Running Compositions

Final project for English 591, December 2015, with Professor Kristin Arola

Running Compositions

Edited by Edie-Marie Roper

The pitch that I started with that came from an earlier multimodal exercise ended up morphing quite a bit as I actually got into the work on collecting my data.

Composed Composing Data

Running Into Views


A Running Composition: on process and ongoing endeavors

Not Quite Up and Running, or, ‘Coming Soon!’

Running Smarts. The podcast that I’ve been wanting to start, have, and maintain for four or so years now is finally coming to be. I love podcasts so much I wanted to make one. But among other barriers, all my ideas sucked. Until now.

“Audioethnography and The Word,” will be one of the chapters to my dissertation. I may or may not be able to include a multimodal element as part of my dissertation but even if I can’t (because of rules, committee [dis]approval, or lack of cohesion with the rest of the work) it will still serve a concept chapter and as an element of my patching runner blogging and now blossoming runner podcast.


Process is something difficult to grade or assess as a teacher and yet, that is where all the fun happens. But it is messy as hell. That is why, as Rhodes and Alexander suggest, we most compose multimodally ourselves in order to teach with it. We cannot teach solely on product and we cannot recognize productive struggle if we haven’t done it ourselves.

My contributors dragged their feet at first (mostly metaphorically, actually) or, converging schedules was a problem (I could only get one or two interviews per Beer-chasing Wednesday). But then a flood of GPS imagery came in, which I asked for after only a few, trickling in volunteers to do running interviews. Data is fun but doesn’t always transfer easily, or at all. And then more people could and wanted to do interviews after all, which was sort of a relief – I could focus on the community and multiple perspectives rather than relying on my own stories and perspectives to entertain and cover it all. Editing takes longer than it seems like it’s going to. I mean, even when I was on a roll, lost in the work, I’d come up for air and four hours had gone by for editing down 5-15 minute episodes out of 30-40 minute interviews. That is why my own audioethnography parts are half-mangled mess files on my computer as are the Running Smarts episodes. And don’t even get me started on the interview I lost. Hurts. So. Much.

None of this would even be happening if it weren’t for the readings teasing out, defining, and redefining what multimodality even is (cite). And Jodi Shipka’s book, Toward a Composition Made Whole, made teaching multimodality accessible and grading, or checking in at least, on process possible. I had pretty much given up on teaching with multimodality but now I not only want to try again, but I can see mutlimodality and inevitably already present in our alphabetic-text focused education. I can see it making tangible for my students what I mean when I talk about language and power, and how we ought not take it for granted. I once had an opportunity to study abroad and one of my mentors talked about how I would remember it, it would affect me and change me all my life, even if only in subtle ways. And one of my other mentors/professors put us out in the city to learn global leadership, because it wasn’t something that we could learn in depth in the classroom. I think multimodality can do that for critical thinking and language and power – through struggle and intense interaction, layered experiences, there is a nuanced depth of learning that can and should happen.




The Pitch & The Pace

The Pitch & The Pace

If we intend to teach with multimodal projects we need to also create multimodal projects – so here we are.

I am terrible at design. The worst.

I am also really uncoordinated and this is one of the things about me that made me a runner. It’s a sport that usually requires minimal coordination, minimal multitasking.

Meanwhile, I love music, podcasts, sound-based communication of knowledge and emotion.

This is what I came up with:

“Call for Pacers

I’m making a podcast about the non-traditional ways we learn and teach concepts and critical thinking. And running. Over the years as I’ve ran with friends, I realized that I’ve learned a lot about life. Running helps me sort through my life, de-stress, process college courses, and let the thought-reel run its course, while I run my course. And when I run with my GPS watch and heart-rate monitor I get all this data, I compose (sort of write), record and create something as I run.

So I want to interview you on my podcast about either:

Concepts you’ve learned through running or while running that applied other places


What do you think of your GPS watches as a composition? How does looking at the data tell a story as well as how long, far, and fast you went? When and why do you run without it? (or do you?)

Or both!

I have a special microphone to wear and record the interview as we go for a run together, but a traditional sit-down interview is also possible. Contact me for more info.”

Example 1 Screenshot 2015-11-09 13.14.36 Screenshot 2015-11-09 13.15.15I want to explore running as a way of knowing and I like the versatility for the audience in podcasts and podcasts is one of the ways I learn new things, particularly things outside of my field. A lot of podcasts have websites with visuals of some kind available – sometimes it’s mostly a home for the mp3, sometimes it’s complimentary to go with, sometimes it’s merely a transcript of the words being heard. All this is to say, they are always multimodal.

