Remixing composition: a History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy


“…it appears almost unthinkable that an English teacher could look past the errors in an alphabetic text to focus mostly on responding to the ideas…” (Palmeri, 2012; 96).

Initial summary and response is for me, overwhelmingly positive. Palmeri acknowledges biases, angles from the start. As might be implied from the title, he ‘creates’ the history of multimodal pedagogy stating how all histories are rhetorical, built. In my American Studies class we discuss under the realm of modernism “prosthetic memories” or a folding of the present into the past to live both places. Palmeri makes a point to make clear his own angle while breaking down the perspective of multimodal as ‘new’ or tied to certain technologies.

Sometimes I respond with a giant eye-roll when we get to base with definitions (all things were pop culture once, or writing itself is writing technology) however with Palermi’s book I enjoy it immensely because I want to incorporate multimodal but don’t always know how. When we view modes as talking about what we wrote or incorporated relevant visuals with our research paper, well, it makes it much more accessible to me. I’ve take out some of the actively multimodal projects this semester because prior semesters, I wasn’t sure what I was doing or if it was really productive work for the students.

Finally, I really could just do an admiring agreement session with Palmeri over a bottle of wine. Of course there isn’t one pedagogy fits all: “our goal should not be to choose one pedagogy over another, but rather to consider how we can recombine them – remix them – in ways that can enable us to develop a more nuanced and complex view of what it means to teach composition in the contemporary digital moment” (Palmeri, 2012; 15). It’s amazing to me how much this idea is resisted. Upon completed English 501 at WSU fall 2013, I assumed the point of reading all the different theorists in composition was to realize that there wasn’t one right answer and no one had figured it out perfectly. It’s not possible; there are too many variables and we are not static, though sometimes education structure/administration sure seems like it might be. And on that last note, in discussion the book with a new graduate student/colleague, I realize he’s written in a way that requires a lot of outside knowledge. That is, before getting my master’s, a lot of the people he references, the way they converse with each other or contradict, would have absolutely no meaning. Because I know the names and the types of issues the author’s he references tends to tackle, I follow. Another topic for this all-topic final paragraph, revisiting ‘remixing.’ Once again  American Studies crosses over with the discussion piece “Everything is a Remix.” Another conversation outside of class on the issues of reading all the composition journal articles from 1970’s Berlin, Shaughnessy to present, is the idea of somehow getting it right finally or that we aren’t merely doing the same teaching but in a teaching ‘outfit’ if you will. Palmeri also addresses this in his section(s) on multimodal projects and teaching used to reinforce the current-traditional.


Questions for Palmeri:

In your experience do you encounter active resistance, indifference, intimidation, or laziness for teachers not incorporating multimodality in their courses?

Is the idea that no one theory nails it really so radical?

You don’t quite outright condemn multimodality to reinforce or return to current-traditional standards, but basically you do. I wonder, while I agree with the need for change and not reinforcing the traditional, is it such a bad thing if teachers teach multimodally for the current-traditional (or the expectations of academia)?

Or, how much assimilation is too much?

And, is multimodal associated with the dominant discourse hurting its revolutionary cause/objectives?

2 Reading Response

The following entries are from Multimodal Composition: A Critical Sourcebook edited by Claire Lutkewitte. You can view my visual representation of how the articles hang together here.

NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies (17-21)

Multimodal literacies are increasing important because of the ubiquity of knowledge, sure, but ultimately is and has always been important for optimum ways of knowing because we cannot possibly all learn the same way. It’s difficult to grade, teach, and incorporate into a composition classroom and at the same time it just makes sense to be a part of how we teach. Multimodality demands more of the creator/writer because aspects like visual design would have previously been done by an expert in that field.

1) Dene Gregar         2) hypertext concoction         3)online interactive

4) thingy from Professor Mike Edwards’ class   5) What are multimodal literacies?

Claire Lauer, “Contending with Terms: ‘Multimodal’ and ‘Multimedia’ in the Academic and Public Spheres” (22-41)

I especially appreciate the immediate clarification of multimodal versus multimedia, as I’ve wonder about  that for a while and have noticed that multimodal definitely seemed to be an in-house thing. And then I appreciated the piece’s priority in elaborating on the differences. As deep thinkers and lovers of words, it is necessary for further study and exploration to find the best word or words to get at meaning; as rhetoricians it is necessary to use the language of the masses to effectively communicate.

