7.1 Kress and His Book

Part 1

In the first four chapters of Gunther Kress’book, Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, he walks us through an introduction and need for social semiotics; the social environment as pertains to power, meaning, and creation; and also ways of knowing and learning, overlapping with previous ideas of motivation and effectiveness. The initial concept of social semiotics seems a bit redundant, not unlike social linguistics, but the depth at which he looks at social for meaning-making, power, and change is quite compelling. I don’t think it’s really possible “to bring all means of making meaning together under one theoretical roof, as part of a single field in a  unified account, a unifying theory,” (5) but perhaps in trying we accomplish something. One thing is for certain, that there are specific ways of knowing and expressing that have underserved power, and continuing to look at ways of knowing separately is not likely to change this.

To say social semiotics or social linguistics seems a bit ridiculous if you study either of the fields at all – when would they ever be not social. Synthetic/artificial languages, maybe (but then think about …nope).  To clarify that semiotics would be social is redundant, and yet, like sociolingistics, necessary. Research from the scientific realm tends to be reductive, as I am learning more fully about in my interdisciplinary seminar. It needs to be for certain discoveries. To understand language or the way we signify things, it is necessary to reduce, look at the small parts, analyze. The trouble is, we seem to have gotten stuck in the space, unable or unwilling to take the information from analytic, reductive views, and put it together with the operating whole for real knowledge. An idea that Kress kind of agree with, as he argues the line between knowledge and information definitions is increasingly hazing.

This haze is the creation of change, a natural state that we tend to resist. Not only are signs, modes, knowledge, social made, they are socially changed. They change with utilization of new technology, with wars and new conquering ideology that say what is a isn’t okay to communication (or how). “Being social,” Kress writes, “the conditions for representation and communication change with changing social conditions; at the same time, representation and communication constantly change social conditions, though each differently so” (52). We ‘re’ present as communication ‘re’ constructs, Kress writes. And more important for trying to get at power, and real changes for better learning and communicating, these push and pull changes steeped in the social are the ideologies shaping the theoretical frame. I think Kress would argue it’s time for a new ideology in order to change the theoretical frame to better fit the world, the modes, we are actually working with.

Metadata tags:


nucleus of meaning and other self-stupefying moments (also bad signs),

bad signs,

the problems that occur when you don’t include the social,

and Gunther   Kress

The Second is First: reading response seven in Parts

The prompt wanted me to look at one of my multimodals with Kress and Van Leeuwen, then with Kress’ multimodal and semiotics book. So I decided to do so without reading the second, first; I wanted to keep my application from influence to see…just to see.

Part 2

Discourse, design, production, distribution

As mentioned in class, seems a natural connection to Invention, Style, Arrangement, and delivery.

The following applies these concepts to my multimodal post about my GPS watch and running community.

Leeuwen and Kress’ definition of discourse really threw me; how could discourse not be about the conversation? I really struggled to understand it and apply it. But now, perhaps because I did that work to understand it, it seems to apply quite perfectly to the running tools and community I participate in. The topic, the data, the knowledge is there without us talking about it. Running to some extent is natural, intuitive. And humans are social creatures and learn socially so it only makes sense that we would run together sometimes. And the information, how far, how fast, how long (and how much beer) exists before we utter anything. It exists whether we record it or not. But we do and that is the discourse practice.

The design behind our data follows the tradition of the hard sciences and has alphabetic and images to communicate the info (charts, graphs). Arguably design is another discourse for us as we all have different ways of running, different brands or models of GPS watches. In all cases design is communicating something: scientific but fun (or perhaps poking fun at our scientifically driven lives), amount of money invested for a training watch, triathlete or not (based on watch model), and levels of competitiveness. The design of our running group also becomes material, production and distributed, when we order our shirts that always say, “Run and Be Hoppy” on them somewhere. More through collaboration, production, have we come to be the data driven entities that we are.

Production of our data is a physical labor, transferring and transforming the information from our bodies to the satellites and chronometers and back. We transfer the information from our watch to the paper. Later it is transferred once more when our fearless but never beerless leader and computer scientist puts it into the website, coding and algorithms to analyze and interpret our data.  Production is always multimodal: utilizing and shifting design, the mode of conversation, applied discourse, sourced ultimately from discourse as Kress and Leeuwen have defined it.

Distribution is also what connects us. Who is closest to getting into the keg club? Who ran the most? Who is training for a race? The distribution gives a new way of seeing what we could communicated, or distributed differently. We are able to connect and stay connected with a much larger group of people because of distributing our stats on the internet.

Reading Rhodes and Alexander

Part 1

multimodal of remixing - group effort
multimodal of remixing – group effort






Part 2

On Multimodality: New Media in Composition Studies

Alexander and Rhodes also call up Sirc’s ‘Happening’ in their text on multimodality (like Palmeri that we read previously, and part of Sirc’s book on ‘Happening’). However, I gleaned from this book that it wasn’t so much about calling up Sirc’s concept  of Happening exactly, it’s more about how his concept and ‘hippie’ scenarios allow from the non-traditional, doesn’t favor written text for writing and knowledge. Multimodality doesn’t really seem to me that they are going for the borderline spiritual in its complex experience. Multimodality seems more practical – or perhaps really what I mean is that it is in use almost everywhere – despite disparate levels of access. The immediacy of technology, the ubiquity of it, makes it so it seems ridiculous to not include multimedia/modality in our classrooms. The Happening aspect is that we don’t stifle other ways of knowing and that we recognize “ourselves as ‘irreducibly complex’ “ (202).

