for teaching philosophies: you can easily see what kind of things you are emphasizing by looking at which words show up most prominently. Seems like a quick easy way to add a visual, I thought you all might want to try it out!

This word cloud is based on my blog for this class:
Wordle: Teaching Composition Blog

Multimodal and Digital Teaching Philosophies

So I’ve been thinking about the concept of a multimodal/digital teaching philosophy and what exactly that might look like. We’ve looked at quite a few digital tools throughout this course, but I worry about using digital tools too arbitrarily. I’ve been trying to figure out what tools can be used to really contribute to and enrich a teaching philosophy in a meaningful and practical way. I can’t say I’ve drawn any conclusions yet, but I though I’d share with you some of the examples I’ve found while browsing the internet in search of answers. Some of these are clearly better than others, but I think the bad examples can be as useful as the good ones, so we have an idea of what we might want to avoid.

I’d love to get some comments from people about your thoughts on these. Which ones work? Which ones don’t? Why? Do any of them look like something you would want to use? Are they practical and innovative or just novel and cute?

Prezi presentations:





Videos & Animation:



Alphabetic with embedded elements:
(some of these are also good examples of teachers’ professional websites)





I was surprised to find this teacher chose a wiki format for her class and professional information. Do you think it works?


Meaningful Writing Projects

My most meaningful writing project was a poetry portfolio I created in an undergraduate poetry workshop. This project was meaningful for both the process and the product. It was the first time I participated in a writing workshop and the process of having my work critiqued by both the class and the professor collaboratively was so useful and informative. I learned so much about how my writing was being received by readers and what I needed to work on to make my writing stronger. I also learned a lot about what was already strong in my writing. The other meaningful part of the project was the product, the final portfolio I created. It was a themed collection of poetry I had worked on throughout the semester, and I was very proud of both the work I put into it and the positive feedback I received from my professor, whose opinion I highly respected. Seeing my work collected and praised provided a huge boost to my confidence in my writing, and even to this day I sometimes reflect on that experience when I feel self-conscious or have doubts about my abilities.

I was torn between writing about two different meaningful writing projects, so I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity to blog about my other one as well. This one was quite different, an analytical research paper*, but also represented a new experience that was really meaningful for me. It began as just another research paper for a lit class, Shakespeare II, but it was one I particularly enjoyed writing. I was nearing the end of my undergrad program and was thinking about applying to grad school, but I knew my application would need something extra to make it stronger, so I decided to submit my paper to the Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference. The entire process of preparing for the conference was new to me. Starting with my simple 8-page assignment, I partnered with my favorite lit professor who advised me on where I could develop the paper further; I developed an abstract to submit to the conference which conveyed the purpose of my paper; I did much more in-depth research on my topic than I previously had the opportunity to do; and I took the more-developed version of my paper and boiled it down to an abridged version that I could present in the 10 minutes I would be allotted at the conference. The conference itself was also an exciting experience. All the students who were presenting and a few sponsoring faculty members met early in the morning and drove out to UMass Amherst together in rented vans. A group of other girls and I, all English majors, spent most of the day hanging out together in the school cafeteria talking about our papers, looking over each others’ work, and commiserating about how nervous we were. It was really exciting to feel like a contributing member of a large and active academic community, and the whole experience was like a glimpse into the world of professional academia. It did so much for my desire to pursue the study of literature at a higher level, I really feel as though this project was a first step in a direction I expect to follow for a long time.


*Note: the citations in this version are incomplete!