1) Cynthia Selfe 2) Anne Wysocki 3 &4)multi: multimedia versus modal 5) semiotics

Geoffrey Sirc, “The Still-Unbuilt Hacienda” (42-61)

Sirc is referencing “retro” or old-fashioned, or maybe hippie ways of teaching as a feeling of home in the classroom that allows for a compelling learning environment where students don’t want to leave. I like his address of this as part of the aesthetic, as modes, not entertaining our students to be liked but real engagement. Perhaps I’m being a bit nit-picky as I grapple with half-understood terms (the sublime for example) but I’m wondering about his title. I suppose hacienda is implied, but I think I missed it in all the happening. And, as how we represent ourselves in language is very (sometimes/often politically) charged – I was hoping for a discussion on the word choice of ‘hacienda.’

Happenings 2) aesthetics 3) Bartholomae 4) the sublime 5) Hacienda

Kathleen Blake Yancey, “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” (62-88)

First, I like that Yancey has a visually interesting or designed (or I should say, somewhat less common in academia word/visual design) text and that we finally have multiple modes put together in this book on multimodality. I’m wondering about her use of ‘quartet.’ It bothers me actually. As a musician I feel she’s misusing it to seem cool – but maybe when the speech was being delivered there were four different players involved: powerpoint, audio of voice, the writing she wrote and….? Ultimately her call to action does indeed, need to be dramatic. She’s asking a lot as I’ve found trying to implement multimodality into the classroom.

1)Yancey Bio 2) online/digital portfolios 3) Deixis

New London Group, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures”(193-217)

Prior to reading the first readings, I would have said multimodal has the same “felicitous ambiguities” of design that this chapter begins with. But design as semiotics is interesting to me, though I will very quickly follow up interesting with, wait, what? Semiotics, like the dialectic before it, for me is not quite comprehensible. I think on the one hand it isn’t such a complex idea, but there seem to be subtleties about it that I don’t get yet (that took me a while, several explanations and attempts at application, to get about the dialectic). Design as

First notes on semiotics explanations for me.
First notes on semiotics explanations for me.

applied to linguistics seems at first (and maybe still after reading) a bit like a trick or academics remaking words and definitions, but I find it helpful for thinking about how to apply mutli-modes-literacies. Looking at making sentences and papers as a design makes it seem more plausible to add and grade multimodal assignments.

Diana George, “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing” (218-232)

A picture is worth a thousand words – and/or is more efficient. I get that, though I think the obvious immediate argument is that it’s not a matter of art or communication that happens visually, and not in text, as less than, rather that it’s different and composition would be teaching the mode of text writing. But of course, as this article brings up, reading, text is visual communication. And the information we come into contact with on a regular basis now almost always has some “visuals” along with the text.

1)  Africa representation

1st Reading Response, Engl591

Anxiety and gray matter
Anxiety and gray matter

I’m represented with the crazy, fuzzy, eyeballs. The gray balloon is the gray matter that is ideas, arguments, and intersections of theory, among other things. There’s different links and trails to writing and other things, including the anxiety I have about getting started and performing for audiences, and mediums used (part of an old floppy, posted for paper). You can click on the photo to view a larger version.

Answering Doctor Arola’s questions on our first multimodal:

Frustrating – I have to dwell on a thing that causes anxiety.

I did feel constrained by the materials but really, I’m shit at visual design. Rather than trying to improve myself in this regard, I just want to give up. My visual mind is chaos – see my creation, or my office, or my assortment of art on my walls at home.

Linguistic – writing would’ve been easier – ‘cause that’s how I’m best


A more recent development in my writing process/relationship is anxiety and expectation. I’m slowly identifying and breaking it down to return to my origins – writing cause I like it, to explore and ponder and understand. I write well under pressure – it seems that’s really when the good stuff comes along – but then I feel, in almost every case, that what I turn in by said deadline was really only beginning.

It’s like writing is my longtime lover and I’m trying to bring new things into the bedroom and also terribied the relationship will fail. Lovers make you feel amazing and also


Writing feels more familiar and comfortable to me but I feel constrained by the perceived approval or disapproval of my audience. It’s my easiest way to communicate but I’m not particularly happy with what I wrote.


I’m not sure about the word “relationship” to writing as opposed to the more common, what is my writing process?