Runterviews Modes and Structure


I will interview other runners to see how and when and if they’ve had experiences of knowing and something a bit less academic-y: the GPS watch as a composition and in general, scrutinizing its role in runner’s life. I have already completed one run-terview.



Sample soundbite – this is a recording of a recording so the quality is not representative of what the end product will sound like.

I ask, “how many years have you been running?”


I’m going to have a section examining my process all along the way. I’ve already recorded some on process.

As I discovered on my process recording run on Wednesday, November 4th, it’s empowering to think about my running as a way of knowing – Freire’s concept of the Word, versus the World.

*I’m bad at math. I’ve been running for 18 years, not 12.

I think that exploring multimodality and my own way of knowing would help me to successfully implement multimodality for my students and to be a better teacher.

I’m also working on putting together the idea and/or story, of how running is the thing that is most present in my life that was also a part of my life when I was younger, and a devout Mormon. Writing, running, and music are the things that carried over to my post-mormon era. If this doesn’t come together in time for the final project it’s still working toward my dissertation in some fashion.

I plan to have complimentary visuals to go along with my podcast that is also spatially oriented. If you are familiar with Linda Russo’s work you will recognize parts of the structure: mapped, hyperlinked paragraph



Beer Chasers is a community of runners from all different fields, not unlike an English 101 classroom or a WAC course. Yet we come together under the common love of beer and running (sometimes mostly the former). We have a facebook group, we keep stats, and ultimately are collaboratively creating multimodal works.

How might the model of Beer Chasers be applied to a WAC course to do more than use multimodality to learn standard practices, but to come up with new ones?

Additionally, podcasts have become the TIVOed radio for getting audio information or entertainment. If video killed the radio store, then its spirit has taken over the digital airwaves. I never thought I’d listen to stories like people used to pre-television, but I do. My favorite is I never thought I’d listen to The Brain Science Podcast or learn about science literacy and skepticism through The Skeptics Guide to The Universe. Yet now it’s how I get a lot of my science news information. Further, podcasts have been used for change; in the Mormon community, John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories Podcast ultimately led to him being ex-communicated but not before educating a lot of Mormons about the inaccuracies of church history they learned and making a case for Gay rights as the right thing to do as a good Mormon.

So, how can podcasts inform, persuade, and shake the status quo?


And finally, running is a way I have learned and made sense of the world. I will talk about this more but I’m out of time.

Reading Response 9

Technology has become a necessary literacy for success in higher education – a functional literacy. Functional literacy doesn’t have to mean, shouldn’t mean it’s not scholarly. In fact critical literacy very much applies to technology and Selber breaks down the ways and relationships students have with technology. For me it is not unlike studying language via linguistics to unravel the language and power relationship. Or, when working-class background academics argue for the knowledge and cultural values gained from this background. Critical literacy then potentially implements knowledges like this in the classroom for use and for analysis.

Selber’s chapter three is a detailed look at critical literacy as applied to computers, technology use. I particularly liked the critically literate student in the parameters of institutional forces from Table 3.1: “A critically literate student understands the institutional forces that shape computer use” (96). In my English 101 class students have different preferences for their composing tools. Some buy into the older generations critique of technology as bad: we can’t spell, write full sentences, and therefore can’t think critically. Selber brings the critical thought to the tools we must use for at least part of the composing process, as well as thinking about the tools we might, or potentially must use for multimodal composing and assignments. Without using critical literacy toward technology as Selber does, I think we’ll have a difficult time successfully assigning technology laden multimodal projects.

Explaining How There Came to Be Beer Stats

Part 3 – the final installment of reading response 7

After reading chapters one through four of Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, I have some additional insights to my most recent analytical reflection post on my running mode and community. The most significant is how much the social is stressed in Kress’ book on multimodality. Using previous works we’ve read, the social influence is usually acknowledged in some fashion, but not at the forefront as with Kress.

My running community formed from people who like to communicate and represent themselves with beer, running, and fun. My running community grew in a small college town, primarily of various scientists, academics, and parents. We have nearly pro-level runners sometimes and we have lots of neurotically and  competitively driven  personalities. The group started as an escape, a pick-me-up on hump day, a combination of two loves, running and beer. It is still these things but the competitive, analytical,  lovers of information that actually represented, or produced the group (and distributed…aaaalll the things), informed the communication and representation of the group.

We started keeping stats. Running stats (pretty normal, really). And beer stats. We put the serious on the silly and in turn the silly made our seriousness seem less serious.