Complexity, obviously, is quite difficult. Alexander and Rhodes ask: “How do we expand our gaze to include multiple perspectives? How might we deploy an even celebrate our ‘permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints?’ “ (200). These identities and contradictory standpoints are apparent in a variety of case studies, one that they mention is “Cho” the Virginia Tech shooter and the aftermath of that experience. In addition to it being an example of how immediacy effects texts and information now, an interesting contradiction or pull away from emphasis on grammar arose in the comments on “Cho.” In the first peer review in my class this semester (and really every semester so far) the intensity with which grammar is used to judge writing as “good” is apparently. Yet when a blogger noted that Cho’s writing was juvenile or bad – the backlash of the blogger missing what was really important, the content. I guess what I’m getting at, is despite the horrific scenario, it’s fantastic to have people prioritizing content over mechanics and grammar. I want so badly to get my students on board with this – though without this kind of tragedy. But then of course it always comes back to the responsibility of preparing students for their other classes.

More and more I realize, it isn’t really that many people in English that are pushing the current tradition – when they do it is because they are responding to the expectations of outside departments: ‘fix the students writing to appease my standards.’ I think that we will never solve or be able to fully integrate multimodality so long as the sciences (with all their funding) prioritize certain ways of knowing and communicating. And breaking that down is difficult indeed as they seek to be easily translatable, “objective,” or concise. It’s hard to get people engaged  enough to realize the contradictory standpoint of scientific writing being objective (more like, it has an objective).

The way to get at these issues, audience awareness, using and not using multimodality in my English 101 class, is the idea of engagement that keeps coming up in this book. We need, “active, writerly participation” (105). And engagement as opposed to falling in line is something the scientists I’ve known and worked with recognize and extremely important. Engagement gets away from the “banking system” of education, “…it asks us to imagine ourselves as ‘irreducibly complex.’ It asks us to imagine ourselves as more” (202). Imagining ourselves as more is often really hard too, but usually something we would be hard pressed to disagree with doing.

I wanted to get at Storycenter  that Rebecca Goodrich talked about at Friday’s colloquium – tying on to trauma and expression as well as College Saga, but I’m already a bit over the reading response requirement.

Part 3

Exploring engagement – hope it doesn’t go awry. Update to be posted by 3pm 9/21/15






Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.05.47 PM



Engaging with my Freirian learning modes audio and physical.


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?

Remember, Allison Did it First

My colleague started a wordpress blog for our technologies and the humanities class. I was embarrassed I had not thought to post via my own that I made and roughly maintained for four years (especially because before the workload got crazy I thought vaguely about writing something or other about graduate school and having an academic tab…etc.) So, I am copying awesomeness, just remember that.

“This is why we fight” By Lisa Spiro

(Week 8 Informal Reading Response)

Spiro writes with vigor. In truth, I am not quite a part of this discussion yet and if anything a part of the problem because I am a ‘division’ or category, methodology and pedagogy etc. I am in with the pin-up Milton-types or ‘look how much more I can write in the same amount of time!’ type. Ha. Typing. Anyway, after her awesome call to action I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I was ready to follow her into some kind of digital battle (which does not make sense, I realize, she’s talking about unifying!) and then, fizzle. Statement of Values? Did not see that coming based on her rhetoric. And not-so-wonderful flashbacks of ‘mission statement’ writing meeting from my recent previous occupation come to mind. Isn’t what we do more important than what we say we do? Nevertheless, I can see the need for a unified ‘banner’ to all sing kum-ba-ya together underneath, lit by the glow of our various screens, of course.

Or with our own digital avatars with mis-timed mouth movements. http://youtu.be/Ta5HnYtWBIs

Spiro addresses my doubts and concerns – known difficulties in such an undertaking, especially with the number of people and differing ideas at my old work place were so much smaller than what Spiro is talking about. Congruous with digital studies looking at what we use to produce things effecting how we produce them, Spiro posits that, “[t]he process of producing a values statement may be as important as the statement itself, since that process will embody how the community operates and what it embraces.” Process, produce and embody – all very popular words and concepts as I am finding out. I can see it now, different members of the digital humanities crashing the wiki site as they clamor to put in their critic on so-and-so’s critique of him and hers collaboration on what the values of the digital humanities should be. “Is that really values” one will say, “I feel like your statement is really more like ethics. Didn’t we agree that is was values?” It’ll be fun; of that, I am certain.

I couldn’t get the interactive text to work for some reason, so maybe in that version there is a link to the process of collaboration for said values statement that she call on her DH colleagues to create. I couldn’t find one but I did investigate her digitalhumanities.org/answers link which ended up taking me here, here, and here. I found it interesting that the last which is includes Sesame Street to cheer up the now depressed readers – I think the Spiro is fighting a similar battle. What she undertakes is so big that it will be hard to rally the troops and once rallied it’ll be like herding cats. But I suppose if any group can overcome feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of an undertaking, it is graduate school survivors (I can only imagine the amount of drugs and therapy tenure-acquired persons have to utilize). The trouble is I really don’t know if this is needed. I think Spiro addresses the naysayers pretty well and maybe she has a higher tolerance for bureaucratic meetings than I do but is still seems like something that, even if accomplished, gets left on a website header somewhere collecting dust (nobody reads it and nobody bothers to update it). Is this a genuine need or is Spiro just annoyed at people arguing semantics?